Magic Consol winning last year's race from Homesman and Night's Watch (Image: Racing Photos)
The Moonee Valley Racing Club is understandably keen to promote Saturday's $250,000 Group 2 Feehan Stakes as a prelude to the Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
The 1600-metre weight-for-age contest, first run in 1949, has strong historical links to The Valley's signature event, with nine horses having completed the spring double, including Rubiton, Our Poetic Prince, Better Loosen Up, Sunline and Northerly in a stellar 15-year patch from 1987 to 2001.
But the Feehan's influence on the Cox Plate has not been as strong in recent years, despite the introduction of a Cox Plate ballot exemption for the winner earlier this decade.
Awesome Rock, the 2016 winner, is the only Feehan runner from the past three years to contest a Cox Plate and Fiorente remains the most recent Cox Plate placegetter to have contested the Feehan. A Cox Plate winner hasn't come via the Feehan since Maldivian in 2008.
Its influence on the Cox Plate might be waning, but it has stepped up as a guide to the other spring majors - the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup.
It has only had one Cox Plate runner the past three years but has produced a Caulfield Cup winner (Jameka ran seventh in the 2016 Feehan) and runner-up (Homesman finished second in both events last year) in that time.
Fiorente and Green Moon (2012) both won the Melbourne Cup after running well in the Feehan.
This year's field suggests the Cups could again be the races it impacts in 2019. Homesman and Kenedna - both $26 - are the only runners under $51 in BetEasy's Cox Plate market, with a number of runners much more prominent in Cups markets than Cox Plate betting.
Several of Saturday's field, including favourite Homesman and The Chosen One, are first-up and only once in the past 30 years - by Bonneval in 2017 - has the Feehan been won by a first-upper.
That's in contrast to the increased occurrence of the Feehan winner having raced through winter since it swapped places on the calendar with the Makybe Diva Stakes in 2014.
Form Focus reveals that prior to 2014, just two of the previous 25 winners had raced at least three times leading into the Feehan, but it has happened twice in the past five years (The Cleaner in 2014 and Magic Consol last year).
The two other winners (The Cleaner in 2015 and Awesome Rock) since it swapped with the Makybe Diva Stakes came through the Lawrence Stakes.
The Feehan is also more prone to an upset in its earlier timeslot. Awesome Rock ($31) and Magic Consol ($19) have given it as many double-figure odds winners in the past three years as what there were in the previous 27 years.
The two oldest winners of the Feehan (Magic Consol as a 9YO and The Cleaner as an 8YO) in the past 30 years have come since the date change, making it six times in the past seven years that the winner has been five or older.
The Verdict: As a six-year-old who has five runs this prep, the latest being in the Lawrence Stakes, happy to side with Mr Marathon Man, especially given the $18 available with BetEasy.