Catching Pigeons: Don't desert Denis
We uncover some more of the gossip from the major training centres and the latest word on Saturday's runners.
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Denis O'Regan has endured mixed fortunes as a freelance in the last couple of seasons, but his ongoing association with John Ferguson should give the talented rider extra stability in the weeks ahead.
Indeed rumour has it that Ferguson has arranged for the provision of some permanent accomodation near to his yard to mean the jockey doesn't have to travel so far to ride work for the trainer, which should cement the association even more closely in the weeks and months ahead.
The stable's exciting hurdler Cotton Mill, a late absentee from Ascot's Ladbroke Hurdle before Christmas when the going was deemed too soft, will be kept back for next month's Totesport Trophy at Newbury.
But nearer to hand, it is Ruacana whom the pair have high hopes for in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow. Yes, Chepstow ground tends to prove too much for even the toughest ex-Flat performers but this horse really does seem to thrive in the mud.
There is plenty of talent within Ferguson's yard through which to get a decent measurement as to Ruacana's talent and all the signs suggest that he is very smart. Caid du Berlais, making his debut for Paul Nicholls, is the obvious danger, although in truth this decent contest for once looks like it is almost living up to its Grade One billing.
Nicholls also has an excellent chance in the following contestwith Cedre Bleu, who continues to work like a horse who has something in hand of the assessor.
There's also strength in depth to the day's other Grade One contest, Sandown's Tolworth Hurdle, for which Royal Boy gets the vote.
Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride this one ahead of Nicky Henderson stablemate Golden Hoof, not just because he believes he will act best on the ground, but also because he thinks a bit of Royal Boy, who was unlucky when beaten by Melodic Rendezvous last time and is well fancied by connections to reverse the form.
Une Artiste is also fancied for the same trainer/jockey partnership in the opening contest. She would be getting weight in a handicap, but the ratings do not accurately reflect the pecking order in the stable.
At Wincanton, The Druids Nephew can atone for a slightly below-par performance on his most recent start by taking the three-runner novice chase at Wincanton. Stablemate Micheal Flips is also fancied to go well on the same card for Andy Turnell, although he would in truth probably prefer slightly better going conditions.
One to look out for at Kempton on Monday is Odin, who didn't enjoy much luck for Don Cantillon last time out, but on whom Jamie Spencer will be out to make amends. Spencer has been spotted riding work for the wily old trainer on a couple of recent occasions and this could be a partnership for punters to watch closely in the weeks ahead.