The Cheltenham Festival may be five months away but it is never too early to start looking for those big race winners, and the course’s Showcase meeting is a pretty good place to start.
The Saturday of Prestbury Park’s maiden fixture of the season has been a pretty good pointer for future winners at the big one in the Spring.
Over the last five years, four horses have tasted victory on this card before going on to win a Festival race, with a further three since 2008 following up an October success with a placed run at the showpiece.
Finding a winner on Saturday as well as in March may be a big ask, but we’ve picked out a trio that could be best positioned.
The first, second and fifth in this year’s Grand Annual Chase reoppose in the day’s opener (14:10).
Next Sensation was the victor that day, but it could be worth giving a chance to the runner-up that day, Eastlake.
The JP McManus-owned gelding loves it around the two mile courses of Cheltenham, never running a bad race over the trip at the venue.
His worst finish in such conditions were when he finished a respectable sixth in the 2014 Grand Annual, behind Savello.
He has run well after a long break in the past and has a five pound swing in the weights with his Festival conqueror for a four length beating.
Jonjo O’Neill’s horse is more than capable of reversing that form and starting the season off with a win before having another crack at the Grand Annual in 2016.
Triumph Hurdle third Hargam looks the one to beat in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle (14:45) and it is easy to see why.
He’s not been out of the first three in a trio of visits to Prestbury Park, so clearly acts up that famous hill and a return to better ground will undoubtedly be better suited than the soft surface he encountered in the Triumph.
Devilment was 10 lengths behind him that day, and although he has an eight pound swing in the weights, it is likely to take more than that to overcome the Nicky Henderson horse.
The most intriguing rival to the market leader could be Dan Skelton’s French recruit Fou et Sage.
Formally with Philip Peltier, he was beaten by the Auteuil monster that is Bonito Du Berlais on his last two starts in his homeland, but that form is not to be sneered at.
He won a Listed Handicap Hurdle by six lengths last year, and if building on that could well be a prime contender for something like the County Hurdle next year.
The colours of ‘The Brushmakers’ have been carried to victory in each of the last three runnings of the Showcase Trophy (15:20), twice with Balthazar King and most recently with Roalco De Farges.
The latter could well be primed for a repeat performance in the 3m1f chase, that is, if on a going day.
The 10-year-old has been a frustrating type to follow, often following an excellent performance up with a bad one, but on his day he can be very good.
He’s up just four pounds in the handicap from his success last term, and it’s hard to imagine that an extra burden of that weight would have stopped him winning the race last year.
Stamina will not be a problem for him, and with a number of other runners in the field with some serious marks surrounding the ability to stay the trip, could be the one to put your faith in.
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Saturday also sees the final Group 1 of the flat season, the Racing Post Trophy. You can get our thoughts on the race here.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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