Catching Pigeons: Molotof to fire
Catching Pigeons brings us the latest news from the training centres including a notable gallops appearance or two in Newmarket.
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Nicky Henderson's face has been everywhere this week after he opened his door to the waifs and strays of the media, but the attention is justified given the strength of his Cheltenham Festival squad - particularly in comparison to old foe Paul Nicholls.
After rumours swept the sport that Grandouet's 'setback' was far worse than connections were letting on last week, the trainer made a particular point of emphasising how far off the mark the Seven Barrows gossip machine can be by having the horse ridden away in the front of his guests.
A couple of days after they had gone, Grandouet confirmed his trainer's optimism when producing a very solid piece of work on Wednesday. He is firmly back on track.
This is a big weekend for Henderson, who is taking some of his bigger names to work after racing in the gloom at Kempton, but the trainer also has a number of big chances in racing action.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Grandioso can improve on a better surface in the Racingplus.co.uk Pendil Novices' Chase, but will struggle to beat Henderson's Molotof.
Connections had been hoping to go down the handicap route with him at the Festival next month, but a 9lb rise for his latest success put paid to that.
However judged on what he is doing at home, if anything he has improved again for that latest win and moving back to quicker ground is definitely expected to be in his favour.
Barry Geraghty chooses Vasco De Ronceray ahead of stablemate Courtesy Call in the Racing UK Subscribe For Cheltenham Adonis Juvenile Hurdle but there isn't much between them. The former wasn't right last time having given Far West a good race first time out for the yard, but the latter has schooled well.
Forgotten Voice was an expensive loser for the Pigeon on his latest start but continues to work like a good horse at home (albeit not quite as good as Simonsig judged upon Henderson's much-reported quote) and he has been crying out for decent ground, which he should get in the William Hill Dovecote Novices' Hurdle.
God Of The Kop is interesting in the two-mile five-furlong Soccer AM Handicap Hurdle. He's rated too lowly to get into the Cheltenham Festival handicaps but Tony McCoy (on whose personal recommendation JP McManus apparently dived in for Wyck Hill) thinks a bit of him.
At Chepstow, Emma Lavelle's Water Wagtail is worth a watching brief in the opener even if a couple of rivals prove too speedy for him at the finish. He's considered a decent long-term prospect and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him step up again when handicapped and moved up in trip.
Over at Lingfield on the all-weather, Marco Botti runs Planteur in the Winter Derby Trial and he is confidently expected to outclass his rivals on his way to another tilt at the Dubai World Cup.
The horse was spotted breezing up Warren Hill on Friday morning and looked well in himself, as did Ryan Moore who made an appearance on the same gallop alongside guv'nor Sir Michael Stoute.
Anyone looking for signs of a rift between the pair would have been left disappointed as Stoute talked his stable jockey through his string as he put them through their paces up the sand strip - two canters for the colts and one for the fillies. Reinvigorated by a recent family holiday in Dubai, Moore is expected to return to riding out on Saturday morning.
Also spotted on the hill was the much-touted Hydrogen, the three-quarters-brother to Authorized entrusted to Peter Chapple-Hyam. The two-year-old - the most expensive yearling sold in 2012 - was out first lot under Ashley Hamblett and drew plenty of admiring glances.