The third race of the second day of the Cheltenham Festival leads us onto The RSA Chase, formerly known as the Royal and Sun Alliance Chase.
For many punters, this is seen as the first big race on the second day. I don’t mean any offense to the National Hunt Chase or the NIM Novices Hurdle, but I think the RSA really kicks things off on the Wednesday nicely and lets us get our betting boots back on again.
For any newcomers to the Cheltenham Festival, the RSA Chase is a fantastic contest that tests the raw talent of the best novice chasers on the jumps racing scene. Cheltenham is a tough course alright and a real test of stamina for the young chasers, so those that come out of the RSA with a good run have done a sterling job.
It seems strange that the RSA Chase is not necessarily looked upon as a breeding ground for future super stars of the Cheltenham Festival, however there are a number of trainers that overlook the race due to its reputation as a graveyard for favourites.
In saying this, the past 15 or so years have produce two Gold Cup winners, in the form of Denman (2007) and Looks Like Trouble (1999), however perhaps as the premium novice race of the festival, it could be expected that more legendary chasers would have emerged from the aftermath.
If you are thinking of betting on the RSA Chase, then think again. Not really, but do bear in mind that until recently favourites have had a shockingly bad time of things. I’m not sure there is a poignant reason for this, other than the fact that novice chasers are susceptible to a tough race and a race that is potentially a great deal harder and stamina draining than those they have encountered before.
As a contest, the RSA Chase is certainly a race to be enjoyed as a spectator, in terms of betting, well, it has definitely been one to be weary of in the past, however recent years (4/5 years) have given form-book punters some encouragement that finding the winner is not an impossibility.
- The RSA Chase is classed as a Grade 1 National Hunt Chase.
- In recent years, the race has been contested at a start time of 14:40 and takes place on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, which is a Wednesday.
- Horses must be 5 years old or older to enter the race, so the race is classed as being aimed at Novice Chasers.
- The RSA Chase is run over a total distance of 3 miles and 110 yards.
- In 2011 the prize fund for the race totalled £130k, with first place taking a total of around £60k.
- There are 19 fences for our betting selections to contend with.
- 7 year olds have won the last 5 renewals of the race.
- Only one 5 year old has ever won the race since its inception, this was Star de Mohaison in 2006 for Paul Nicholls.
- Only two 6 year olds have won the race in the past 30 years.
- Only five 8 year olds have won the race over the past 21 years, however no horse aged 9 or over has won the race since 1992.
- 19 out of the last 20 winners finished either 1st or 2nd in their last start.
- Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer of the past 20 years, having won the race 3 times.
- Paul Nicholls and Martin Pipe have both won the race 2 times over the past 20 years.
- 3 favourites have won the race over the past 5 renewals, however favourites generally have a poor record in the race, having won only 6 of the last 20 renewals.
- The average winners official rating over the past 10 years has been just under 161, although there are no solid statistics to suggest that the ratings can necessarily guide us towards the winner of the RSA Chase.
- Ruby Walsh is the only jockey to win the RSA twice over the past 10 years.
- Richard Dunwoody is also the only other jockey to have won the race twice in recent times, riding both Hanakham (1997) and Florida Pearl (1998) to victory over the past 15 years.
- We have to look way back to 1974 (Ten Up) and 1976 (Tied Cottage) to find the next duel winning jockey, who was Tommy Carberry, over 35 years ago.
- The most successful jockey ever within the history of the RSA Chase is Peter Scudamore, who won three consecutive races in between 1991 – 1993: 1991 (Rolling Ball), 1992 (Minehoma) and 1993 (Young Hustler).
- There have been a total of 5 Irish trained victories since 1985, however in recent years Irish trained horses have dominated the RSA Chase, with 3 wins in the past three years.
- Between 2009 to 2011, first and second place for all three years were both Irish trained and in 2009 the first three home were also Irish Raiders.
- Out of 5 Irish winners in total, 3 have been trained by Willie Mullins.
- Over the past 10 years the average price of the winner of the RSA Chase has been just under 12/1.
- Horses winning both the RSA Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup are a rarity; since 1959 there have only been 7 two-time winners. These are Mandarin (1959, Gold Cup 1962), Arkle (1963, Gold Cup 1964 & 1996), Ten Up (1974, Gold Cup 1975), Master Smudge (1979, Gold Cup 1980), Garisson Savannah (1990, Gold Cup 1991), Looks Like Trouble (1999, Gold Cup 2000) and more recently the notorious Denman (2007, Gold Cup 2008).
- The legendary Arkle takes the history books for the record of the shortest priced winner to win the RSA Chase, going off at a SP of 4/9 with the on-course bookies back in 1963.
Betting on the RSA Chase
The RSA Chase is certainly an interesting betting contest and one that has traditionally been a bit of a mystery for us punters. With an average SP of around 12/1 for the winner over the past 10 years and a crop of relatively novice horses that are open to significant improvement, we need to be at our best to beat the bookies here.
If you are looking at betting on the RSA Chase then I would suggest sticking to the basics and following a few of the pointers listed beneath. I would personally not recommend looking at this race as one of the betting contests at the Cheltenham Festival that are readily available to have a “proper punt” on, however that is a matter of opinion. The RSA Chase is a fantastic race regardless, so let’s have a look at how we go about finding the eventual winner.
I have to start with the age of the horse. 7 year olds have won the last five renewals and have an excellent record in the race, so really this is a good place to start with your selection. I remember watching the Paul Nicholls trained Star de Mohaison winning the RSA Chase as a 5 year old in 2006, however this was definitely classed as an anomaly, as he was the only 5 year old to have ever won a renewal. So, unless you have a defining reason to do otherwise, look at the 7 year old entrants for your betting selection.
Recent form is always important and it seems so obvious that I sometimes wonder whether or not to mention it! I think that narrowing the field down to those horses that have finished in 1st or 2nd place on their previous start is a good starting point, as 19 out of the last 20 winners share this statistic.
What about Paddy Power, or Irish Raiders? The interesting thing about the RSA Chase is that traditionally Irish trained horses have not performed well, however in recent years the Irish have absolutely dominated the race places and also saddled 3 winners in the last 3 years. A phenomenal statistic and one that dictates our betting selection needs to pay serious respect to any Irish entrants, especially those trained by Willie Mullins who has won 3 renewals in the past 20 years.
Another important decision to make is whether or not we look to take on the favourites for the RSA Chase. I would always give serious consideration to laying any relatively short priced favourites who are not 7 year olds. With an average winners SP of around 12/1 over the past 10 years, coupled with the 7-year-old entrants domination of the race, I would strongly consider taking on favourites that fit the above profile.
No doubt that the RSA Chase is a tough one to bet on, however I hope the betting tips above should give you a good idea of where to start when looking to pick out the winner. Go forth and multiply thy Cheltenham betting stakes ladies and gentlemen, best of luck.
History of the race
The changing names and formats of many races over the history of the Cheltenham Festival are intriguing and this is also the case with the RSA Chase.
Shall I do a “Did you know”? I will! Did you know that the RSA Chase was previously known as the Broadway Novices Chase and the race actually had six winners between the years of 1948 – 1950? This is fact, and you may ask the question, “How were there six race winners over three years”? The answer is that the Broadway Novices Chase was split into two divisions and essentially two separate races, which means that every year there were two winners.
This is mighty confusing, but was not uncommon in racing at this time. You can actually see this from our look into the history of another Cheltenham Festival race, The Supreme Novices Hurdle (LINK PLEASE), that 50 years ago there were three different sections and also three different winners of these sections every year. That could almost be compared to having three different winners of the Champions League, or two different winners of The Rugby World Cup, crazy stuff!
Moving swiftly on, the first winner of the RSA Chase, as we know it today, was an 11 year old by the name of Birthlaw, who romped to victory under the trainer Ted Vinall back in 1946.
18 years on from the initial victory of Birthlaw, in the year 1964, the race name changed from The Broadway Novices Chase to the name of its first ever sponsor. The race was sponsored by none other than The Tote from 1964 – 1973 and was officially entitled with the tongue twisting title of The Totalisator Champion Novices Chase.
In 1973, the RSA Insurance Group took-over the sponsorship of the race and have consequently sponsored until present day, although the race has changed names with the various corporate identities taken on by the RSA Group over the past 28 years.
To break this down for you, in 1973 the race was called The RSA Insurance Group Chase, from 1974 to 1996 this changed to The Sun Alliance Chase, and from 1997 to 2008 the name changed again to The Royal And Sun Alliance Chase. So, the name of the race has changed four times in modern history and we now know the premium novices chase at the Cheltenham Festival as The RSA Chase. Phew…