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The RSA Chase, or the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase, the Sun Alliance Chase the Totalisator Champion Novices’ Chase, or the Broadway Novices’ Chase, to give it its previous names, is the second race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. It is run over Cheltenham’s Old Course over a distance of 3 miles and half a furlong and it is open to novice chasers aged five years or older. To qualify as a novice chaser, a horse must not have won a chase until the season that the RSA Chase is being run. The race brings together a high-quality field of novice chasers, being the biggest race of the year for the stayers, with many seeing it as a precursor to the following year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Given the nature of the reason, it’s not hard to see why. Five year-olds carry 11st 2lbs, while any horse older has to carry 11st 4lbs, with mares receiving the obligatory 7lbs allowance.
Because it is the big race of the year for novice staying chasers, it is naturally a high-class field that participates year on year, and the winners tend to go on to bigger and better things. In fact, if we go back to 1963, the greatest horse of all-time, Arkle, has his name on the cup, winning the last running under the banner of the Broadway Novices’ Chase. Of course, Arkle went on to rewrite the history books, win three Cheltenham Gold Cups (his first the year after his win in the novices’ chase), as well as a King George, an Irish Grand National and a couple of Hennessy Gold Cups, amongst other things. But apart from Arkle, Garrison Savannah has won this novices’ chase in 1990, before going on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1991. Minnehoma won in 1992, then went on to win the Grand National in 1994. Looks Like Trouble did the RSA Chase/cheltenham Gold Cup double in 1999 and 2000. Denman also did it in 2007 and 2008, as did Bob’s Worth in 2012 and 2013. then Lord Windermere in 2013 and 2014. So it’s safe to say that the RSA Chase is basically a trial for the following year’s Gold Cup – it requires a horse to be a solid jumped with bags of stamina.
When it comes to winning the race, the horses need to have good pedigree, so having placed in their last outing is almost a prerequisite for the RSA Chase. Placing in a Grade 1 or Grade 2 race also helps their chances, as it is a sign of being able to race in quality fields, against the best novice chasers. A bit of experience over fences also helps, as the hustle and bustle of the race does not suit lightly raced horses. Seven-year-olds have won the last eight runnings of the RSA Chase, while Birthlaw in 1946 is the only horse older than nine years old to win this novice chase. Horses bred initially for flat racing also tend to suffer in this race, mostly due to them not being bed to have the kind of stamina required to compete at this level. You are looking for a true-bred chaser to take the spoils here.
Needless to say, this race will be watched with great interest for the following year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, with the winner going to the head of the market, or close to it, especially if the race turns into a procession for the winner.
Has to have run in the same year.
Finished in the top three in their last run.
At least three races over fences under its belt.
Placed or better in a top-rated race.
Seven or eight years old.
Bred for National Hunt racing.