Catching Pigeons: Gossip and tips from the gallops

Get the lowdown from the gallops ahead of Cheltenham
Get the lowdown from the gallops ahead of Cheltenham

Native River is reported in top form ahead of his bid for more Cheltenham Gold Cup glory - check out all the latest gallops tips for Thursday and Friday.

Black Op (3.30 Cheltenham, Thursday)

3
811-10OR: 153D
14/1
Last RunWatch last race

Black Op, a highly creditable second to Samcro in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle here 12 months ago, could prove the value bet to win the Grade One Sun Racing Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday. Tom George has had his problems with Black Op this season, most notably his reluctance to jump fences to a desired level, but his return to the smaller obstacles last month, gave more than the odd indication that he might make his presence felt on his return to Festival action. Although beaten into third behind hot favourite for this race Paisley Park, he was going well and holding every chance at the second last. However, lack of condition then kicked in and he faded to finish third. Connections are sure he is much fitter now, and both the ground and trip will play to his strengths.

Kildisart (1.30 Cheltenham, Thursday)

3
711-4OR: 147C
9/1
Last RunWatch last race

Ben Pauling has already enjoyed success with Le Breuil in the four miler on the first day, and he can take the opening JLT Novices' Chase with Kildisart. The former Henderson assistant has always had a high opinion of this seven-year-old, who has looked an improving sort with victories over this course and distance and at Ascot. His two principal victims, Activial at the Berkshire course and Highway One O One here at the end of January, have both run well earlier in the week, and connections are sure he has progressed from that win and is ready for the step up in class. Given the strength in depth of the Willie Mullins-trained novices at the meeting, it may also pay to take a chance with Voie de Reve. His double figure price could well reward an each-way speculation.

Janika (4.10 Cheltenham, Thursday)

1
611-12OR: 156BF
3/1
Last RunWatch last race

Janika can see off the well fancied Spiritofthegames and win the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase. A very useful performer in his native France, Janika has run very good races to finish second at Ascot and over this course and distance on his two appearances so far for Nicky Henderson. Possibly a shade unlucky not to prevail when just touched off on trials day here on that latest effort, he has been working particularly well in preparation for this long held target, and is well fancied to make it third time lucky.

Coole Cody (2.10 Cheltenham, Thursday)

12
811-3OR: 139CD
33/1
Last RunWatch last race

Michael Blake's grand stayer Coole Cody showed signs of a return to form when second in a competitive handicap at Sandown last month, and he looks worth an each-way interest off what is still a workable mark in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. A winner in soft and testing ground, he will have conditions in his favour for this demanding test of stamina.

Native River (3.30 Cheltenham, Friday)

12
911-10OR: 173CD
6/1
Last RunWatch last race

Native River can see off the challenge of Clan Des Obeaux and Presenting Percy to win a second Gold Cup for Colin Tizzard at Cheltenham on Friday. The heavy rain this week has made conditions a true stamina test and will suit the 2018 winner, who has performed very well on his two outings on unfavourable surfaces and courses at Haydock and Kempton. The fact he has not seen action since his respectable third to Clan Des Obeaux in the King George, means he arrives here a fresh horse, and hopes are high he can recapture the form which took him to that epic success over Might Bite 12 months ago.

Birchdale (2.50 Cheltenham, Friday)

4
511-5OR: 146CD
6/1
Last RunWatch last race

Countister (2.10 Cheltenham, Friday)

19
710-6OR: 133D
18/1
Last RunWatch last race

Birchdale has prospered judged on his work since his win at Grade Two level on Trials Day, and he should go well for McManus, Henderson and Geraghty in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, and the same goes for stablemate Countister in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle. She had been trained for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month only to be thwarted by the flu outbreak and subsequent vaccination problems, but she is fine now and has a sound each-way shout.

Magic Saint (4.50 Cheltenham, Friday)

4
511-8OR: 149D
9/2
Last RunWatch last race

Magic Saint can follow up his comfortable win at Wincanton last month in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase. Paul Nicholls believes the five-year-old can develop into a high-class performer moving forward and he vindicated his trainer's opinion that he was an out and out two miler with his success at the Somerset course. He still looks on a favourable mark and his subsequent homework suggests he should improve. Chief danger could be Whatswrongwithyou, who has been trained with this commemorative race very much in mind by the Henderson team.


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