Catching Pigeons: Eagle swoop
Our Catching Pigeons column has the inside track for Saturday's Flat action and fancies Eagle Top to go in again for in-form trainer John Gosden.
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The decision to shuffle the pack at Sandown and produce an all-jumps card rather than the former mixed programme means that the Flat action is spread a little more thinly than one might expect to be the case a week before the first Classics of the season.
But that is good news for the likes of Haydock, Leicester and Doncaster who are getting a bigger share of the big names than might normally be the case.
Sheikh Hamdan’s first-choice jockey Paul Hanagan has been pencilled in to partner recent Newbury maiden winner Matalleb for John Gosden in Doncaster’s Get Freebets.co.uk Handicap, a race which carries £13,000 in prize money and features on an interesting card.
However, it’s the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Almuheet who continues to take the eye of our Newmarket pigeon and it will be interesting to see how he compares in the betting market with the owner’s number two rider Dane O’Neill aboard.
Almuheet can be a keen sort in his work and it’s possible his enthusiasm for the task might prove his undoing on his seasonal return, but he’s also got plenty of talent and with his stable having started the campaign in much better form than is often the case, it could pay to take a chance upon him if the odds suggest too much attention is being placed upon jockey bookings.
That said, there’s also a good word for Born In Bombay in the same race, a horse who gave Newmarket a late swerve last week but could have bumped into opposition just as tough even at this lower level.
The three year old was entered in both the Craven Stakes and the Feilden, but sidestepped both of those potential pattern-race objectives in favour of this handicap.
His form has been made to look good by the classy Passing Star running a big race in a valuable event at the Good Friday Champions Day at Lingfield, and hopes are high that he is a step ahead of the handicapper.
Divine is the least experienced in the Free Bets At freebets.com Fillies Handicap, but she is rated highly by Mick Channon – who, by his own admission, is lacking a star or two this season - and is fancied to maintain her unbeaten record.
She won very nicely on her only start for far on the all-weather at Kempton three months ago, but her trainer has not been in any rush with her. Her recent work suggests however, that she should be well up to landing a race of this nature off her current rating of 78.
Amralah should also go close for Channon in the Casino Sign Up Bonuses Handicap. The West Ilsley trainer has been more than happy with his preliminary work this spring and is looking for a big run.
The four-year-old looks the sort to progress after a light second season which saw him miss the first five months of the campaign, and despite the absence he should be sharp enough to do himself justice here.
Ryan Moore is an interesting visitor to the track and he could strike with the William Haggas-trained Roossey in the Polypipe Maiden Stakes, his first of four rides – if he arrives in time from Haydock. This sharp colt has Royal Ascot potential if all goes well here.
Luca Cumani, about the only trainer to make it on to the Limekilns so far this season with others waiting for the turf to ease slightly and sticking to the all-weather gallops, notched a first winner of the year with Sir Mike earlier this week, but the majority of his team have been needing their first runs.
His Jazz Master is expected to win races this season but will probably still need the run when he lines up in the Casino Sign Up Handicap – a very hot affair, as it always tends to be.
John Gosden’s flying start to the new season should continue with Eagle Top in the totepool.com Handicap at Leicester.
Strongly fancied on his debut at Newbury two weeks ago, he duly delivered with a decisive success, and is expected to follow up on this relatively quick reappearance. He looks more than fairly weighted on a rating of 92, and the manner of that debut win – where he looked all at sea with two furlongs to run before making late gains - suggests that he will be suited by this longer trip.
Another stable in hot form is Henry Candy, on the mark with a double at Warwick on Thursday. Faure Island is very much one of the trainer’s more interesting prospects this season, and he makes his reappearance in the £4 Million totescoop6 Today Handicap.
One of his more talented juveniles last season, he failed to win in three outings, but is expected to do better this term. Whatever he does here, he is one to note this season.
Eton Forever went noticeably well in a spin on the Al Bahathri all-weather in midweek and is a strong fancy in the Totepool King Richard III Stakes.
He goes particularly well fresh and Roger Varian has selected this contest from a number of possible targets. He is getting a little harder to get fit as he gets on in years, but his fast work suggests that the trainer has got the job done.
At a meatier price, it’s worth slinging a shilling each-way on to The Gold Cheongsam as a saver. She was covered by stallion Oasis Dream earlier in the week and seems in good heart at home – and who wouldn’t in the circumstances.
Bayan has done well over jumps since joining Gordon Elliott so with the Punchestown Festival just around the corner, it is interesting he stumps up at Ripon for a return to the Flat in the At The Races Handicap. Although he failed to live up to Brian Meehan's expectations on the level, he always showed plenty of ability and 81 now looks a very workable mark.
Good Value might not be entirely straightforward, but is capable of better than he has shown so far and gets a decent shout at Kempton on Sunday, while stablemate Russian Realm worked eye-catchingly well with Telescope at the start of the week and is worth a look at Ascot on Wednesday as long as the ground isn’t too soft.
It was no surprise to see the all-American-bred Hooded taken out at Sandown on Friday after the ground eased appreciably following morning rain. He is well regarded by the Roger Charlton team and should run a big race if he now heads to Pontefract on Wednesday for the Northern Racing College Handicap.