Catching Pigeons: Tis' a winner?
Our Catching Pigeons column has the news from the North, West and East ahead of this weekend's racing action.
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Nicky Henderson has been waiting all winter for one of the bigger courses to stage some racing where the going description had the word 'good' in it and his wish has been granted at Doncaster on Saturday.
Henderson's two runners at the track clocked up a first and a second on Friday and his squad ought to build upon that tally.
Tistory will have conditions in his favour for the Register Now For WearAHat Day Novices' Hurdle.
The seven-year-old has certainly had his share of problems since joining the champion trainer, clocking up the vets bills for his owner, but he is in very good form at the moment and ready to add to his win at Towcester in the early weeks of the season.
He was beaten on his latest attempt at Newbury 10 weeks ago, but he was only just run out of it in the soft ground after a good battle with the useful Brother Brian and was also just in need of the outing after his lay-off.
Mayfair Music is another Henderson inmate to have missed the bulk of the winter in the wait for better ground and she can make the most of the fact she is a fresh horse in the Listed William Hill - Bet On The Move Mares' Novices' Hurdle .
She lacks the experience of some of her rivals, but she shows plenty of ability at home and she should be well up to holding her own at this high level.
Barry Geraghty is re-united with Court By Surprise in the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase and the combination look sure to want plenty of beating.
Emma Lavelle's charge is a consistent performer and went close at Sandown on his latest start when just seen off by There's No Panic. Given a break when the rains came, he is now back in good heart and remains on a workable mark for this very open race.
The trainer has had this race in mind for a good couple of months too and he clearly wasn't himself (along with most of his stablemates at the time) when pulled up in the race 12 months ago.
The ground at Kelso should also have more resilience to it than down south and a Scottish pigeon has flown by to put in a good word for Blueside Boy in the Premier Traffic Management Handicap Chase.
He won a point-to-point in Ireland in great style on good ground and is strongly fancied to step up on his latest disappointing effort in the mud at Carlisle last month.
Shangani can see off stablemate Elenika and win the Stan James.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury.
This two-and-a half-miler traditionally suffers because of its close proximity to the Cheltenham Festival and this year's renewal is no exception.
However, it is an interesting race nevertheless and if any trainer is going to try and find the right opportunity to chisel out some prize money in a race when some of the big guns are so focussed upon Prestbury Park, it's Venetia Williams.
Facing a very tough task at the weights with Une Artiste, he gave Henderson's smart mare a real scare at Kempton last time out and a repeat of that performance should see him go close here. He has taken the race well and should handle what is sure to be testing ground given the rain that hit the west of the country on Friday.
Minella Definitely may recoup Doncaster losses on his return to timber in the Moore Of Devizes Ltd Supporting Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
He was well fancied to win over fences on Town Moor, but ran well below expectations and may be suffering a loss of confidence as a result of two falls on his first two attempts over the larger obstacles in the autumn.
Judged on his win in the mud over hurdles at Wincanton last season, he looks nicely weighted here, and is expected to go well at a decent price.
Alan King sets a real poser in the closing bumper at Newbury.
He runs two unraced geldings, L'Amiral David and McCabe Creek and both are well regarded.
Jockey bookings suggests the latter might be the pick, but the seemingly less fancied runner from the Barbury Castle camp has won in this type of event on more than one occasion in the past and given the testing ground, L'Amiral David might just come out on top. He is entered back at the track in three weeks' time in a valuable sales bumper.
Newmarket is alive in the mornings at present with teams from the big stables starting to get into gear for the start of the Turf Flat season in just four weeks' time.
Among the most celebrated names spotted in action this week was The Queen's Gold Cup winner Estimate, who remains in training with Sir Michael Stoute.
She was kept away from her stablemates, going out early for a gentle canter with a lone companion, but looks in great shape.
Also spotted was US Eclipse Award winner Dank and the talented Hillstar, who could be heading out to Meydan for the Dubai Duty Free and Sheema Classic respectively. They were led in work on the Line Gallop on Waterhall by Ryan Moore aboard Vital Evidence, the senior jockey being used as mouse rather than cat to make sure the fractions were right.
Moore has also been spotted on board talented three-year-old filly Psychometry, who regularly takes the eye and could be out sooner than most once the new campaign gets going.
With Clive Brittain, trainer of red-hot favourite Halljoy, still searching for a first winner of 2014, filly Trust The Wind may be able to capitalise upon her weight allowance in the 32Red.com Fillies' Maiden at Lingfield. She isn't one of John Gosden's future stars, but shows enough to suggest that she can win a race.
Another trainer looking to break their duck for the year is Gary Harrison, whose team look in good nick at present and have managed a couple of near-misses in the last few days.
His Enriching has been around the yards a bit, but knows how to win, and is worth a second look with the booking of Tom Queally in the Coral Handicap.
Finally, Communicator looks worth another chance in the 32Red Conditions Stakes towards the end of the card.
Connections believe he failed to handle the terrible surface which now haunts Wolverhampton on his latest start, but he comes right into the argument on his return here if he can repeat the form of his head second to on his previous start.