Ian Ogg looks for clues from this weekend's racing
Ian Ogg dusts off old formbooks for clues to this weekend's winners
By Ian Ogg
Last Updated: 12/12/13 1:53pm
The biggest racing certainty of all this weekend is that the owners and trainers of at least some of the horses heading to Cheltenham will be heading to the track with an eye on next March's Festival, just as much as on winning the not-inconsiderable prize money on offer at the track on Friday and Saturday.
The focus upon implications for the Festival, just as much as the races themselves, has only been heightened by Cheltenham's policy of building a 'series' of races to support some of the biggest prizes the build-up to their Festival.
It's clearly no surprise that this meeting has thrown up a number of significant Festival pointers from future stars and while drawing direct parallels between horses might be misleading, it's important to remember that racing people are so often creatures of habit.
Therefore, we'll take a quickfire look at the recent history of some of the key races coming up this weekend to see what we can learn.
We've seen the likes of Darlan and My Tent Or Yours graduate through the handicap ranks to contest the top novice races in the last couple of years and At Fishers Cross won this race en route to Albert Bartlett glory last season.
Strikingly, they all wore the colours of a certain JP McManus whose sole entry, Sunnyhillboy, won't be going down that route but Quick, Material World and Time For Rupert all placed at the Festival after winning here (two other winners didn't run at the Fez) so the winner of this race is definitely one for the notebooks.
Entry to note: Southfield Theatre
Melodic Rendezvous and Darlan have won the last two renewals. The former missed the Fez due to illness and the latter finished second but Noland did go on to win the Supreme while Tidal Bay, Grey Report and Karabak all went on to hit the frame in the race that is now known as the Neptune and add weight to the notion that this race is often one by a very smart performer.
Entry to note: Garde La Victoire
It would be easy enough to put the blinkers on given all that's going on in Gloucestershire but don't miss this race. Whiteoak, Peddlers Cross, Backspin, My Way De Solzen and Garde Champetre are just a few of the names on the roll of honour. Only the Donald McCain (four entries in this year's race) duo went on to win at the Festival but this race does have a habit of throwing up decent winners.
Entry to note: Diamond King
Katchit went on to win the main event in 2006/7 but the returns have, otherwise, been pretty modest with Far West's 15-length second to Our Conor the best of the rest while stablemate Sam Winner was a beaten favourite in fourth. All in all, not a race to be getting carried away with on recent trends.
Entry to note: Vicenzo Mio
A high-class entry for this class 2 contest but this race has had little impact upon the outcome of the RSA Chase with the third-placed finishes of Cornish Rebel (third of six) and Darkness the best results for recent winners.
Entry to note: Shutthefrontdoor
The last two winners of this haven't lined up at the Fez but the race could hardly have got off to a better start (since first run in 2004) otherwise with Brewster (third), Black Jack Ketchum (first), Flight Leader (fourth), Nenuphar Collonges (first), Tell Massini (BF, PU) and Mossley (second) all going on to run in the main event. There are only a couple of runners that really take the eye but if one of those were to oblige then their Festival claims must be taken seriously.
Entry to note: Kings Palace
The last four winners, Unioniste, Quantitativeeasing and Poquelin (twice), all returned as beaten favourites at the Festival but the popular Poquelin was far from disgraced in finishing second and fourth in the Ryanair. Nor was Exotic Dancer who chased home Kauto Star in the Gold Cup, while Iris Royal made the frame in the Cathcart. All in all, that's a considerably better return from the winners than might have been expected but isn't a great deal of help in terms of ante-post punting.
Entry to note: Salut Flo
All the race is missing is a Champion Hurdle winner although Katchit did go on to land the main event from Osana having finished second to that rival in the 2007 renewal of this race. Binocular and Khyber Kim both made the frame after winning this, while Zarkandar went on to finish fourth 12 months ago.
Entry to note: The New One
Oscar Whisky has won the last two runnings but he rather fell between two stools at the Festival. Prior to the Arkle hopeful's success, the race has thrown up a couple of World Hurdle thirds (Mighty Man and Crystal D'Ainay) and a Champion Hurdle third (Zaynar).
Entry to note: Ptit Zig
Only two previous renewals since the race was moved to Doncaster and both were won by John Quinn-trained horses, neither of whom ultimately cut the mustard at Cheltenham. This year's renewal could be different with a number of horses entered both here and for the equivalent race at Cheltenham and subsequent Festival heroes such Anzum, Oh So Risky and Hors La Loi III all won this contest in its previous incarnation at Lingfield. Watch this space.
Entry to note: Royal Irish Hussar
With the strength of Irish racing and the Willie Mullins' stable in particular there are bound to be a couple of horses that catch the eye over the weekend but this race is a must-see, pure and simple.
Pont Alexandre, Boston Bob,Oscars Well and Aran Concerto were all turned over at Cheltenham but all were sent off at very short odds and winner Mikael d'Haguenet did land the money (in the Neptune) at 5/2 in the 2008/9 season, while Travino also placed in the Albert Bartlett.
Cheltenham winners are surprisingly thin on the ground on the roll of honour but many have lined up at the Festival with strong claims on the book and this evidently influential race may well provide an opportunity to gain a decent ante-post position.
Entry to note: Briar Hill