Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05


The road to the winner’s enclosure


Anthony Ive

ON PAPER, the 2020 RSA Chase looked a cracker, but nobody could have envisaged the drama that would occur after three miles and 80 yards. The 80 yards are important, as without them the result could have been very different. Coming into the race, the market could not decide who should be favourite. Allaho (5-2) was eventually sent off at the head of affairs after only two runs over fences, coming second to Easy Game over Christmas and an impressive victory at Fairyhouse in January, at 2m5f-2m5½f. Next in the market was Albert Bartlett winner Minella Indo at 3-1. Minella Indo, like Allaho, had run only twice over fences before this race, coming second to Laurina over 2m4f and winning a 3m beginners’ chase at Navan in January. The final name at the top of the market was Champ. After two relatively comfortable victories at Newbury in November, albeit with some sketchy jumping at times, his last performance before this Grade 1 was when falling at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when travelling strongly. On the big day it was Minella Indo and Allaho who set the pace of the race, both jumping fluently and swapping positions, while Champ was patiently ridden in midfield by Barry Geraghty. Allaho took up the running before halfway and continued to make it a truly run contest. The leader hit the 12th and let the field come back to him, with Minella Indo tracking him and Champ on the outside of the chasing pack. As they bowled down the hill it was wide open, with only four lengths between first and last. As they jumped the third-last the front two looked to be travelling best, with Battleoverdoyen and Champ next up. As they turned for home and jumped the penultimate fence, Allaho took a length lead over Minella Indo, with Champ several lengths in arrears. At the last a mistake from Minella Indo gave Allaho the advantage only for Henry de Bromhead’s gelding to regain the lead – and then came Champ. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old was a good eight lengths behind the leaders jumping the final fence and even halfway up the run-in it looked for all the world a two-horse battle, but the ground that Champ made up when flying up the Cheltenham hill was remarkable as the 4-1 shot struck between the despairing leaders to claim a dramatic victory in the dying strides.



Cheltenham - The Ultimate Guide

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