With the Novice’s Hurdle having got Day Two off to a flying start and the Queen Mother Champion Chase yet to come, Ladies Day continues its run of brilliant races with the RSA Chase. Much like with the race that precedes it, this is a Grade 1 race that is open to novices. It is one of four Grade 1 races to take place on the second day of the Festival, proving why it is that this week at Cheltenham is considered to be one of the best in the business.
Records for this race only date back to 1946 when it was known by the title of the Broadway Novices’ Chase. It got its first sponsor in 1964 when the Tote took on the honour and it was named the Totalisator Champion Novices’ Chase. That lasted until 1974 when Sun Alliance took over the sponsorship, with that company maintaining its relationship with the race to date, albeit under different company names. It was Royal & SunAlliance from 1997 until 2008 and then became the RSA Insurance Group, with the race named the RSA Chase accordingly.
|Course||Grade||Fences||Distance (m)||Winner / Purse|
|Old Course||Grade 1||20||3m 80y (4900m)||£98,472 / £172,000|
Run over three miles and half a furlong, this race has twenty fences that the novice chasers taking part in it must jump. It’s open to horses aged five or over, with five year olds allowed a weight of eleven stone two pound. Six year olds and upwards can have eleven stone four pound, whilst mares are given a seven pounds allowance.
As with all the races apart from the final one on Day Two, this is run left-handed on the Old Course.
Because this is a race for novices, no horse has ever won it more than once as, by winning it, they preclude themselves from taking part in it in the future. That’s not the case for jockeys and Pat Taaffe is the leading person on that front with his five victories. Some well-known jockeys such as Richard Dunwoody and Ruby Walsh have won it twice, whilst others like Peter Scudamore, Davy Russell and have won it three times. In 2020 Barry Geraghty won it for the fourth time.
When it comes to the best trainers, it’s a tie. Fulke Walwyn, Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins have won it four times. Fulke Walwyn did so before the 1960s, with one of his wins coming when the race was split into two ‘divisions’ in the 1940s. That practice ceased in 1951, but to be fair to Walwyn, his second and third victories came in 1954 and 1957. Fred Winter, Peter Cazalet, Paul Nicholls and Tom Dreaper have all come closest to equaling the record as all of them have won it three times.
When Lord Windemere won the race in 2013 and then went on to win the Gold Cup the following year, he became the latest in a line of horses to achieve that most remarkable of doubles. One of the Gold Cup’s most famous winners, Arkle, achieved his first win at the Festival back in 1963 before going on to lift the meeting’s most famous trophy every year for the following three years. Since records began in 1946 the race has only not run twice, once in 2001 when the whole Festival was cancelled because of Foot-and-Mouth and once in 1947 because of heavy snow and frost.
CBO Rating | 8/10
The second race on the second day of the Festival has plenty to recommend it. As a novice’s chase there will be loads of excitement for punters, many of whom won’t need much encouragement as they start to gear up for the arrival of the Queen Mother Champion Chase later in the day. None of the horses taking part will have won a race before the season began, so this could be a chance to win on one of the biggest stages in the world.
There’s little argument that it’s not the most exciting race of the day, with the aforementioned Queen Mother Champion Chase taking that particular honour. This is one that’s absolutely worth watching in terms of the future, though, as more than a few winners of the race have gone on to win the Gold Cup. Don’t always feel as though you have to go with the shortest odds, either; two horses have won at 33/1 since the 1980s. Form also isn’t necessarily an indicator, with Albertas Run winning it in 2008 in only his second race of that season.
Coverage of Ladies Day will always revolve around what’s going on off the course rather than on it, particularly when it comes to stunning outfits and the regular turn out of celebrities. The races have plenty to keep you entertained, though, and the RSA Chase is no exception.