Catching Pigeons: Gossip and tips from the gallops

Get all the latest whispers from the major training centres
Get all the latest whispers from the major training centres

Black Op is reported to be bang on course for his return to hurdling at Cheltenham on Saturday - get all the latest selections from our gallops insider.

Birchdale (3.00 Cheltenham)

2
511-5OR: -
2/1
Last RunWatch last race

Birchdale is near the top of Henderson’s powerful team of youngsters and he should take plenty of beating in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. Strongly fancied to make a winning debut for Seven Barrows despite the presence of highly-rated stablemate Clarendon Street at Warwick last month, Birchdale delivered a smart turn of foot on the run-in to land an impressive win. Clarendon Street boosted the form with a subsequent easy win at Wetherby and Birchdale's recent work suggests he is ready for this step up to Grade 2 company.

Janika (1.50 Cheltenham)

2
611-11OR: 150BF
5/2
Last RunWatch last race

Owners Simon Munir and Issac Souede has enjoyed great success with tried-and-trusted performers from France in recent years and he can scoop another valuable prize with Janika in the Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase. The winner of his last three races in his native country, he produced a very promising debut effort for Nicky Henderson when chasing home a rejuvenated Hell's Kitchen at Ascot last month. This event looks a logical target for the six-year-old, who is working well and looks open to plenty of improvement.

Onefortheroadtom (1.15 Cheltenham)

7
610-6OR: 126
16/1
Last RunWatch last race

Onefortheroadtom has disappointed in his last two outings over fences, but the Harry Fry team are now back firing after being laid low with viral problems. He looks nicely weighted in the Timeform Novices Handicap Chase, and if he can improve a little on his eye-catching comeback effort at Ascot in November, he could well make his presence felt at a decent price in an interesting race.

Listen to our latest Weekend Best Bets Podcast for the Sporting Life team's tips and insight
Listen to our latest Weekend Best Bets Podcast for the Sporting Life team's tips

Black Op (3.35 Cheltenham)

8
811-3OR: 152D
11/2
Last RunWatch last race

Black Op can earn a trip to the Festival in March with a big run in the Grade 2 Galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle. Tom George found the big four-day meeting last season a happy hunting ground with Summerville Boy winning the Supreme and Black Op chasing home Samcro in the two and half mile novice, but both horses have had their problems in the first half of the season, and he feels compelled to return the selection to timber after his jumping failed to impress in two outings over fences. The key to Black Op should be the step up to three miles - he has always looked a stayer - and his stable is now back in very good heart, after a brief quiet spell.

Federici (3.15 Doncaster)

11
1010-3OR: 130
12/1
Last RunWatch last race

Federici could make the most of his lightweight and reward an each-way interest in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster. Donald McCain’s 10-year-old has not managed to win for a while, but he has run some good races in defeat, and was not beaten far in this corresponding race 12 months ago. Ground conditions may be more to his liking this time around, and he is now racing off a 1lb lower mark. The fact northern ace Brian Hughes again takes the ride is another plus.

Check out the 10-year trends for the Sky Bet Chase
Check out the 10-year trends for the Sky Bet Chase

Bailarico (2.05 Doncaster)

1
610-12OR: 135D
7/2
Last RunWatch last race

Bailarico could be the value bet to beat Truckers Lodge in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett River Don Novices' Hurdle. A much-improved and multiple winner on the Flat last season, he has made a good fist of hurdling so far this term with a walkover and decisive win at Kempton to his credit. He still appears to be improving, the good ground may suit him better than his main rival, and his stable is in very good form at present.

Redbridge Gold (4.25 Doncaster)

6
611-0OR: -
5/1
Last RunWatch last race

Redbridge Gold should go well for Jamie Snowden in the Mares' Bumper. There was plenty to like about her debut effort at Carlisle back in October, when she finished only three and a half lengths adrift of Ruth Jefferson's promising Mega Yeats. She went on to win again and finish second in a Listed event at Cheltenham, and Redbridge Gold should be ready to do herself justice after her lengthy break.

Al Jellaby (3.40 Lingfield)

3
8
49-2OR: 89BFD
7/4
Last RunWatch last race

Al Jellaby can notch his first success on the all weather in the Sun Racing Handicap at Lingfield. Clive Cox has always though a bit of the four year old, but he proved a tad frustrating on the turf last season, even though he finished a close second on two of his four starts. A gelding operation was prescribed, and he made a very encouraging comeback on his first outing for over four months at Kempton four weeks ago. Beaten only half a length after making much of the running, he will be sharper this time and should come out best in a very open looking race. Cox also runs Come On Come On in the Betway Live Casino Handicap and Lethal Lover in the closing novice auction and they are also worthy of note.

Wiff Waff (6.45 Chelmsford)

6
8
49-5OR: 73BFD
6/1

Stuart Williams enjoyed winners at Newcastle, Lingfield and Chelmsford this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday respectively and Wiff Waff looks poised to add to his tally this week in the Bet In Play At totesport.com Handicap. He recorded a couple of wins last January and looks to be coming back to the boil again based on his latest effort when fourth at Newcastle. He'll enjoy the return to Chelmsford and the assessor easing him 1lb could be a little hasty.


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