Below I have taken a look at the 2020 RSA Chase won by Champ at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. As many of you know I am a big Champ fan and I have tried to be in as unbiased as possible.
I have reviewed the race from a fence by fence perspective as well as incorporating some time figures.
If a horse has made no jumping errors at his fences and has still been beaten by a rival who made three, how can he possibly turn the form around?
Calculating lengths lost at fences due to jumping errors can put a different slant on the result of races. The full explanation for those who have not seen it can be found below.
Below I have taken a look at the 2020 RSA Chase in three different sections
1.How the front three jumped
*While the above may use basic terms it refers to more in depth analysis of jumping related to other spreadsheets I have.
Willie Mullins trained Allaho, finished third place but contributed with an outstanding round of jumping and travelled through the race like the winner for a long way. He made two jumping errors at his fences according to my calculations and lost a combined distance of just 3/4l over the course of 19 fences, an excellent achievement. He set the fractions from the fourth fence and led until the final flight in the home straight. His ability to jump a fence is excellent but he seemed to fade inside the final furlong of the race which may suggest that the trip may have stretched him (we will get into that in a moment).
Rachel Blackmore aboard Minella Indo opted for the box seat sitting in behind Allaho after the fourth fence and jumped as well as his market rival throughout. Minella Indo also made two jumping errors at his fences and lost a 3/4l over the course of the 19 fences. Minella Indo and Allaho are staggeringly similar in the jumping department, both having natural strides when on the approach to a fence and both able to get away from an obstacle running. Minella Indo’s final flight mistake likely cost him the momentum going up the hill but that mistake put him on level par with Allaho over the course and Minella Indo was likely more suited to the 3m 1/2f than Allaho. The pair are very tough to split.
Champ does not jump like a natural staying chaser but made up a staggering 8l on the run-in to pass the above rivals in the dying strides. Champ made a total of four jumping errors that cost him 2 lengths over the course of the 19 fences and on two other occasions he landed flat-footed (trying to be unbiased). The problem with Champ’s jumping is not the ability to jump a fence, but it is that he rarely comes away from his obstacles with momentum causing him and his rider more often than not to be making up ground unnaturally on his rivals. This is not to be taken as too much of a negative thought, considering he has beaten two rivals of whom have jumped expertly well throughout.
Allaho gained plenty of ground over his rivals with his ability to quickly pull away from his obstacles and land running using minimal energy and keeping up the momentum on the front end putting pressure on his rivals.
Minella Indo is very similar to the above and is able to land running after his flight to hold his position in the field throughout. With the ability to jump this well you wouldn’t be worried to see either of the two leading from the front next season to apply pressure on their rivals.
Champ (below), on the other hand, was always looking to make up the ground on the long time leader. This is just one example below of how he fails to manoeuvre away from his fences landing flat-footed always using more energy than his rivals.
What to take from the jumping errors?
The fence by fence analysis would suggest that Champ is simply a worthy winner. He has made four ground losing errors at his fences losing a total of two lengths with a winning margin of 1l over Minella Indo. Despite the runner-up and the third-placed horse jumping much the better throughout the race, it was Champ that prevailed.
2. Time figures – Closing sectionals
Below are my recorded time figures from the landing side of the third last fence to the finish line in the RSA run over 3m 1/2f with the splits on the right-hand side of each column with the fastest highlighted in green.
The above picture shows Minella Indo ran from 3 out to the second last in the quickest time (all be it only slight). The above also shows how Champ made up his 8 lengths after the final fence with a late burst clocking a time of 18.77 seconds – 2.2 seconds faster than Minella Indo (20.97) and 2.65 seconds faster than Allaho (21.42).
Below is a visual comparison of RSA winner Champ and the 2020 Champion Chase winner Politologue’s closing sectionals.
Champs closing sectionals from 3-out to the finish line were 2.78 seconds quicker than the Champion Chase winner equal to that of 11 lengths despite him running over a mile further suggesting that the RSA field may not have gone a “breakneck” gallop and the theory that Minella Indo and Allaho “cut each other’s throats” for the use of a better phrase may not be plausible. The field in the RSA was also covered by less than 3 lengths approaching the third last flight supporting the notion that the race was not run at a blistering speed. The early stages of the race certainly had some pace injected into the race with the keen going Minella Indo and Allaho but once at the fourth flight Allaho set even fractions.
In relation to the Champion Chase, Politologue has run much faster closing sectionals than the above in the 2019 Champion Chase as seen below.
The ground that was officially described as soft in 2019 (same going description as 2020) but the drastic differences in the figures suggest that last year’s race was run on better ground.
For visual effects only and a little bit of theory work below is how the 2019 RSA and the 2020 RSA compared.
We have already established above that the ground at Cheltenham in 2020 was likely much harder work than in 2019 through comparisons with the Champion Chase time figures (as well as other extensive work through to 2018 which I won’t bore you with) so the overall time from 3-out to the finish line of Champ being just 3.34 seconds behind 2020 Gold Cup runner-up suggests he is more than worth his place in the 2021 Gold Cup renewal.
This season’s RSA renewal was an above-average one in my opinion with the front three all likely to take high-rank next season. Allaho for me looks tailor-made for the RyanAir chase and the current 12/1 available with Betfair (no plug) is more than fair. He jumps exceptionally well and will likely be able to dominate what will likely prove to be another small field and the slight drop in trip is certainly in his favour. Minella Indo will likely be Gold Cup-bound for a re-match with Champ, however as you’re probably not surprised I don’t fancy him to turn the form around with the RSA winner. He is entitled to improve but so is Champ, and with Nicky Henderson sending his stable start to Henryetta Knight’s for some intense schooling he looks the one to side with. Champ is unexposed over 3m only having had the one start in the above RSA and the extra distance of the Gold Cup will be in his favour so long as his summer holidays have done the trick in the jumping department. One thing many Minella Indo fans do need to ask themselves is if Champ has made 4 mistakes and we have only made 2, how the hell do we get him beat if we both improve? Make no mistake about it the time has finally come for the old guard to step aside as this crop and the next of Novice Chaser’s take centre stage, we are in for one exciting season in 2020/21.