Where will they run at Cheltenham … RSA on cards for Unioniste?

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Unioniste remains entered into three races at the Cheltenham Festival, but the latest comments from trainer Paul Nicholls suggest that the RSA Chase is his most likely engagement next month.

After three British starts, Unioniste has impressed with two victories, with the one hiccup coming when third to RSA Chase favourite Dynaste over 2m5f at Cheltenham. Getting caught short of a bit of speed seemed to be his downfall.

But, he has won over this trip since in December, when a rare young winner of the Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Challenge Gold Cup, albeit on far heavier ground.

Stamina certainly seems to be the horse’s forte over speed and this points to the RSA Chase being the most suitable over a touch more than 3m.

Nicholls is planning to run Unioniste over 3m at Newbury on February 9th in a novice chase and has said that he has always believed that the distance would be well suited to the horse.

Unioniste is 12/1 to win the RSA Chase, but the one doubt punters may have is whether landing a handicap at Cheltenham is sufficient to become a leading contender.

After all, Dynaste won off a mark of 161 on his last start at Kempton, while Unioniste’s triumph came off an official rating of 143, leaving him lots to find with the 5/2 RSA Chase favourite.

Yet it may be wise to remember what Nicholls achieved previously with Master Minded, who gained a first British success in a handicap off a mark of 145 and within two months was winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

If Unioniste does not stay 3m at Newbury for whatever reason, he still has the Jewson Novices’ Chase over 2m4f and the Ryanair Chase over a furlong further to fall back on.

The fact that Pricewise has put Unioniste up as his each-way RSA Chase contender is another reason to believe that this will prove Nicholls’ race of choice.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.