Catching Pigeons: Harry a Diamond
Our Catching Pigeons column is back with news on Diamond Harry's work ahead of the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton.
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The excuses are starting to wear a little thin for Diamond Harry, who has gone nearly two years since his last win. But despite a last-minute niggle which, for the second year running, saw the horse pulled out of last Saturday's Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase at the eleventh hour, he is fancied by connections for Wincanton's Badger Ales Trophy.
Jockey Noel Fehily, who partnered stablemate For Non Stop to a big-race victory at Aintree a couple of weeks ago, has been to Nick Williams' yard for a sit on Diamond Harry and was left full of hope for this horse's prospects.
With Diamond Harry having more than once shown how effective he can be on the back of a break and the handicapper having also helpfully eased his burden, he can surely play a major role here, even if it does look a particularly decent renewal of the race. Curiuously he's never been right handed before, but that isn't expected to be a problem.
Recently off the mark as a trainer, Robert Walford has high hopes for Aegean Dawn in the Rising Stars Novices' Chase earlier on the programme. He hasn't been seen since trailing home in the Coral Cup two seasons ago and has had a number of training problems, but also seems to retain plenty of ability.
Aegean Dawn was in the care of Walford's mother-in-law, Sally Alner, when winning his first two bumpers, but transferred to Nicky Henderson subsequently. However owner Paul Murphy has now brought him back to Walford, who is training using the old Alner gallops, and he looks just the sort of horse who can put his young trainer - who has a dozen or so horses but is hoping to expand up to 30 in the near-future - right on the map.
Rumour has it that Aegean Dawn didn't always impress when schooling at Henderson's yard, but jumping hasn't seemed to be a problem for his new trainer, and he arrived from his year off - during which he was boarding with David Arbuthnot - in excellent condition.
Plenty of Alan King's runners have been ready to fire first time out this season and Tante Sissi should go well on her reappearance in the mares' handicap hurdle. She improved throughout last season and may yet have more to offer.
Stablemate Jojabean could also go well in the opener, even though favourite Mr Mole is likely to be a warm order. The form of Jojabean's third at Fontwell on his only previous start over hurdles isn't anything too special, but he goes very nicely at home and should be winning before long even if this contest proves a little too hot.
Nicky Henderson ought to enjoy a decent afternoon at Sandown with Your Tepee Or Mine expected to prove hard to beat in the closing Flat race. He is among the best of the bumper horses at home. Also likely to go well, albeit at a tastier price, is Foxbridge in the opener. A leg injury sustained in defeat at Ascot last December brought his campaign to a premature end, but he is working well again and is fit enough to do himself justice without quite being 100 per cent.
With an 11.50am start, only a real out-and-out stayer will make it all the way through the Doncaster card that brings down the curtain on the Flat season.
But the November Handicap is a decent renewal, featuring a number of potentially well-treated performers - none more so than First Mohican. With Sir Henry Cecil next to his name on the racecard, he isn't going to be much of a price, especially as owner Henry Ponsonby has been telling anyone who will listen about a fabled gallop a couple of years ago where First Mohican reportedly gave Frankel a scare. Nevertheless, the horse looked well as he blew out on Friday morning and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him win and win well.
Cecil put a trio two-year-olds through their paces this week and all three are expected to make the racecourse on one of the all-weather tracks in the next couple of weeks. The performance of Rome at Kempton next Wednesday will give a steer as to what to expect from Demonic (ridden in work by Tom Queally) and Venue (Eddie Ahern), but having received a favourable mention on this page a couple of months ago, Demonic still looks the pick of the trio at this stage.