The RSA Chase is one of the most exciting races of the Cheltenham Festival.
The three mile race novice chase has boasted Gold Cup winners including the legendary Denman and last year’s winner, Bobs Worth.
Smad Place has come third in the last two World Hurdles at the Festival. Since moving to fences, the Alan King trained horse has looked extremely impressive.
Jumping very well on debut at Huntington, Smad Place was well clear of the field before unseating jockey Robert Thornton at the last fence. However, he made up for this mistake next time out when easily winning at Exeter.
What I like about Smad Place is that you know it's going to get the three mile trip. To this, he has pace. Placing twice in a World Hurdle behind Big Bucks in 2012, then Solwhit and Celstrial Halo in 2013, proves that Place has both stamina and speed.
Finally, and most importantly, Smad Place has heart. Under a wonderful ride by Wayne Hutchinson in his 2013 Cheltenham third, despite being under the whip a fair way out, Smad Place stayed to get his nose in front of second favourite Reve De Sivola.
Willie Mullins is lurking with one of his superstars in his yard. I think that his best option would be to run his dual Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Fever. Despite never running the RSA trip, the 2013 Supreme Novice winner, I think he definitely gets it.
On his chasing debut, Fever won convincingly well at two and a half miles, despite blundering the last. Then, next time out in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown, it was a drop back to two miles for the Mullins horse.
However, the dual Festival winner looked well off the pace and was a well beaten third. Mullins has came out after the race to say that the Arkle Trophy at two miles looks very doubtful. Although he won well at the JLT distance, what I saw on his chasing debut is that he needs longer. He blundered the second to last fence as the pace still looked a tad quick.
Yes, he has beat My Tent or Yours and Jezki over hurdles. However, Fever has always been targeted for the longer trip and Mullins has said that he will ‘stay any distance.’
Balleycasey for the Mullins yard is currently top of the market at 7/1. Although he was extremely impressive on his debut over the bigger obstacles, the trip was at just over the bare minimum. Although it has raced at three miles over three miles before, I can’t make a judgement until Mullins puts it over a longer trip to see if its jumping will hold up.
Carlingford Lough, winner of the Topaz Novice Chase should certainly be involved. Last time out at Leopardstown in the Topaz, the JP McManus owned horse was given a sensational ride by champion jockey AP McCoy to see off short priced favourite Morning Assembly trained by Pat Fahy, who had looked great previously.
However, I fancy Morning Assembly to overturn the result next time out if they meet. At just six years old, jockey that day Ruby Walsh believed Assembly was very much intimidated by the wind.
It seems his next race will be the RSA Chase and Fahy is keen to improve his jumping before that at home.
Although that is all and well, there is a famous quote that someone said to me when playing cricket - ‘You can train in the nets all you want but once you get on the pitch with fielders around you, it’s completely different.’ And that so can be appropriate here.
Schooling Morning Assembly at home will improve it, but Fahy needs to get it out on the track where he’ll face bumping into other horses and being pushed to its absolute limit. This is where Fahy can put Morning Assembly’s ‘preaching into practice.’
An outside chance could be Black Thunder at 20/1. Although he was beaten last time by Donald McCain’s Corrin Wood, Thunder’s progress was halted by a very poor jump from his pilot Daryl Jacob at the second last, who got into the obstacle extremely tight.
The Paul Nicholls trained horse stayed and did little wrong bar the poor jump at the second last. Although it didn’t quicken as well as Corrin’s Wood, I feel that if it was at Cheltenham it would have stayed on much better with the hill.
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