Catching Pigeons: Triolo the value
The Catching Pigeons column is back with all the gossip and whispers ahead of the weekend's action.
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There have been few more open Hennessy Gold Cups than this year's renewal and there are many with excellent chances to win the oldest sponsored handicap chase.
Nicky Henderson badly needs a big-race success and he will be relieved to have got a warm-up run into both Hadrian's Approach and Triolo D'Alene, who did not have a hard race when third to Houblon Des Obeaux at Ascot a month ago.
Although he has been around Seven Barrows for a while now, this horse is still only six years old and showed he can hold his own in big handicaps with his win in the Topham. He must produce more here, but he will improve for his Ascot exertions and is closely handicapped with leading fancy Rocky Creek on a line through Houblon Des Obeaux. He is currently a much bigger price and rates a good each-way chance.
Hadrian's Approach would appear to have been overlooked by Barry Geraghty, but that is not the case. Nico de Boinville has done well schooling on the horse at home and, with the cheekpieces fitted, he could well put in a better round of jumping than might normally be expected. He is very nicely weighted if only he could overcome his silly mistakes. The return to a longer trip will also help after the step back to two and a half miles on his comeback.
Invictus carries the same colours as Hadrian's Approach and has an outstanding chance on his well-documented Reynoldstown Chase form. He is as fit as Alan King can get him and is another who could well make the frame, but his long lay-off and lack of big handicap experience may count against him.
Tetlami has a good record of winning first time out and he should go well in the bet365 Handicap Chase. He was a smart novice last season, despite the fact Henderson had to search high and low for some decent ground for him. Underfoot conditions are ideal for him here and he is one of the less-exposed horses in this field.
Owner Andy Stewart will be very keen to see how Rocky Creek runs in the big race, but he is also expecting a good display from old favourite Celestial Halo in the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle. His colours have, of course, dominated this arena over the past few years with Big Buck's and it will surprise no one at Ditcheat to see this top-class performer run a big race. Despite his advancing years, he still shows great enthusiasm at home.
Nicholls runs the very useful Black River in a fascinating Bet365.com Novices Handicap Chase. A half-brother to Coral Cup winner Spirit River, it is interesting the former champion trainer sends him over fences on his British debut rather than race over timber despite a seemingly attractive mark over the smaller obstacles. Spirit River was never able to reach the heights expected over fences, but this son of Secret Singer could well climb high and this looks an ideal launch point.
Andy Turnell deserves a big race win after some difficult times over the past year and one more chance should be given to The Druids Nephew with the cheekpieces fitted for the first time in the Bet365 Handicap Chase. He is very well handicapped on his best form and will like this track much better than Stratford on his below par comeback run.
We get to see another Willie Mullins mare with great potential in the opening Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Hurdle. Vicky de L'Oasis has won both her races this season in great style and she should be able to see off the Henderson challenge from Free Thinking and Rosie Probert.
Henderson will be hoping My Tent Or Yours can win the Grade One StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle, but the lack of a previous run this season may just find him out on ground which may just be a little bit dead.
He is working very well and should go close, but it may pay to play safe here and go for Melodic Rendevous. He was considered just in need of his comeback effort at Wincanton, but he never looked likely to get beaten and ran out an impressive winner. His subsequent work has been of a very high order.
Henderson's best chance of a winner could be at Bangor where My Wigwam Or Yours is strongly fancied in the Fanwaze Novices' Hurdle. He was just beaten for speed from the last by Prince Siegfried on his debut over timber at Huntingdon, but, if his work is to be believed, he will be much better suited by this more demanding trip.
If In Doubt showed his liking for Towcester last season and looks the one to be on in the PDS Ltd 'Promotional Gifts & Merchandise' Handicap Hurdle there. Philip Hobbs has been very happy with the way he has summered and he looks weighted to win here before, perhaps, trying his luck over fences.
John Gosden is still hoping to plunder a big prize or two before the calendar year is out. Seek Again has flown out for this weekend's Hollywood Derby while The Fugue continues to give all the right signs ahead of her assignment in Hong Kong.
She looked on great terms with herself when coming up the Al Bahathri under William Buick in a solo spin on Tuesday.
Closer to home Luca Cumani's Diamond Mine is still catching the eye and a bold show is expected in the Betdaq 1st UK Race Commission Free Handicap at Kempton on Wednesday.
The juvenile maiden at the same track on Monday looks a warm heat. This column has already made mention of Sir Michael Stoute's Mairise who has taken a step forward from his debut. He may lack the acceleration of a real top-notcher but is the type to make up into a nice stayer in the future.
Finally Lady Cecil's Grasped has been showing up well at home ahead of the Ladbrokes Maiden Stakes at Lingfield on Wednesday. She can be quite buzzy but has the ability to win races.