Last year’s race
- Winner: Might Bite
- Jockey: Nico de Boinville
- Trainer: N J Henderson
- Owner: The Knot Again Partnership
- Age: 8 Weight: 11st 4lb
- Starting Price: 7/2f
- Season Form Figures: 21F1
- Previous Best: 1st - Novices' Chase, Doncaster (Feb 2017)
Don Poli detonated three long-standing trends in victory three years ago being a six-year-old (just three RSA winners since 1978 have been aged under seven and the previous eight winners were seven-year-olds) who had run just twice over fences (the previous 15 winners had run 3+ times over the larger obstacles as had the following two seasons’ winners) and had not been given a prep race in the same calendar year (unlike every RSA winner since 1962). Don Poli was also only the second winner since 1998 to be unbeaten over fences beforehand, Denman being the other. All but four of the last 24 favourites or joint-favourites were undefeated over fences heading into the race but that didn’t do the vast majority of them any good.
The standout novice hurdle guide has been the previous season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle which has featured five of the last eight winners and that may well have been six had Boston Bob not fallen at the final fence when holding a lead. That’s a great stat for Monalee who finished second in last season’s Albert Bartlett.
Monalee also won the best novice chase in Ireland when taking the Flogas Chase as four of the last nine winners contested Grade 1 over 2m5f at Leopardstown where he beat the Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo and Invitation only. Willie Mullins has won the RSA Chase on four occasions with Florida Pearl, Rule Supreme, Cooldine and Don Poli but he has also saddled three runners-up and had four others bang in contention in the closing stages who took falls, notably Boston Bob who exited at the final fence when leading.
Three of the last nine winners finished first or second in the Reynoldstown Chase won this year by Black Corton and three of the last seven winners finished in the first two in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase in which Shattered Love beat Jury Duty after Monalee fell at half-way.
Don Poli detonated three long-standing trends in victory three years ago being a six-year-old who had run just twice over fences and had not been given a prep race in the same calendar year.
Coneygree would almost certainly have won the RSA had he not been sent to (and won) the Gold Cup having won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase two races earlier won this season by Black Corton. Given that Might Bite fell at the final fence in the Kauto Star when holding a long lead and then won the RSA, it is now rather a hollow trend that all 20 winners of the Kauto Star to run in the RSA were beaten. Many a placed horse in that Kempton Grade 1 has won an RSA though and Elegant Escape may be the race’s best hope this year having found the Sunbury track too sharp.
I am not a big fan of horses who have more than one season over hurdles. Might Bite did so before his RSA win but only because his first crack a novice chasing didn’t go well. Outside of that, if we don’t include Lord Noelie’s sole run at the end of the 1998 season when well beaten on his racecourse debut and then put to grass, we have to go back 25 years to Rolling Ball to find the last RSA Chase winner that had spent two full seasons over hurdles. In other words, if you have a proper RSA hope, get it over fences sharpish, as they attempted to do with Might Bite. Of the last 24 winners, all but four were contesting novice hurdles last season.
We have to go back 16 years to Hussard Collonges to find the last winner to have started their career over fences over the RSA trip of around three miles. There is also the class element to take on board as the last 14 winners up until Might Bite had finished in the first three in a Grade 1 or 2 chase earlier in the season, and he was going to win a Grade 1 by a wide margin but for his last fence exit. The last horse to win the RSA Chase on his pattern-race chase debut was Looks Like Trouble in 1999.
Not taking too many chances in terms of a horse’s wellbeing is also a critical factor as the last 29 winners all finished in the first three last time out. Traditional National Hunt-Breds have won all but two of the last 24 runnings.
At a glance summary
- Irish-trained and notably Willie Mullins
- Contested the Flogas Novice Chase, Neville Hotels Novice Chase or Reynoldstown Novices' Chase
- Contested last season's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
- Fewer than three chase starts
- Not run during the same calendar year
- More than one season over hurdles
- Aged younger than seven and older than eight