Catching Pigeons: Gunning for Glory
Catching Pigeons is back with all the gossip ahead of QIPCO Champions Day and the weekend National Hunt action.
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Hopes are high in the Hannon camp that Olympic Glory can make the most of the testing conditions and win the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
The recent rain has been warmly welcomed by the three-year-old's connections, who know he will revel, not only on the ground, but also the straight mile. Because of his need for an easy surface, he has been campaigned for the most part in France this season,.
The best of his form suggests he is well up to this level and Richard Hughes knows full well you have to keep working on him to produce the best results. His recent work with some of the leading players at the Hannon stable of stars confirm he should have a great chance.
Hannon's neighbour Ralph Beckett can land the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. Talent is never the most extravagant at home, but she has produced some high-class performances to win the Oaks before finishing a slightly unlucky runner-up in the St Leger.
Although she had a hard race there, she has had five weeks to get over it and she is a very laid-back filly. Her one disappointment in the Irish Oaks came when her trainer thought he had "undercooked" her preparation.
Hillstar has produced some quality performances at Ascot this season and is rated the each-way value in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. He showed last season that he handles the mud and has more of a progressive profile than some in this race. His recent work has been very solid and he has attracted some ante-post support this week.
Emma Lavelle can nab another big prize courtesy of Easter Meteor in the Equus-Fine Dining Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. He was second to Nadiya De La Vega in the race 12 months ago, and while the handicapper has taken due note of that performance and his subsequent successes, he looks to have taken another step forward for a summer on his back.
Of his rivals Tanks For That has been working very well as he usually does at this time of year. The word from Seven Barrows is that he's fitter than Malt Master but the worry would be whether he truly stays this trip.
Balder Success and Handazan struck for Alan King at Chepstow last week and hopes are high they can follow up at Cheltenham. Stablemate Hold On Julio/ is also quietly fancied to run a big race in the opening Jools Holland Here On 9th Novices Hurdle. He's in very good form.
Top race for jumps fans this week will be the clash between The New One and former champion hurdler Rock On Ruby in the William Hill Download The App Hurdle.
It will be interesting to see what the market makes of it, but the Harry Fry team are confident they can outspeed the Twiston-Davies star over this flat two miles. After connections' decision to crack on with him much earlier this season than last term, his work has been very good and they believe they have him much fitter for his comeback.
Sea Lord has been aimed at the William Hill - On Your Mobile Novices' Hurdle for some time and he will be well fancied to continue his impressive run. He has bee very well placed by connections and is in great nick after his short summer break.
Peter Chapple-Hyam's Caravan Rolls On is en-route to Australia where he'll be running in a race on the Melbourne Cup under card. Stablemate Hydrogen isn't the only unraced juvenile to note in the coming weeks from the yard. Jamie Spencer had another sit on Arod this week and the son of Teofilio has shown enough promise to have been given a Racing Post Trophy entry earlier in the season.
Across Newmarket both Paul Hanagan and Richard Hills have partnered the ultra-promising Munjaz in work for John Gosden. He is very much a colt to follow in 2014.
Finally if you fancy afternoon tea at Headquarters you could do worse than pop into the Jockey Club. Not only are scones, clotted cream and jam on offer - but a highly-recommended tour of the incredible building too.