Catching Pigeons: Hit the Target
Our Catching Pigeons column is back with news from all the major training centres ahead of the weekend's action.
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With less than two weeks to go until the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton, Colin Tizzard is finalising preparations for his stable star Cue Card ahead of the Christmas feature.
But before that his yard in Sherborne, Dorset, can fire in another big Saturday winner courtesy of Sew On Target, who goes in the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup at Cheltenham this weekend.
Connections would accept that this looks a very open race, but the ultra-consistent Sew On Target is at the right end of the handicap and seems to show a real liking for the course.
His most notable performance was his third to subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Johns Spirit here in October, and, though beaten a comfortable four and a half lengths, he is now 16lb better off.
His latest effort behind Anay Turge (see picture) was another fair performance, but the two miles was too sharp and this return to a more demanding trip should play to his strengths.
Commissioned was a useful performer on the Flat and he could surprise likely favourite Kentucky Hyden in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham.
John Ferguson has some high-class Flat talent to play in novice hurdles over the next few weeks and this son of Authorized has been schooling nicely.
In what is a day for rematches, Le Bec takes on Shutthefrontdoor and Sam Winner again in the Ryman Stationery Novices' Chase.
Sound jumping won the day for Emma Lavelle's progressive gelding when he met the pair on this course last month and it should again ensure victory despite a much stiffer task at the weights.
Noel Fehily will be a bit disappointed he misses the ride on Le Bec at Cheltenham, but he gets the leg up on what could prove an equally exciting young prospect in Karinga Dancer who goes in the Macmillan Novices' Chase at Doncaster.
Good things were anticipated by connections after the seven-year-old enjoyed a lucrative Spring campaign and he duly delivered on his comeback in what was a competitive handicap hurdle at Aintree.
He failed to reproduce his best on his only subsequent attempt at Wincanton, but ground conditions did not suit and he trailed in fifth. Underfoot conditions will suit much better here and he should prove too good for the well-regarded Dreamy George.
Fehily also has good prospects of another winner with Fox Norton in the Betvictor Summit Juvenile Hurdle on Town Moor.
Connections will be hoping that he can halt the unbeaten run of Royal Irish Hussar, who came out on top when the two met at Market Rasen in October.
On 8lb better terms for a head beating, they should be proved right, but Royal Irish Hussar is now a much more accomplished performer over the obstacles and it will be very close. The Ferguson-trained Broughton is also a newcomer to note here.
Robbie can see off his old rival Makari in the DFS Supports Macmillan Handicap Hurdle.
The pair met at Southwell last season and it was Robbie who came out on top by a length and a half despite a weight concession of 7lb. Thanks to Makari's bright start to his second season, there is just 1lb between them and the selection should again hold sway.
Mick Channon has his team of jumpers in good nick and Warden Hill goes in the crownhotel-bawtry.com Novices Hurdle.
He will appreciate the step up to three miles and the ground will suit.
Henderson has a great chance of rounding off the day with a winner courtesy of Bear's Affair in the BetVictor handicap Chase.
This flat galloping course is just what the doctor ordered for the seven-year-old, who looks nicely weighted for his first venture into a handicap.
Andy Turnell has proved useful to follow in bumpers at Lingfield and he saddles a decent prospect in Subordinate in the in the finale at the Surrey course.
A son of Echo Of Light, he has been showing up well in his work and is expected to go well at workable odds.