Catching Pigeons: Fair play
Our Catching Pigeons column has the inside track from stables up and down the land ahead of a busy Saturday's racing.
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Michael Bell has endured a tough time for the last couple of months, but some celebratory news on the home front has coincided with a sudden return to form for his team.
The return of Hayley Turner to the work-rider roster has happened at just the same time, but Turner can't take all of the credit - having a talented apprentice such as Louis Steward in the ranks certainly does no harm and Steward gets a chance to chine at Ascot today in the opening Kelly Group Nursery.
Savoy Showgirl seems to have improved since her victory at Haydock last time out and won't mind any rain that reaches the Berkshire track. Racing in the colours of teenage owner Emily Asprey, who along with Chris Wright and Willie Carson, owned the ill-fated Breeders' Cup winner Chriselliam last year, a line through the filly who followed her home at Haydock suggests she could be very nicely-treated here.
Another trainer back in form after a quiet spell is David Nicholls and his Barnet Fair can take the totepool Heritage Handicap at a track where he has done so well in the past - indeed, it was just under a year ago that he saw off the very smart Steps here off this very same mark.
He shaped with plenty of promise on his first start for the stable at Newcastle recently, Cam Hardie, one of the apprentices of the moment, takes off 5lb, and he has a good-looking draw too.
Another trainer back in form after a quiet spell is Jeremy Noseda and his Evident is worth a good look in the Winkworth Handicap, especially if the trainer allows him to take his chance as he has missed a couple of possible alternative opportunities recently.
He hasn't shown much on a couple of starts this season, for example when recently taken up to the Trial Ground, but the best of his homework suggests he can win off his present mark.
Finally at Ascot, Marco Botti has waited a year to set the record straight with Guest Of Honour, who might well have won last year's Summer Mile but for meeting trouble in running. Conditions are right, his work on the Cambridge Road has been good. It's time to make amends.
Kevin Ryan has both eyes focused in the weather as he prepares his best players for what he hopes will be a wonder weekend on both sides of the English Channel.
The Grey Gatsby makes a return visit to the French capital after his win in last month's Prix Du Jockey-Club to attempt a famous double in the Grand Pix de Paris, but recent heavy rain will not have helped him on what will be his first attempt over a mile and a half.
He has won on easy ground and is in good form, but will he have the stamina to see out what looks an intriguing race? He could yet be a non-runner if connections' doubts get too much.
It is a different story for Newmarket, where stablemate Hot Streak runs in the Group One Darley July Cup. He is out to avenge his defeat at Royal Ascot, and the prospect of easier ground at Headquarters has given connections a boost.
Of the rest of the Hambleton Lodge team scattered across the country on this utterly barmy day's racing, the most interesting is the newcomer Flaming Spear in the John Smith's Median Auction Maiden Stakes at York.
This race was won 12 months ago by none other than The Grey Gatsby, and hopes are high this well-regarded youngster can follow up. The son of Lope de Vega has a similar profile to 'Gatsby', in that he was bought at the Breeze-ups, and his preparatory work has been of a high order. Ryan Moore is the man on top, and they may just have the edge over another highly rated Yorkshire-trained juvenile, John Quinn's Moonlightnavigator.
Tarikhi gets a narrow vote in the John Smith's Cup.The Godolphin team have trained the four year old with this race in mind and he is still relatively unexposed with just seven outings behind him.There was plenty to like about his comeback effort over nine furlongs here last month, and his preparation has gone well since the outing.
Back at Newmarket, Absolutely So was a big disappointment to those who punted him off the boards in the Wokingham Handicap three weeks ago, but he can put the record straight in the 666bet Bunbury Cup.
Andrew Balding put the defeat down to the fast ground, and should have underfoot conditions much more in his favour this time after the monsoon on Thursday. He was an impressive winner on easy ground at Goodwood on his previous start and the form of that race looks sound, with the easily-beaten second Jack's Revenge running a big race in the Buckingham Palace at Royal Ascot.
Justice Well can make it two wins from three starts in the Edward Mills Novice Auction Stakes at Salisbury. He made the best possible start to his career when scoring at Newmarket, but failed to see out the seven furlongs of the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and was a tad disappointing.
The fast ground, lower grade and shorter trip here should put his season back on course, and it should be remembered how much his trainer David Elsworth - whose team are in good nick again - loves to have winners at the course which is only a stone's throw from his old base at Whitsbury.
Big Chill has been working very well since his third in a six furlong maiden at Lingfield and he could well scare lightly-favourite Misterioso in the EBF Maiden at the same track.The step up from six to seven furlongs should suit.
Ed Walker's team were noted putting in some good work in midweek and his Smart Salute is also worth a mention if the price is right in the Manor Farm Butchers Handicap.
Newmarket's pigeons can also pass on positive words this week for Oaks winner Taghrooda, who hasn't stopped going forwards this season and will take some beating in the Irish equivalent, while Estimate looked in great order on the Trial Ground on Wednesday and has come out of the Gold Cup in flying form.
Finally, keep an eye out for Peter Chapple-Hyam's Kicking The Can at Lingfield on Monday evening. He's better than it might have looked first time out.