Catching Pigeons: Cotton on to Mill
All the latest gossip from around the major training centres in the UK ahead of the weekend's action.
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It's a big weekend for bloodstock agent-cum-trainer John Ferguson.
The man who has been a huge part of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation for many a year has a pivotal few days to oversee for his side project - as Damon Albarn would call it - as a National Hunt trainer.
Cotton Mill goes in the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday and is the most high-profile example of where Ferguson's side-project benefits from his day job. By Tiger Hill out of a Mill Reef mare, Cotton Mill wasn't bred to run two miles with eight bits of timber in the way. Yet, in his short career to date, he's thrived in the jumping game, only once showing an aversion to the sport when veering violently to his left and unseating Denis O'Regan when going well out in front in the Neptune won by Simonsig.
While the dashing grey won't be in action on this Super Saturday at Newbury, Cotton Mill is and his homework suggests he's a huge player off a mark of 145. The drop in trip isn't expected to inconvenience the six-year-old who was a 10-furlong maiden winner at Flat HQ.
Ferguson also has Buthelezi and fortunate Finale winner Ruacana in action on the high-class card at Leopardstown, but it's Cotton Mill who is fancied to give the fledgling trainer his first really high-profile success.
The main danger looks to be Nicky Henderson's My Tent Or Yours whose work at Seven Barrows is of a truly high order. 149 isn't expected to be the ceiling of his ability by a long way - he works like a Champion Hurdle horse at home - but he will need luck-in-running though Henderson, JP McManus and AP McCoy surely deserve their slice after a harrowing week.
Cash And Go, going well when unseating in the Ladbroke, and Petit Robin, who settles nicely for the talented Nico De Boinville, are also in good health and are expected to go well.
Chatterbox will be out to give My Tent Or Yours' chance a boost in the opening novice hurdle and he will take plenty of beating. Although he may be more of a two-and-a-half miler, he does have a turn of foot and he has the edge in experience over Paul Nicholls' newcomer Lac Fontana. He is one of the premier league at Seven Barrows.
Simonsig's withdrawal gives Majala a real sporting chance in the Game Spirit if Warwick, which hosts his first preference the Kingmaker, falls to the weather. He is a young chaser very much on the up and his form is working out really well. Tom George remains in great form.
The Better Prices On Betfair Mobile Novices' Chase looks a proper RSA trial and Henderson's Hadrian's Approach deserves to win another race. His victory at Ascot has worked out unbelievably well. Just about everything has won, even the eighth home won a novices handicap at Newbury, while his Kempton second to Dynaste was a nice confidence booster following his fall at Newbury previously. Hadrian's has a chance, but here, he cannot afford too many untidy jumps against a high quality opponent in Unioniste.
Victoria Rose is worth considering each-way in the 2.50 Uttoxeter. Richard Woollacott has done well with the horses he has taken over from Simon Burrough and this mare makes her first appearance for him on a course where she won easily last season.
Finally some news ahead of the impending Flat season (the Lincoln is only five weeks away!) from Newmarket.
Sir Michael Stoute's Sea Moon has apparently been sold to Australian owner Lloyd Williams, who has just employed five-time Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Lee Freedman as his new new director of training and racing.
Stoute's big hope for the upcoming season, though, is Telescope who has come through the winter well and he's an interesting horse. He looked in great nick on the Newmarket Heath this week and it's of no surprise he's been backed for the Derby.
Jeremy Noseda's Burke's Rock worked well on the Al Bahathri ahead of a possible trip to France early in the season, while Sir Henry Cecil's Al Waab, third in the Royal Lodge, also looked on good terms with himself and Frankel's half-brother Morpheus is doing well.
We'll end with a tip, and another chance for a horse who let the Pigeon down only recently. Marco Botti's Be Perfect was far from perfect when disappointing a couple of weeks ago but faith is retained in the Street Cry colt who continues to please at home and he is worth another chance in the Lingfield Park Resort Handicap at 4.15.