The improving Southfield Theatre will relish the better ground
RSA Chase, 3m110y, Old Course (due off 2.05pm)
Just nine have been declared for this Grade 1 and, as half-expected, Coneygree is not amongst them. Ground permitting, he will take his chance in Friday’s Gold Cup and, in his absence, the mantle of favouritism falls on Willie Mullins’ (him again!) Don Poli. He was looking a possibility for the four-miler at one stage but that he has the class to make his mark in this shorter race is beyond doubt. The six-year-old has won both his chase starts, including one at this level at Leopardstown over Christmas, and he has valuable Cheltenham form in the bank, having won last year’s Martin Pipe race over hurdles. Now the negatives. He hasn’t been seen out since December, which leaves him short on experience, and the form of his Grade 1 success can be crabbed as the runner-up is a suspect stayer and the third is well-exposed. His trainer wanted to run him in the longer race as he thought it would be more suitable for what he describes as a “lazy horse”, but the owners, Gigginstown Stud, had other horses for that and intervened. Top price: 2/1 Ladbrokes.
Who else is fancied?
King’s Palace has not put a foot wrong over fences so far (3-3) and two of his successes came at the track, one over the Old Course from a very useful yardstick in Sausolito Surprise. In all, he’s won six of his last seven races with his sole defeat coming in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, for which he was a strong fancy. Having travelled well for a long way, he rather fell into a hole and was well beaten when falling at the last. His trainer David Pipe reckons he’s a more mature, stronger individual this time around, but there’s still that nagging doubt over how well he will see this race out.
The Young Master is bidding to give trainer Neil Mulholland his first festival success and he too has done nothing wrong over fences, including when winning over track and trip in October, although he lost his unbeaten record as a result of being disqualified in the Badger Ales Trophy on account of not being qualified (blamed on a computer failure). Like the favourite, he’s not been seen out since before Christmas, which is not ideal. Paul Nicholls, who won back-to-back renewals with Star De Mohaisson and Denman (2007), saddles the improving Southfield Theatre, who prepped for this with an impressive success at Exeter and can be excused an odds-on defeat at Newbury on account of bottomless ground. He failed by a nose to land last year’s Pertemps Final, won by Fingal Bay, and his overall record on ground faster than soft reads seven wins from 11 runs, with two of his defeats coming by less than a neck.
Any decent outsiders?
The front four all have solid claims so it will be a surprise if the winner comes from outside them. That said, the race is capable of throwing up the odd surprise result (winners at 10/1, 14/1 and 16/1 in the last decade) and one who could make a mark is If In Doubt, who showed he was more than a handicapper when landing the Sky Bet Chase last time. Wounded Warrior gives Gigginstown Stud a decent second string and he’ll be staying on better than some of the others.
Trainer quote: “I’ve had this race in mind for Southfield Theatre all season. He’s had a few runs and got beat on really soft ground last time, but when he is fresh and well and on decent going he is at his best.” – Paul Nicholls.
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Don Poli looks a favourite worth taking on at the odds and it, while it was a case of any one from three, the vote just goes to SOUTHFIELD THEATRE.
Selection – Southfield Theatre @ 6/1 William Hill (mobile)
All odds were correct at time of posting.