Catching Pigeons: Make the Approach
Our Catching Pigeons column flies in to bring news of an interesting visitor or two to Newmarket this week and some big-priced tips.
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Newmarket's stables prepare to throw open their doors to the great unwashed tomorrow - well, those that haven't dropped out or refused right from the start - for the town's excellent charity Open Day, but the most interesting visitor to the town today is Johnny Murtagh.
Murtagh has been riding like a man reborn ever since he dropped what looked to some - horribly incorrectly, with hindsight - like an obvious hint that his days as a jockey were numbered by taking out a trainer's licence in Ireland.
Even yesterday he was seen teaching younger colleagues a lesson when giving Rich Coast an inspired ride from the front to win a decent prize at Listowel.
So why is Murtagh here at HQ today? Well, he has a good book of rides at a card featuring two £100,000 Tattersalls Sales contests and the meeting obviously offers him some good chances to line his pockets.
But it's his longstanding link with William Haggas that offers the principal clue, for although Gold Approach can be backed at a chunky price in the opening one-mile maiden, this is a filly who has shown plenty of ability on the gallops.
Related to plenty of winners, Gold Approach also has her quirks and could not be considered a straightforward ride, but Murtagh won't stand for any nonsense and at the prices, she is worth a bet today - even with some proven performers such as Casual Smile and Tea In Transvaal in opposition.
On the subject of the sales races, it is going to be very hard for a newcomer to win one of these first time up, but a big each-way run beckons from Newton's Law when he tackles the £100,000 Tatersalls Millions Median Auction Trophy.
Brian Meehan has not been in any great rush with his better class juveniles this season, but Spark Plug showed with his win at Bath last weekend that the odd one is ready first time and this highly rated son of Lawman has been working particularly well with that promising stayer.
There have been some nibbles at monster prices already today, but plenty of 20/1 is still available and he is worth a minor interest under Mickael Barzalona.
Charlie Hills has his team in great nick and he should strike with Zipp in the Prestige Vehicles Handicap at the same track.
She showed plenty of promise before hosing up in a handicap in the mud at Windsor and remains very nicely handicapped. The step up to a mile and a half should help offset the hike in her mark after her success at the Berkshire course.
Finally, the run of Astonishing in the same race ought to give a pointer as to the prospects of stablemate Dank in the Sun Chariot Stakes.
This improving filly worked well enough but looked no match for Dank when they were paired together in midweek and the latter should go into next week's Group One as something of a banker.
The Henry Cecil celebration service at Ely Cathedral on Monday brought a number of figures from the great man's colourful past together, but there was only good feeling before and afterwards.
One of those to attend was another king of the trainers (albeit in a slightly different sphere) Martin Pipe, who flew in by helicopter from Nicholashayne having found a helpful farmer prepared to let him land in a nearby field.
Pipe recalled how he had given Cecil's first wife Julie a handful of rides in amateur jockeys' contests back when both trainers were only starting to make their names.
Although the exact future for Warren Place remains uncertain at this time, a nice Saturday winner would help everyone at the yard and Disclaimer should go well at a fair price in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Newbury.
He's been freshened up since his Royal Ascot flop but looks back in rude health at home and it was interesting to see James Doyle riding work on him the other day in preparation for this engagement.
There are a handful of promising unraced sorts in the opening maiden, but it may pay to take a chance on one with experience.
It is a while since Sylvester Kirk had a really nice juvenile, but Baker Man has always been well regarded and he is expected to build on his debut effort at Salisbury in the summer.
Frankly, he did not enjoy the best of experiences having found trouble in running, but he will have learnt plenty and could go off here at a decent price.
Gifted Girl is tipped to land her third success of the campaign in the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup. Paul 'Old King' Cole's mare produced arguably her best performance when chasing home the aforementioned Dank in the Beverley D at Arlington last time.
Ground conditions will be a whole lot different here, but she has produced good form on easy ground and her subsequent homework suggests she has taken the Chicago trip well.
The threat could be Contributer, who is still to quite live up to expectations for Ed Dunlop (consistently takes the eye in his work) but who may appreciate a little more cut in the ground than he found in midsummer.
Complicit, a stablemate of Gifted Girl, may give the highly-rated Shamshon plenty to think about in the Group Two Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes.
Although only a winner of a minor maiden at Ripon June on his latest start, he has done well physically during his break and a big run at a meaty price is anticipated in what looks a very interesting race.
Finally, it's back to Newmarket for the finale at 5.55, where the reason for backing Yeager is quite simple. He almost certainly has to win to have a chance of making the cut for next week's Cambridgeshire, for which a couple of shrewdies have already backed him. This wasn't the plan, but it now is.