Grand Crus has looked a champion in the making in three runs over fences and he's predictably a short-priced favourite for the RSA Chase.
A worthy favourite?
On what we've seen so far, most definitely. Trying to outfox Big Buck's over hurdles last season resulted in two second places, including in last year's World Hurdle, but that was no disgrace and the early indications are that he is going to be at least as good as a chaser. A ten length thrashing of the classy Champion Court on his debut here in November was the perfect start to his new career and there was even more to like about his performance in the Feltham at Kempton over Christmas, when he tanked all the way and only had to be pushed out to win in a time three seconds faster than it took Kauto Star to win the King George over the same course and distance. No wonder connections were considering running him in the Gold Cup and they will see this race as the easier option.
Any chinks in his armour?
It's difficult to pick holes in his form and his fencing has been electric, apart from one error here on his debut, yet there's still a nagging feeling that his achievements have come in despite of the 3m trip rather than because of it, and that could make him vulnerable in a race that invariably turns into a war of attrition. He's certainly not in the same mould as the typical RSA winner, most being dour staying types, and Feltham winners do make a habit of getting beat here. That said, the fact the race is being run on the less demanding Old Course helps to allay any stamina doubts and his class alone could be enough to see him come home in front.
While Grand Crus failed to win at last year's Festival, his two main rivals succeeded. Bobs Worth showed real grit when winning the Albert Bartlett and he showed a decent level of form when beating Cue Card a short head on his chase debut, but then lost his first race since his bumper debut when only third to Grand Crus at Kempton. That track would have would have suited David Pipe's runner more and a return to Cheltenham affords him a chance of reversing the form, although he will need to brush up his jumping.
First Lieutenant was a game winner of the Neptune Novices' and the form of that race could not have worked out better, with the next three home, Rock On Ruby, So Young and Oscars Well, all turning into high-class hurdlers. However, the switch to chasing this season has produced mixed results with just two wins from five starts, all as favourite, and his backers are banking that he will come alive back at Cheltenham on better ground. Fellow Irish raider Sir Des Champs would have been a big player here but, using Betfair as a guide, he's looking likely to run in the Jewson instead, which just leaves the Paul Nicholls-trained Join Together as the only other viable alternative to the favourite. A winner over 3m2f here in December, he will be staying on when others have cried enough.
What's the verdict?
I would have been against GRANDS CRUS had he run in the Gold Cup as the extra 2f of that race and the stiffer course, would have stretched his stamina to the limit, not to mention the quality of the opposition. He's no good thing here either but everything points to him being different class to these and he might even be a value price on the day, with at least one firm likely to take him on due to doubts about his stamina. The best price on offer at the time of writing is Boylesports' 7/4 so it's not unreasonable to expect 2/1 or better, and that would be enough to tempt me in. Join Together looks the best each-way option.
Best bookmaker offer?
Bookmakers are falling over themselves at this time of year to attract your money and one of the best account opening offers is the £100 free matched bet offered by Paddy Power. Stick it on Grand Crus.
Where to watch?
bet365 are showing the RSA Chase as part of their live streaming service. Simply place a bet of at least £0.50 pence (£0.25 pence each-way) and click on the video icon next to the race.