Cheltenham Showcase Meeting: Early Festival clues on offer

Early Cheltenham Festival clues could be on offer during the two-day Showcase meeting.
Early Cheltenham Festival clues could be on offer during the two-day Showcase meeting.

Cheltenham's two-day Showcase meeting in October can provide a host of early Cheltenham Festival clues, and Steve Chambers looks back at those horses that have sparkled in October and again in March...

It may be regarded as one of Cheltenham racecourse's more low-key events during the National Hunt season, but the Showcase meeting has been the platform for a host of horses that have taken to the track during the two-day October meeting, and then returned five months later to take their chance in one of the 28 Cheltenham Festival races.

It's a meeting that probably won't see a potential Champion Hurdle or Cheltenham Gold Cup contender make their comeback runs due to the race schedule, but the Showcase meeting serves up some interesting novice chase races, as well as a host of exciting novice hurdles, with some staying handicap chases occasionally throwing up a smart winner.

Here at HorseRacing.net we've delved through the archives and picked out a few horses that have been victorious during the Showcase meeting and then returned to the Cheltenham Festival in mid-March and reigned supreme on the biggest stage of all. Since 2010 there have been some iconic horses that have strutted their stuff around the undulations of Prestbury Park and then continued their progression and won at the festival. 

The Conditional

Instantly, your minds go back to last season and David Bridgwater's The Conditional was a shock 14/1 winner of the 3m 1f Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase in October, before he returned to GL50 and bagged a narrow victory in the 2020 Ultima Handicap Chase. Running off 131 in the October contest, The Conditional shaped like he could be a staying chaser of note beating West Approach and Cogry in fine fashion at the Showcase meeting, and off an 8 lb higher mark in the Ultima, the seven-year-old produced a career best effort to reign supreme in one of the most hotly contested handicaps during the festival.

Le Prezien

Paul Nicholls is sure to have a strong team heading to Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday, and the master of Ditcheat knows what it takes to improve a horse from the October meeting and get them firing on all cylinders in March. Le Prezien was sent off a 5/2 favourite for the 2017 Randox Health Handicap Chase, but the JP McManus-owned charge could only finish second to Foxtail Hill in that two-miler. However, the places changed considerably in March, as the pair battled it out in the 2018 Grand Annual. While Foxtail Hill could only finish a well-beaten 11th, Le Prezien went on to win the festival finale by four and a half lengths from Gino Trail.

Tiger Roll

Four-time Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll may be more known for his recent dominance in the Grand National at Aintree, where he became the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back renewals of the world's greatest steeplechase in 2018 and 2019, but the Gordon Elliott-trained superstar has been seen competing at Cheltenham in October during his career. Having won the 2014 Triumph Hurdle, Tiger Roll returned to the scene of that four-year-old success and was victorious in the 2014 Masterson Holdings Hurdle at the Showcase meeting. Then handed the task of the Grade 1 World Hurdle (now Stayers' Hurdle) at the 2015 festival, Tiger Roll failed to sparkle and finished 13th of 15.

A novice chasing campaign then materialised, but the Irish hotpot could only finish third in the Ryman Stationery Novices' Chase in 2016, only to return at the 2017 festival and win the National Hunt Chase to notch up his second Cheltenham Festival success. Sent over the cross country fences later in his career and using the festival as a warm-up for the Grand National, Tiger Roll may not have been seen at the October meeting again, but he dominated the cross country chase division for a couple of years, winning the 2018 and 2019 runnings of the unique jumping test that is the Cross Country Chase to enhance his magnificent record even further.

Moon Racer

David Pipe's Moon Racer stormed into the limelight at Cheltenham's October meeting in 2014, as he was a runaway 12-length winner of the Jockey Club venue's Standard Open NH Flat Race, which concluded Saturday's card. Having oozed class during that event, the Pond House in-mate was sent off a well-fancied 9/2 shot at the Champion Bumper at the Festival, and he duly obliged in fine fashion, beating Modus by one and a half lengths. He may have failed to sparkle over hurdles later in his career, but Moon Racer burst on to scene in the blaze of glory at the October meeting, and makes our stellar list.

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Balthazar King

With 18 of his 47 career runs having been at Cheltenham, Balthazar King was a fixture of racing at the Gloucestershire venue for over half a decade, and the much-loved Philip Hobbs-trained stalwart was often seen stretching his legs for the season at the Showcase meeting in October. A three-length winner of 3m 110y Zeturf Trophy Handicap Chase at the 2011 meeting, Balthazar King then returned in the spring to edge out A New Story in a pulsating finish to the 2012 Cross Country Chase. Emulating that sparkling double the following season, Balthazar King won the same 3m 110y race in October, which was now known as the Showcase Trophy, as he beat Tour Des Champs by seven lengths, and then returned in March as a 4/1 shot for the Cross Country, and he yet again edged out a narrow success, this time beating Any Currency by a short head in the 2014 contest.

The New One

Another regular visitor to Cheltenham racecourse was The New One, who was the flagship horse for Nigel Twiston-Davies for a number of years, and the Naunton in-mate is another to etch their name on the Showcase/Cheltenham Festival double list. Sent off an even money favourite for the 2012 Neptune Management Novices' Hurdle at the October meeting, The New One beat Village Vic comfortably by two and three quarter lengths. Returning in March to compete in the 2013 Neptune (now Ballymore), The New One romped to an emphatic seven length victory in the 2m 5f Grade 1 contest. While he may not have been able to land the prestigious prize of the Champion Hurdle during his stellar career, The New One was one of the smartest hurdlers around on British soil, and shows that a run in the Showcase can rev you up for a festival tilt later in the season.

Oiseau de Nuit

While the previously mentioned horses maybe well known for being Cheltenham Festival winners, Colin Tizzard's Oiseau de Nuit could well slip the mind of those Jumps fans when trying to list winners at the festival since 2010. Well, on October 16, 2010, Oiseau de Nuit unseated his rider in the 2m 4f 110y ZeTurf Handicap Chase, but returned in March to cause an almighty 40/1 shock in the 2011 Grand Annual, as under top amateur Steven Clements, the nine-year-old won by over three lengths in the meeting curtain-closer.

Chicago Grey

Two festival winners would emerge from that 2010 card as Irish raider Chicago Grey eased to a six-length success in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices' Chase at the October meeting, before returning in March to win the National Hunt Chase in style. Beating Beshabar by over four lengths in the four-miler, Chicago Grey was to be one of the most exciting novice chasers that season, but his career failed to kick on significantly.

Others To Note

During the last decade some smart performers have run at the Showcase meeting, and some have been victorious and duly gone on to shine at Cheltenham Festivals or at alternative big-race meetings later in their careers. Some of those include Dodging Bullets, who won the 2012 Masterson Holdings Hurdle and then went on to win the 2014 Queen Mother Champion Chase, while Vicente finished third in a novices' chase in 2015 before going to land a momentous Scottish Grand National double. Old Guard was a fine winner of a conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle in 2015 and the Nicholls-trained star went on to win the Greatwood Hurdle and International Hurdle later on in that season, while Johns Spirit warmed up for a win in the Paddy Power Gold Cup by winning a competitive handicap chase at 2013 Showcase meeting.

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