Catching Pigeons: Walkon to victory
Our Catching Pigeons column has the inside word from the training centres and fancies Walkon for the Becher Chase.
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John Quinn loves a trip across the M62 to Aintree and has enjoyed a small but steady supply of winners at the track in recent seasons.
He sends hurdling recruit Villoresi to make his debut at the course on Saturday and a big run is expected from the four-year-old.
Villoresi doesn't have the most obvious pedigree to make a hurdler and despite having earned a very respectable mid-80s mark when a handicapper on the Flat for James Fanshawe, he's not the most highly-rated horse to be making the switch to racing over timber in this line-up.
However he has reportedly really impressed with his schooling since joining Quinn and is quietly fancied to go well first time out for a stable in excellent form when he lines up in the Betfred Maiden Hurdle.
In the excitement of the victory of My Tent Or Yours, the fine second place of Cockney Sparrow in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle was a little overlooked, but she certainly ran well enough to suggest she can shake up Quevega at the Festival next March.
Connections are thrilled with how she has come out of the race and are considering their options for her next start. Kempton's Christmas Hurdle hasn't been ruled out, although a mares-only race at Doncaster in January is the likeliest stopping point en-route to Cheltenham.
Stablemate Poetic Verse has to find three-quarters of a length with Mystery Drama when she takes in the following Betfred Fillies' Juvenile Hurdle, but is also fit and firing.
The princely sum of £150,000 has drawn the top-class field that the feature Betfred Becher Chase deserves and it's a very hard to narrow the shortlist down too far.
However, Walkon is capable of giving Hennessy winner Triolo D'Alene a further boost with a big run before a planned tilt at the National next spring.
He ran a cracker to go down by only three quarters of a length to last week's Hennessy Gold Cup winner in the Topham Trophy over the big fences in the Spring and hopes are high at Barbury Castle that this game performer can land an overdue big handicap win. He is in great shape according to connections and looks a very good each-way price.
Over at Sandown, it's a fair time since Walkon's stablemate Tante Sissi showed her true form, but she has ground conditions in her favour for her return to timber in the Hutch Anniversary Anne Boleyn Mares Handicap Hurdle and could reward an each-way interest.
King's charge was too keen for her own good over fences at Wincanton on her return from a lengthy lay-off, but that should have taken the fizz out of her and she looks well handicapped on her best form.
Captain Conan can prove the ideal substitute for star stablemate Sprinter Sacre in the Betvictor Tingle Creek Chase.
Henderson had no option but to play it safe with Sprinter after his problems arose from a trachea wash earlier in the week, but has found a decent stand-in.
The work of the horse simply called 'The Captain' at home has been of a very high order over the past few weeks and the speed he shows suggests he can give fellow leading players Somersby and old rival Sire de Grugy plenty to think about over this two miles.
Although there remains some debate at Seven Barrows as to his best trip, his quick jumping will stand him in good stead and there are plenty in the yard keen on his chance with the good ground in his favour and seemingly against Sire de Grugy.
Henderson sets a poser in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle qualifier with Utopie des Bordes taking on Whisper.
It will be close between the pair but Whisper may just come out on top. He ruined his chance with some sloppy jumping over the final three hurdles at Cheltenham 22 days ago, but most were needing the first run of the season around that time and he will be much sharper this time.
River Maigue is one of those horses Hendo has resisted sending over fences and there is plenty of optimism he most can be made of what is believed to be a very handy handicap mark over timber.
One of last season's leading novice hurdlers, he looks sure to improve during the course of this season and his preparatory work reinforces that belief. Ground conditions will be in his favour for the December Handicap Hurdle and a big run is anticipated.
Vaniteux is a well regarded newcomer for Henderson in the David Johnson National Hunt Novices Hurdle and despite being a bit green, is expected to well.
On the all-weather card at Wolverhampton, a positive mention is given to Best Tamayuz, who makes his debut in the seven-furlong 32Red Casino Maiden Stakes.
William Haggas has had to be patient with him this season, but he has come to hand in the last few weeks and could be sharp enough to make a winning debut, despite the trainer's two-year-olds invariably improving for the run.
At this stage of the season, plenty of Newmarket trainers are thinking mainly about holidays in the sun, but for others this is an important time as they look to re-shape their business.
Nick Littmoden took some time out to concentrate upon preparing horses for the Far East but the trainer's numbers of runners have increased in the last couple of months and rumours suggest that he is now looking for a permanent base back in the centre of Newmarket.