The RSA Chase takes place on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival and is for staying novice chasers. This year’s favourite is the highly talented Grands Crus, the rising star who took on the mighty Big Buck’s in last year’s World Hurdle, finishing second. So far unbeaten over fences, can the grey do the business in the 2012 RSA?

As always, I’ll begin to try and answer the question by taking a look at past RSA Chase winners, and attempting to spot key trends that could guide us towards the 2012 winner.

A huge trend to emerge when analysing past winners of the RSA Chase concerns age; ten of the last twelve winners were aged seven, while only two six year olds have landed the race since 1978 and only four eight year olds in the last twenty renewals. We should almost certainly be looking for a seven year old horse in our quest to find the winner of the 2012 RSA Chase.

If we look all the way back through to 1992, just a single winner of the RSA Chase had gone into the Cheltenham Festival with fewer than three chases under its belt, which suggests we should be looking to eliminate the less experienced contenders in this year’s RSA Chase field.

We should also be looking towards horses that are currently in form, as a massive 23 of the last 24 winners had either won or finished second on their preparation race ahead or the Cheltenham Festival.

With the RSA Chase being run over 3m 110y, stamina is obviously very important. All of the last ten RSA Chase winners had previously won a race over at least 2m 5f, indicating that we should be looking for a horse that has already proven itself over longer trips, rather than hoping that our choice will be able to step up.

One final significant trend to emerge from analysis of previous RSA Chase winners, is that all of the last 47 winners had run in the same calendar year as their Cheltenham Festival appearance. This particular trend allows us to rule out quite a few contenders for the 2012 renewal of the race, but most notably, the hot favourite Grands Crus (best price 3.25, SportingBet), whose last run before the 2012 Festival was on Boxing Day 2012 in the Feltham Novices’ Chase.

I know what you’re thinking: “But that’s only a few days before the start of the calendar year, isn’t it? That’s a terrible reason to rule Grands Crus out of contention for the 2012 RSA Chase!”

Fair enough. How about this instead? All seventeen Feltham Novices’ Chase winners that have gone on to compete in the RSA Chase have been beaten, including Long Run in 2009 – and we all know how good he has turned out to be.

To be perfectly honest, I rate Grands Crus highly. I think that one day, this horse will win a Gold Cup. Let’s not forget that he’s entered in this year’s Festival showpiece race, and it’s only his first season chasing. It looks highly likely that he’ll go to the RSA rather than the Gold Cup, but that’s how highly he’s rated, and rightly so in my eyes. However, at such short odds, I really think it’s worth looking elsewhere for our 2012 RSA Chase winner with those two big trends against him, and that’s before you consider the fact that he might not even line up in this race.

So where should we be looking, if not at David Pipe’s talented grey? Well, by applying all the above trends to the 2012 field, we are left with just two candidates: Bobs Worth and Champion Court.

Champion Court is an interesting outsider (best price 41.00, SportingBet) but trainer Martin Keighley has already stated publicly that he is more likely to send his charge to the Jewson Novices’ Chase: “You’d have to say the Jewson will be the preference at this stage. I think that will be the race for him.”

Of course, nothing is ever certain in horse racing, but it would seem at this stage that we would be wasting our money backing Champion Court. However, a small Each-Way bet could be of interest on the day, or if a “Non Runner, Money Back” guarantee could be secured from your bookmaker of choice.

That just leaves us with Bobs Worth, who is currently rated as the second favourite behind Grands Crus (at a best price of 7.00, Paddy Power, Stan James). The horse was beaten at Kempton by Grands Crus on Boxing Day, but has since had a breathing operation. His final Cheltenham prep run came in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, where he finished second to Invictus (best price 13.00, Ladbrokes) but considering the recent operation, that can be considered a good run and should put him in good shape for the Festival.

Trainer Nicky Henderson said after the Reynoldstown: “That was a fantastic run, especially if you had seen what he looked like three weeks ago”. Hopefully he should be absolutely spot on in time for the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.

Advice:

The RSA Chase
Wednesday 14th March 2012, 14:40

Bobs Worth @ 7.00 (Paddy Power, Stan James)