Last year’s preview of the RSA Chase was done much earlier in the season in order to snap up some obvious value for JPFestival.com members. However, we were ultimately left feeling very sorry for ourselves as the 2pts E/W bet advised on Coneygree at 10/1 was left behind when connections made a late decision to throw their superstar into the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The decision was a good one as Coneygree landed the spoils in game fashion, but it was definitely one that got away as he would surely have routed the RSA field. We have therefore let the dust settle a little longer this season in order to ensure we have active betting slips come the Festival. I have to say that this year’s renewal looks a very easy puzzle to solve and unfortunately the bookmakers appear to have the race priced up accordingly with the two top class horses at the head of the market.
Gordon Elliot’s No More Heroes looks a really exciting prospect having won comfortably on each of his 3 starts over fences this season. He began at Punchestown in October where he cruised clear of his field over 2 and a half miles, jumping superbly and winning with any amount in hand. He then produced a very similar display when landing the Grade One Drinmore Novices Chase at Fairyhouse over the same distance, beating Monksland pretty convincingly despite an official winning distance of just two and a half lengths. His final prep race for the RSA came at Leopardstown in another Grade One Novice Chase this time over three miles, scoring very comfortably from Rule The World and Monksland once again.
It is very difficult to pick any holes in his form. Although he didn’t beat much on his debut over fences, his subsequent performances show a high level of ability. He has fairly slammed Monksland on two occasions who was a highly rated hurdler, possibly just below top class and he looks like being a similar prospect over fences. His comfortable victory over Rule The World last time out has also been franked to some extent by Rule The World running a very creditable fifth in the Thyestes Chase from a mark of 148. Given the manner in which No More Heroes has beaten these two horses, it is hard to argue that he is anything other than a 160+ rated chaser at this early stage of his career. On each of his three starts he has shown tremendous jumping ability and most eye-catchingly there has been so much more left in the locker at the end of his races. You could argue that he was an unlucky third in the Albert Bartlett last season with Bryan Cooper having gone for a small gap up the rail and having the door firmly shut on him. He showed good character to come again though and probably would have gone on to win if the winning post had been a little further up the hill. Judged on his performances over the larger obstacles to date he is a worthy favourite and it will take a very smart horse to beat him.
A very smart horse is exactly what we have in behind No More Heroes in the antepost betting in Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That. He won the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014, beating the likes of Annie Power and Big Bucks to maintain his then unbeaten record in striking fashion. The world appeared to be his oyster at that point before disappointing when beaten favourite on his seasonal re-appearance at Newbury on his next start in the Long Distance Hurdle. Although beaten that day he clearly would not have been fully wound up in November given everything would have been geared towards defence of his World Hurdle crown and the fact that he was subsequently ruled out for the season with injury suggests he may have been feeling something in that race too. Having drawn a line through that performance, we have a World Hurdle winner that is 2 from 2 over fences and most importantly has 4 wins from 4 starts at Cheltenham.
More of That’s performances so far this season have been impressive enough. He beat As De Mee and Dell Arca comfortably at the November meeting before producing a similar display to beat Sametegal in December. His jumping looks pretty sound and he clearly retains the same engine so there is a lot to be positive about. His form so far this season wouldn’t be on a par with No More Heroes but his hurdling form is top class and if he is able to translate that to the larger obstacles then he is clearly the one to beat. He has given every indication so far that he will be able to do that. Although we haven’t seen him since December, connections are clearly bullish about his chances and he will undoubtedly improve for better ground and a step up in trip. He is a proven high class stayer and his absence since his last victory suggests that connections are confident in his level of ability and don’t feel the need to run him unnecessarily on bad ground. More Of That and No More Heroes look to have outstanding credentials for this season’s RSA and should both be strongly backed to suit personal preference (advise to follow).
Ordinarily I like to find a value bet in the RSA at a decent price, usually a slow stamina laden horse that could get involved if they go a stupid pace or if things don’t go to plan for my main bet. However, in this year’s race I’m struggling to find any real value and I’m super confident about one of the above horses winning. It certainly seems very unlikely that neither will run their race as both have high class form and appear to be primed to peak on the day. There are also question marks about which horses will actually run in the race. Blaklion, Black Hercules and Roi Des Francs have all been spoken about as potential runners in the 4-miler whilst Outlander, Pont Alexandre, Bristol De Mai and Zabana would also seem to have more likely alternatives over shorter trips. So in truth the race could cut up quite significantly and that will only lead to a hardening in the prices of the market principals.
Of the remaining contenders, Seeyouatmidnight was an impressive winner at Cheltenham last time when beating Blacklion who has since franked the form at Wetherby. He was a useful hurdler and landed the Rendlesham at Haydock on bottomless ground in 2014. As impressive as he was the last day I can’t see him getting his own way here. You would have to expect the weather to turn around in the next few weeks and in all likelihood we will race on good to soft ground which wouldn’t be testing enough for him to show his best form. Furthermore, making all in an RSA Chase is a difficult if not impossible task. It is a thorough test of stamina and whilst I advised last year that Coneygree had the requisite engine to do just that, I simply don’t think Seeyouatmidnight is anywhere near as good. I’m sure that he will try to set a strong pace but in all likelihood it will just play into the hands of the market principals who will just sit off the pace lobbing along and breeze past him turning for home. For those reasons I hope he does run in the race as he will be the perfect pacemaker and will help to prop up the prices of the top class horses.
Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc is a very strong stayer and warrants some respect following his win in the Reynoldstown at Ascot last weekend where he beat some useful types. He is a lively outsider judged on his hurdles form last season where he appeared to be crying out for a step up in trip. He was travelling well when falling at the last in the Neptune and would have gone close to winning. This stamina test looks tailor made for him and whilst he wouldn’t appear to have the class of the front two he is certainly worth keeping on side. There is literally nothing more in the race that would interest me and so I won’t waste your time discussing the other contenders. Instead, let’s get down to business. At the current prices, my preference is for More Of That who could be a Gold Cup Winner in waiting. He hasn’t achieved as much as No More Heroes over fences to date but given his high class hurdles form and the expected improvement to come I make him the leading contender and there seems more value in his current price. For that reason I will be having ‘More Of That’ if you’ll pardon the pun and backing his only two creditable challengers to break me even. My apologies for the staking plan which may seem a little obscure but is designed to maximise profit on More Of That and break even on the other two. For those wanting to keep it simple I wouldn’t put anyone off a 5pts e/w bet on More of That at 4/1. It really surprises me that punters are chomping at the bit to load up on Annie Power for the Champion Hurdle at 2/1 and shorter when her World Hurdle conqueror has a much easier task here, less question to answer and is more than twice the price.
6.74pts Win – MORE OF THAT @ 4/1 (Bet365) = 33.7pts return (23.7pts profit)
2.67pts Win – NO MORE HEROES @ 11/4 (General) = 10pts return (break-even)
0.59pts Win – VYTA DU ROC @ 16/1 (General) = 10pts return (break-even)