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RSA Novices' Chase preview

The big conundrum of day two - should Might Bite be a raging favourite by way of his domination of the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day until tripping at the last fence, or should he be the lay of the day because his jumping can't be trusted? If you can find a bookie with faller insurance, there's got to be an angle to attack this race.

That's my bit of editorial, but taking control for the preview, it's regular contributor, the shrewd Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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RSA Novices' Chase
Grade 1, £175,000, about 3m1/2f
Cheltenham Wednesday 1410, 0110 AEDT



The second race on the second day of Cheltenham, the RSA Chase, gives us the first real opportunity to pit the form of this year's leading novice chasers on each side of the Irish Sea against each other.

Favourite is Might Bite from the stable of Nicky Henderson, who had a superb start to the meeting yesterday. His chance here lies on a piece of form where he failed to complete the course at Kempton on Boxing Day. Prior to falling he'd jumped like a cat and would have won the race by a distance had he not come down at the last fence. He had a confidence booster round one of his trainer's favourite tracks, Doncaster, and once again revealed a big engine although his jumping did seem to lack its previous fluency.

He's the horse all the experts are against but he sets a high standard and the trainer said he'd never seen him school so well as he did last Friday.

The winner at Kempton was Royal Vacation, who won a very good 2 1/2 mile novice handicap next time on Trials' Day back in January from a mark of 143. He's a solid, unspectacular type, just the sort often associated with winners of this race and looks sure to go well although his trainer's form in recent weeks has to be something of a worry.

Whisper, an inmate of the favourite's trainer, is a former Coral Cup and Aintree Grade 1 Hurdle winner and seems to be in top form again having won the Dipper Chase from Clan Des Obeaux here on New Year's Day. Staying is his game and he gives the Champion trainer elect a very strong hand here with Davy Russell riding here for his retained owner.

Henderson also trains O O Seven, who won over the course in November and last time out took a novice handicap round Huntingdon. An admirable horse who has done nothing wrong but you'd have to think he has a bit too find with the best ones here. He could be one for something at Aintree or the Scottish National as he looks like he'd stay all day.

The other fancied English challenger to consider is Charlie Longsdon's Our Kaempfer, who blew his handicap mark when dancing in at Kempton in January. He was an unlucky fifth in last year's Pertemps Final and is an improver with an each way chance for a trainer who does very well with staying chasers. I like his chance in the 3 mile handicap chase at Aintree if he doesn't go up any more in the weights after this.

The number one Irish trained horse in the betting, Alpha Des Obeaux, is a former Stayers Hurdle runner-up who won a couple of small field novice chases in the Autumn before finishing third to Coney Island and Anibale Fly in one of the top trials for this, the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in early December. Last time out he apparently bled when disappointing at Leopardstown just after Christmas. His supporters seem to place great faith in his trainer's reputation for getting his horses right on the big day and, if he does, he's got the talent to go well but Grade 1 hurdlers who've spent more than one season over the smaller obstacles do have a poor record here, a comment which also applies to Whisper.

Acapella Bourgeois appeared to show huge improvement in Navan's Ten Up Novice Chase a couple of weeks ago where he led all the way for a 32 length success. The clock appeared to show it was no fluke and plenty of good judges like his chance. The third that day filled the same spot in yesterday's National Hunt Chase so his chance is there for all to see. He'd previously won a Beginners' Chase over the same course in January and his chance would be aided by rain.

Willie Mullins drew a blank yesterday and will be keen to put that right, relying here on Bellshill, who brings solid form into this, having also beaten Haymount at Limerick over the Christmas period. His festival form, though, does not inspire having disappointed in the Bumper and a red hot Supreme last year. He fell in a schooling session at Leopardstown a couple of weekends ago and has a few too many negatives here for me at such a short price.

A horse we've not considered here is Henry Daly's mare, Brierly Belle, who went off 3-1 behind Whisper on New Year's Day yet can be backed at 40+ having finished a long way back in third that day. She won over the course in April and gets the handy mares' allowance having shown tenacity to reel in a decent mare of Harry Fry's at Warwick and winning first time up at Carlisle in November. She may not have been at her best in January but she comes out pretty well on ratings and I always thought she needed three miles to show her best and she'd be my each way selection here.

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