The RSA Chase has long been recognised as one of the most difficult races to win at the festival and if you find a winner in this race, there is no doubting you have a quality costumer on your books. Several former RSA champions have gone on to lift the Gold Cup when returning to Cheltenham – including greats like Arkle, Mandarin and most recently Lord Windermere, who listed the RSA trophy and the Gold Cup crown in successive festivals appearances.
After fading to a disappointing seventh place finish in a Class Two here at Cheltenham last spring, Might Bite
) has come back this season in much more impressive form. He was second to Binge Drinker on his seasonal reappearance but bounced back with a 14 length victory at Doncaster in December. He was heavily backed in the build up to the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and those backers will have been quietly calculating their winnings after the second last, but a crashing fall at the final fence saw Daryl Jacob and his mount denied a maiden Grade 1 victory. He returned to action with a 100 length victory, in what was effectively a training session at Doncaster, but it will still give him plenty of confidence as he returns to CheltenhamAlpha Des Obeaux
) pushed Thistlecrack for a long way in last year’s World Hurdle, but since switching to chasing he hasn’t looked as effective – despite claiming a Grade 3 title over the larger obstacles at Cork earlier in the season. Surprisingly, a recent study in Ireland revealed that Mouse Morris' charge is the best backed horse at the Cheltenham Festival by the Irish public. They clearly fancy his chances in the RSA over in Ireland and he will have to fix those jumping mistakes if he wants to take the RSA title back to Ireland with him next week.
Despite being a distant finisher on his two previous appearances at the Cheltenham Festival, Bellshill
) had been the strong ante-post favourite for the RSA for most of the season. Two miles was clearly too short a trip for a horse with his staying ability, so Mullins jumped him up to three miles at the Aintree Festival a few weeks later, where he was denied victory by Ballyandy by just half a length. That narrow runner-up finish stood him in good stead at Punchestown, where he beat Coney Island by a narrow margin to win the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle. The seven-year-old had impressed on his first start of the new season, but a disappointing fall when flagging at the back of the field has hit his RSA odds hard and the former favourite has slipped down the betting market.Might Bite is fancied by many to land his maiden Graded victory at the Festival.Acapella Bourgeois
) may do most of his best work on heavy ground, but with the projected going at Cheltenham next week leaning towards soft, Sandra Hughes' seven-year-old could be a huge danger in this year's RSA. He won the Grade 2 Ten Up Novices' Chase at Navan in superb fashion on his last outing, streaking clear from the front to win by over 30 lengths. He finished five lengths behind Bellshill in fourth when his RSA rival won at the Punchestown Festival in the spring, so he will be hoping for a better result when he makes his first ever trip to Cheltenham.
Like many of the ante-post entrants in the current RSA betting, Shantou Village
) has duel entries in this race and the Challenge Cup, but Neil Mullholland's seven-year-old has displayed plenty of staying power during recent victories. Most of his outings may have come over two-and-a-half miles - a trip he has been victorious at four times in six attempts, including an emphatic win here at Cheltenham at the start of last season - but the way he has finished both his victories this season suggests three miles may be his best distance. He was given a crack at the World Hurdle last year, where he ran poorly before eventually being pulled up - but if his trainer does chose the RSA over the Challenge Cup, he could be a great each-way prospect.
Might Bite is considered by many as a banker for the RSA title this year, despite never winning a race classed higher than a Class Two. Bellshill may still have a serious say in the matter at Cheltenham if he can bounce back well from the shocking effort he put in on his latest outing. However, eyes are drawn to ROYAL VACATION
), who was on hand to profit from Might Bite's late fall in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase and land a maiden Grade 1 title.
Even Colin Tizzard would admit there was a massive slice of luck that led to his charge landing that prestigious prize, but he had still outperformed many more established contenders to find himself second before the runaway leaders untimely fall. His return to action following that historic win was a little less low-key, but equally as impressive, as the seven-year-old carried a heavy weight to handicap victory in a very competitive Class Two at Cheltenham. He won or placed in five of his eight starts over hurdles before switching to chasing at the start of this season, a change which has seen Royal Vacation go onto a new level, winning half his six starts this season and finishing inside the place on those other three occasions. His rating has risen by 23 points since October and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Colin Tizzard's charge end what has been a career defining season by being crowned the RSA Champion.