Topofthegame wins RSA Chase at Cheltenham Festival ahead of Santini and favourite Delta Work
- Topofthegame won a thrilling tussle to beat Santini in the RSA Chase
- The giant chestnut won by half a length at 4/1 in Tuesday’s second race
- Topofthegame is the first winner of this year’s Festival for Paul Nicholls
Topofthegame broke his duck over fences on the biggest stage of all as he prevailed in a thrilling finish to the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Paul Nicholls has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the giant seven-year-old, and the 10-time champion looks to have unearthed another genuine Gold Cup contender.
On his first start this season, Topofthegame (4/1) gave away 20 lengths at the start but still nearly beat subsequent Grade One winner Defi Du Seuill, then at Kempton over Christmas he lost out in a battle to La Bague Au Roi.
Topofthegame won the RSA Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday by half a length from Santini
Topofthegame finished half a length ahead of runner-up Santini in the second race of the day
Nicholls decided to keep him fresh and that paid dividends in a race which always turns into a war of attrition, and with fellow market leaders Santini and Delta Work coming clear with him at the second-last, he needed every ounce of effort.
1st Topofthegame (H Cobden) 4/1
2nd Santini (Nico de Boinville) 3/1
3rd Delta Work (D N Russell) 15/8 Fav
A tactically astute Harry Cobden bided his time before seeing off Nicky Henderson’s Santini by half a length.
Gordon Elliott will have at least been pleased to see the beaten favourite Delta Work run his race a length and three-quarters further back after poor displays from Apple’s Jade and Battleoverdoyen.
Both Topofthegame and Santini were introduced into next year’s Gold Cup betting at 8/1 by Paddy Power.
Nicholls said: ‘I’ve always thought he is a very smart horse, he has not been the easiest to train but on his day he is good.
‘I didn’t say much to Harry on how to ride him, but just take your time whatever you do, and he gave him an absolute brilliant ride.
‘He is nearly 18 hands and is just massive. I didn’t want to go to the Reynoldstown with him and give him a hard race. I just had to get the balance right. We’ve always believed he is a serious horse
Jockey Harry Cobden praised his horse after the race: ‘He’s improving all the time’
‘Today was the only day we have trained him for and next year it will be the Gold Cup.
‘With Clan (Des Obeaux) and the other young horses we’ve got it is exciting to have them, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and you have just got to let them develop.
‘He is not unlike Denman and God willing he will stay sound he will be in the Gold Cup. Paul (Barber) is excited as he has him and Clan Des Obeaux.’
He went on: ‘He jumped really well in behind them and it was a brave route to go as you don’t want anything to go wrong. He still doesn’t do a whole heap in front, but he does enough.
Cobden and Co celebrate after Topofthegame, who started the race at 4/1, won the RSA Chase
‘It was shades of Denman really. We’ve always thought a lot of the horse, Harry learnt a lot from Kempton and the horse is learning all the time.
‘He has got everything – he has got pace, he can jump and travel as well. He has been running in graded races and he was unlucky at Exeter the first time this season, but it was probably the making of him.
‘He was travelling a bit too well at Kempton and got there too soon, but it doesn’t matter. He might well be my new Denman, he is pretty much rated the same.
‘Denman was a grinder, but this horse has got plenty of boot.’
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