The RSA Chase is the most prestigious race of the season for staying novices, often the launch pad for future Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders. Nicky Henderson’s Champ is our main selection, despite falling at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He faces a very strong challenge from Ireland and Minella Indo is rated the biggest threat. For those seeking each-way value, Easy Game should give them a run for their money at a good price.
The long-term ante-post favourite for this race is Champ, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty. He was a leading novice over hurdles, finishing second to City Island in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the corresponding meeting last season. He signed off with an impressive win at Aintree before switching to novice chasing this season.
Champ won twice at Newbury, overcoming problems in running when beating Black Op at the end of November. He was hampered at the third fence and almost collided with the rail when negotiating the elbow. Champ fell at Cheltenham on his most recent start when appearing to have the race won.
Geraghty had already taken a long look over his shoulder before Champ crashed out at the second last fence. The eight-year-old has raced a little too keenly and will need to settle if he is to last home. Champ is tipped to bounce back from his course fall at 7-2 with Paddy Power.
Minella Indo leads a top quality Irish contingent, the winner of the Albert Bartlett over three miles last year when starting a 50-1 outsider. He has bags of stamina and landed the odds at Navan in workmanlike fashion on his second start over fences. The form of that race was boosted when the runner-up Captain CJ came out and won a Grade 2 next time.
Willie Mullins is responsible for three of the ten runners, led by the exciting prospect Allaho. The six-year-old was beaten twice by Minella Indo over hurdles. The Cheltenham form was confirmed at Punchestown and Allaho was beaten by stable companion Easy Game on his chasing debut. He has since enjoyed a confidence-boosting success at Fairyhouse.
The two key factors in this race are jumping and stamina and Minella Indo cannot be faulted on either count. He is one of several high profile rides for Rachael Blackmore and is a top-priced 7-2 with Bet365.
Easy Game is only six years of age and is yet to race beyond two miles and five furlongs. He was beaten half a length by his illustrious stable companion Faugheen in a Grade 1 over that trip at Leopardstown last month. He had previously defeated Allaho by a length and a quarter, jockey Danny Mullins bringing him through with a late challenge. Similar tactics will be adopted here and the drying ground will be in his favour.
Copperhead has been well supported in the ante-post betting since romping to victory in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot. The going was very testing that day so any further rain would be in his favour. Connections had the option of running in the longer National Hunt Chase and there may not much value left in his current odds.
Battleoverdoyen was well beaten when falling in Faugheen’s race and looks held by Easy Game on that evidence. There are stamina concerns for Slate House while Pym was very disappointing at Ascot last time out. Easy Game is rated the best each-way value bet in the race at 12-1 with BetVictor.