ALWAYS one of the best races of the Festival, but who are Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) and The Voice Of Value backing in the RSA Chase?
Cheltenham 14:05 | RSA Chase | Channel 4
Looking through the field you can make claims for six or seven of these. The Young Master has been transformed this season by Neil Mulhood from a run of the mill hurdler to a top novice chaser.
He ran away with the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton before winning a Listed Handicap Chase at Ascot, but I feel his progress will end here.
If In Doubt is another horse on the upgrade. He won the Skybet Chase at Doncaster on his last start, really growing into the race after making early mistakes and winning cosily. But the quicker ground here coupled with the stiffer fences mean I'm against him too.
Don Poli won the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the meeting last year before finishing second to Beat That at Punchestown to show himself as one of the best staying novice hurdlers of 2014.
He's won two heavy ground chases in Ireland as a novice, and while its hard to knock his form I wonder whether in a nine runner chase on quicker ground he may be lacking for tactical pace at the business end of the race.
This leaves me with Kings Palace. A horse the Pipe yard have always rated highly, he has only been beaten once over obstacles, in the Albert Bartlet last year, where he suffered a tired fall when beaten.
He's taken his chase form to another level this season, and barring one mistake in an egg and spoon race he has impressed with his jumping. Four course wins tell you he loves the course, and this smaller field will allow him an easier lead, I expect him to lead these a merry dance from flag fall.
Best Bet – Graeme Johnston
Cheltenham 14:05 – Kings Palace to win (4/1 BetBright)
Don Poli will go off favourite in this one and he is a worthy favourite. Another Willie Mullins horse with obvious claims given his win at the Festival last year in the Conditional Jockeys Hurdle race and his solid novice chasing form this year over in Ireland.
I’m not having Kings Palace given his poor performance at the festival last year. Southfield Theatre lost out in a head bob last year that famously left Daryl Jacob blubbering and banging his fists worse than Sammy Kuffour for Bayern Munich in 1999. Southfield Theatre’s chasing form hasn’t set the heather on fire either although he is more than worthy of his place in this field.
I have to be honest here – I am now emotionally invested in The Young Master for this race. I picked him out in November as a potential horse for this before the bookies even had prices available.
He won a valuable Class 1 handicap against older horses and it was only afterwards that I realised he would be eligible to run in novice races at the festival.
After his subsequent win in December with even more aplomb against an even better field I felt like Neil Mulholland and the owners had to run him in this.
I thought he had a great chance then and I am still firmly of the same opinion even though the price on offer now is less than the 16/1 I managed to get him at back then.
I would back him each way because Don Poli might be a tough nut to crack but I think the Master still has a bit more improvement in him. The win for Mulholland and Geraghty with The Druids Nephew on Tuesday is also a major positive.
Best Bet – The Voice Of Value
Cheltenham 14:05 – The Young Master each way (9/2 BetBright)