Catching Pigeons: Back 'Dor
Our Catching Pigeons column has the news ahead of Saturday's racing action and there's a good word for an Irish raider.
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It's a last opportunity to qualify for the Pertemps Final at Haydock on Saturday but there may be an unusual element to this particular Qualifier with virtually none of the field likely to actually secure a run at the Festival unless they can up their ratings by a couple of pounds with a big run.
Mydor just about falls into category, having been handed a British mark of 133, whereas 135 has been the bottom-rating for the Final for the last three years. However, the Irish pigeon is adamant that Tony Martin's runner he can overcome that problem by scoring here under Brian Hughes.
He hasn't always been the most consistent performer, but cheekpieces have improved his application of late and he ran particularly well at Leopardstown on his latest start.
Warrantor is a young stayer who is still to produce his best over fences and should reward an each-way interest in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday.
Warren Greatrex has always held a candle for the eight year old despite the gelding's somewhat patchy career so far over the larger obstacles. However, his two performances this season, a close second in a valuable handicap at the Open meeting at Cheltenham in November, and a respectable fifth on the same course on New Year's Day suggest he is progressing nicely.
His stable are now in much better form than at any stage of the season, and he is likely to be well at home on what is likely to be dead tacky ground.
Fletchers Flyer has had his problems this winter, but he deserves his place in the line-up for the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot and should prove hard to beat. Harry Fry has some attractive targets for this highly-talented gelding upcoming, and he showed he can hold his own against top company when winning a handicap at the Punchestown Festival as a very raw novice.
The fact that the victory came during the embryonic stages of this campaign means he still qualifies for a race like this, and, not for the first time, this looks a relatively weak race for Grade Two level.
Beyond Conceit can retain his 100 per cent record over hurdles in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle on the same card. A smart performer on the Flat for Andrew Balding, he made light work of the opposition on his hurdling bow at Newbury four and a half weeks ago. Nicky Henderson is looking at one of the novice events at the Festival for the eight year old in just over three weeks' time, and has given him a nice break since the win to try and ensure he is at his most potent for this very important warm-up race.
Divine Spear, a stablemate of Beyond Conceit, is improving with racing and he is fancied to add to his Fontwell win over Christmas in the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle. He still showed signs of inexperience when a staying-on third at Cheltenham last time, and should give promising claimer Ned Curtis another great ride in this open-looking race.
At Wincanton, Ben Pauling's Whin Park was not unfancied when down the field in a bumper at Warwick on his debut and he should go well at a decent price in what looks a weak race for the Betway National Hunt Novices' Hurdle.
There are two all-weather cards in Britain on Saturday and both could prove unusually informative as we move into a stage of the year when the major Flat stables are getting ready to fire their guns again.
Flight Of Fantasy was unlucky to get collared at Kempton last time, having seemed as if she had put the race to bed at the two-furlong pole and plenty will fancy her to gain appropriate compensation in the 32Red Maiden Fillies' Stakes at Lingfield.
However, there's a good word for the unraced First Moon, with Josephine Gordon aboard, as she makes her debut in the same race for Hugo Palmer. A Khalid Abdullah-owned filly, she reportedly excelled in a recent gallop.
Amy Murphy has proved a profitable trainer for Catching Pigeons readers to follow in recent weeks and she introduces Gwendolyn on her first run for the yard in the Betway Dash Handicap.
This is Gwendolyn's third Newmarket yard and she hasn't joined the stable looking especially well-handicapped, but there must be the possibility that she will find improvement for the in-form Murphy and could be worth a small bet if the price is right.
The two Jamies, Osborne and Spencer, are a very successful combination when they get together and should go close with Hungarian Rhapsody in the 32Red Maiden at Kempton on Saturday evening. The son of Exceed And Excel carries the familiar white colours of Michael Buckley, and has shown enough at home to suggest a bold show on his first racecourse appearance.
Queen Odessa beat the very highly rated Kayf Grace in a bumper last season and she should step up on her only outing so far this term in the 32Red Casino Mares Only Novices Hurdle at Market Rasen on Sunday. Although she has not seen action for three months, she should be fit enough and this looks a run-of-the-mill event.
There are few more popular horses in Newmarket than Stand Guard, who already holds the honour of having won more All-weather races in Britain than any other horse.
He's 13 and clearly getting no quicker in his old age but John Butler believes there might just be a little more juice to be squeezed from these pips and he was a shade unfortunate to get undone by a ridiculously slow early gallop at Kempton earlier this week.
Stand Guard has an entry at Southwell on Tuesday and at first glance looks to have been found a very good opportunity to win again on a surface where he has plenty of old form in the book.
Claimantakinforgan will not have been missed much by racecourse commentators during a mid-season break, but this impressive Haydock bumper winner is held in high regard at Seven Barrows and his cheery fan club are looking forward to seeing him back in action, perhaps as early as this week
He is better than his most recent outing at Ascot suggests and is back in good form on gallops after his mid-term hols.
The valuable £50,000 Goffs Bumper at Newbury just after Cheltenham could be an early lucrative spring target.