Back to the future
Any card at Cheltenham is always likely to provide clues for the future and Friday's meeting is no exception with the two novice races, in particular, bearing rich fruit.
- Related Content
The Shloer Novices' Chase over two miles five may not seem the most obvious port of call for Festival candidates but the race was won by subsequent Arkle Trophy winner Tidal Bay in 2007.
The then Howard Johnson-trained son of Flemensfirth fairly stormed up the hill in March and could well have been completing back-to-back wins in the Arkle for Shloer winners had Don't Push It not fallen at the second last when right in contention.
Either side of those two victories the Shloer was won by two horses who were denied the opportunity of lining up at the Festival in Exotic Dancer and Weird Al but the pair both went on to prove themselves as high-class performers.
The last two years haven't lived up those heights although two seasons ago Reve De Sivola did finish third in the three mile handicap while the second home, Wishfull Thinking, filled the same position in the Jewson.
It's entirely possible that this year's renewal will continue in a similar vein with few of the seven runners quickening the pulse.
Hildisvini and Super Duty have already proved themselves to be useful sorts while this longer trip should suit Rebel Rebellion better than the two miles over which he was found wanting behind Captain Conan.
If there is to be a potential star in the line-up then it's more than likely to be Broadbackbob.
A useful bumper performer, he beat Cinders And Ashes in a truncated season over hurdles before impressing - in an admittedly modest affair - at Plumpton on his chase bow.
That win qualifies him for a £60,000 bonus if he can win a chase back at Prestbury Park in March so there's certainly no shortage of an incentive for connections if his career continues on an upward trajectory.
The closing British Stallion Studs Pyments Quantity Surveyors E.B.F. 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle has also been won by some smart types over the years, including the aforementioned Tidal Bay.
As a novice hurdler, he failed to claim gold at the Festival but he still ran a fine race in finishing second to Massini's Maguire in the two mile five hurdle and his success is not an isolated one.
The 2002 renewal was won by Champion Bumper runner-up Rhinestone Cowboy and connections were rewarded with an audacious tilt at the Champion Hurdle when the novice went some way to justifying his position at the head of the market when finishing third to Rooster Booster.
The following season Grey Report made the frame in the (as it was then) Royal and SunAlliance Hurdle while Noland came up trumps in the Supreme Novices' in the spring of 2006 when coming with a rare late rattle to collar Straw Bear.
Calgary Bay and Snap Tie were the first two home in 2007 while last year saw Darlan scramble home on his second start over hurdles.
There are just the eight runners in this season's renewal, including a fascinating new recruit for last year's successful trainer.
Royal Boy, successful on his only start in a point, missed the whole of last season so is entitled to need this run in what should prove to be a demanding contest.
Hopes were high that Mr Watson would make a successful hurdling debut only for the five year old to unseat (and injure) Tony McCoy on the way to post and it will be disappointing if he can't improve on the form of his run at Market Rasen.
Village Vic is better than he showed last time while great things are expected of Melodic Rendezvous while the three penalised runners have already impressed in lesser races.
Someone is bound to be disappointed by ten to four but this promises to be a hugely informative race and one that we'd do well to remember come March.