Catching Pigeons: Julio the call
All the whispers and gossip ahead of the weekend's action - and news of some exciting hurdling prospects in Newmarket.
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Hold On Julio wasn't a certain runner until impressing in a gallop at Barbury Castle earlier this week. But he showed enough sparkle to suggest that a big run is on the cards at Ascot on Saturday and he is one to keep onside on a trappy day's action.
This contest represents a clear drop in grade after his latest fifth in the Hennessy and although he had a hard race there, trainer Alan King has been unable to find any lasting effects. He hasn't faced conditions this testing before, but looks the type to thrive for them rather than curl up.
King also has the favourite for the day's big betting race, the Ladbroke, but Balder Succes may find one or two too quick, even with the ground placing extra emphasis upon stamina.Instead preference goes just to Cash And Go, who is seen as a possible Champion Hurdle candidate by his trainer, despite the fact that his official rating still leaves him with 20lb to find with the principals.
Barry Geraghty has been telling the lads at the yard that he is confident of reversing Cheltenham form with Olofi.Heavy ground has clouded the picture slightly, but Henderson strongly fancies his chances of a victory here - and maybe even a one-two as stablemate Lyvius looks as if he has found some improvement over the summer.
Meanwhile (and here's a sentence you won't read that often) Charlie Mann could be in for a good day if Haydock's card gets the go-ahead. Horses coming back from a fall as heavy as Duke Of Monmouth's latest accident would usually be best avoided for punting purposes, but Mann is confident that this tough-as-teak performer is absolutely fine despite his tumble at Newbury last month.
Although plenty of the progeny of the stallion Presenting seem most effective on a quicker surface, Duke Of Monmouth is perfectly happy when the mud is flying and he shouldn't fail for lack of stamina either in the three-mile Blue Square Handicap Hurdle.
Mann, whose team are in pretty good form at present, also fancies a decent run from Seventh Sky in the opener. He was suffering from breathing problems on his last couple of starts, but has since undergone an operation that could make all of the difference.
Hollow Tree is the shout in the two-and-a-half-mile Bet and Bluesq.com Handicap Hurdle. Donald McCain has been itching to step this horse up in trip and had this contest pencilled in even before his comeback second at the track four weeks ago.
It has been Christmas party season for the big Newmarket yards in the last seven days, but the festive spirit hasn't being flowing as freely as usual for some staff with recent redundancies at a couple of the biggest operations. At least Godolphin are always looking for work riders for their ever-expanding teams dotted around the town.
However it was a working trip for Ed Dunlop which caught the eye as a trainer turned up on the schooling ground at The Links with smart Flat handicapper The Tiger. This decent performer looks just the type to make an impact at the winter game, not least because he loves soft ground. Dunlop has never had a runner over jumps before.
Also spotted in schooling action during the week was Rasheed, a recent purchase out of John Gosden's yard who has moved only a couple of miles up the road to join Lucy Wadham.He was bought for a song at Tattersalls in October but has impressed his new connections and makes a great shape over his hurdles. He's one to look out for.
Newmarket's best chance of a winner on Saturday could come with the Roger Varian-trained Yarroom in the opening one-mile novice stakes at Lingfield. She has to give weight away all round, but seems to be holding her form well.