Catching Pigeons: Fergie time
Our Catching Pigeons column has all the latest whispers from the major training centres ahead of the weekend's action.
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John Ferguson has a powerful team to go to war with at the big Spring festivals and Commissioned can further strengthen his hand with victory in the BetBright.com Adonis Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.
The son of Authorized showed a very useful level of form in what was a very light campaign on the level and did well when set a very tough first examination over hurdles at Cheltenham in December.
Despite meeting with some traffic problems, he stuck on well to finish third to Ballyglasheen with the very useful yardstick Kentucky Hyden in the runner-up berth.
The fact he has not run since will not prove a hindrance and his work in preparing for this competitive renewal has been of a very high order. The fitting of blinkers should also sharpen him up and he could be the one to see off the powerful West Country challengers Alcala and Activial.
Ferguson could well have the answer to the closing racinguk.com National Hunt Flat Race too.
He is considered high up the pecking order among the Bloomfields youngsters and there was a lot to like about his debut success at Taunton just over six weeks ago. This flat track should play to his strengths and he could prove the value bet to see off Nicky Henderson's well regarded Clondaw Banker.
Henderson continues to take things quietly with the ground so soft, but he saddles a very interesting unexposed type in the Jockey Club Handicap Hurdle. A very attractive chasing type, Full Shift won at the first time of asking over timber but then looked to have his limitations exposed behind Cole Harden at Newbury on his latest start.
Ground conditions did not suit that day, but the surface should be a little more amenable here and he looks very nicely weighted for his handicap bow. Whatever happens a good handicap should come his way off the mark when the ground finally firms up.
The Skybet Dovecote Novices Hurdle well and truly lives up to its Grade Two billing with old rivals Irving and Cup Final taking on impressive Doncaster winner First Mohican. Few novices have jumped better than First Mohican on their debuts this season, but Irving is a very polished performer as well and may just have the tactical speed to come out on top.
It should also be remembered that Cup Final was made favourite to beat Paul Nicholls' emerging star on their respective hurdling bows at Taunton, and has not been seen out again since suffering a four length defeat.
There were excuses that day, including a leg injury sustained during the race. Although lay-off and lack of experience are against him here, a good run is anticipated and he is another to note for the Spring campaign.
Balder Succes produced a fluent display of jumping to win at Warwick two weeks ago and he should prove up to beating his five rivals in the Betbright Mobile Pendil Novices' Chase.The return to two and a half miles should pose no problems and the opposition does not look overly strong.
Ardkilly Witness should run his usual sound race in what looks a little below par Betbright Handicap Chase. Richard Newland's charge has been performing well over fences this season and followed a good win at Wincanton with a creditable second to leading Eider Chase fancy Relax at Sandown last time. He just failed to get up the hill in the bad ground at the Esher course, but he should find the finish less daunting on this ground and easier course.
The good doctor takes Relax on again with Royale Knight in the Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle and another good show can be expected if he copes with the demanding ground. His ability to see out a tough four miles was proven by his victory in the Borders National at Kelso and there was little wrong with his third to the progressive in another valuable staying handicap at Warwick last time.
With the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle shedding light on the big Spring four year old events on the domestic front, the Winning Fair Hurdle should do the same from an Irish perspective at Fairyhouse.
Close interest will be taken in All Pepper from the Willie Mullins camp, not least because he has attracted support in the ante-post market for the Triumph recently, even though he has yet to make his debut for his new trainer.
An all-German bred son of Peppershot, he is on a hat-trick after two wins at Nantes in France, and, from all accounts, his work since his arrival in the Emerald Isle has been of a very high quality.
Grandeur can continue Jeremy Noseda's great run of form in the listed coral.uk Winter Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield. The winner of a listed race at Goodwood last season, he has not seen action since a respectable effort behind Akeen Mofeen at Sha Tin in December, but has been working particularly well and has had this race as his comeback target for some time.
His galloping companion Dutiful Son is also in good order and this lightly raced sort can get his 2014 campaign off to a flying start in the 500 Free Bets At Betdaq Handicap.
Chantrea showed precious little on her only start last year but don't be surprised to see her take a big step forward in the Ladbrokes Maiden Stakes at Lingfield on Tuesday.
Looking further ahead Hugo Palmer's free-sweating Ascription went solo up the Al Bahatri on Wednesday as he continues his preparations for the William Hill Lincoln while Richard Hills had a sit on a nice unraced Sea The Stars colt trained by Sir Michael Stoute called Altaayil.
Hillstar was among the Freemason Lodge team cantering this week, and they kept Ryan Moore busy as he was doubling up, jumping off one horse as it finished its work to jump aboard another.
The grass gallops on Warren Hill have started to be used again. Roger Varian, William Haggas and James Fanshawe were among the trainers to have small teams stretching out on there.