Our Catching Pigeons insider rounds up the well-fancied runners from some of the major training centres.
Step Back - 3.00 Warwick
Step Back can bring his season to life in the McCoy Contractors Engineering Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick on Saturday. Mark Bradstock’s gelding ended last term on a real high with his runaway win in the bet365 Gold Cup, and even taking into account that famous old race is not quite up to what it was in terms of quality, he had some very sold performers trailing well behind.
The handicapper has taken due note of that success, but Step Back is lightly raced and looks sure to improve from his low-key comeback effort at Cheltenham in October. He has come in for steady support for this race recently and he may just have the edge over the lightly raced Duel At Dawn, who showed smart form as a novice last season and is receiving plenty of weight.
Percy Prosecco - 12.30 Warwick
Percy Prosecco can make it two wins from three starts over timber in the Trial Racing TV For Free Now Novices Handicap Hurdle. Four-year-olds can be a chancy proposition in this type of event but this decent Flat performer looks nicely weighted with his 12lb weight allowance. He was clearly not at his best when down the field on his latest start nine weeks ago but should be more effective for the break and go close to adding to his debut win over timber at Huntingdon in the autumn.
OK Corral - 1.50 Warwick
OK Corral has the make and hurdling form to shape up into a high class performer over the larger obstacles and can take advantage of the 5lbs he receives from Rocky’s Treasure in the McCoy Contractors 2019 Construction News Awards Finalist Hampton Novices' Chase.
Nicky Henderson has a strong team in this division this term and the booking of top amateur Derek O'Connor suggests the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham might be under consideration. OK Corral has done well since his win at Plumpton last month and it is interesting to note he finished in front of Rocky Treasure’s Newbury conqueror Santini when second in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Tidal Flow - 2.25 Warwick
Birchdale, a stablemate of OK Corral, will be all the rage to follow up his impressive course win last month but some of the Henderson youngsters have disappointed in the past couple of weeks and he looks sure to start at prohibitive odds in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices Hurdle. Philip Hobbs' highly-rated Tidal Flow could prove better value. He was quietly fancied to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles in a hot novice at Newbury last month and duly delivered. This looks tougher, but more improvement is expected and he looks ready for the step up in class.
Cotswold Way - 2.40 Kempton
Cotswold Way is also trained by Hobbs and could prove the each way value in the Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton. The Sandhill maestro's season has been built on firmer foundations than last term, when is team was off colour for much of the winter. This progressive six-year-old has yet to meet with defeat in his three outings over hurdles so far this campaign. This is a fair step up in class but he will enjoy the ground and is still at the right end of the handicap.
Charbel - 2.05 Kempton
Charbel can see off the well fancied Top Notch in the Listed 32Red Casino Chase. Kim Bailey has endured a frustrating time with this high-class chaser over the past season or so, but things came right at Huntingdon last month in no uncertain terms. He flourished under a very bold ride from Noel Fehily, and his sometimes suspect jumping was a joy to watch. Fehily is back aboard here and he should prove hard to live with once again, if in similar form.
Glen Rocco - 3.15 Kempton
Glen Rocco has taken to fences well and he should double his tally in the Unibet Handicap Chase. Nick Gifford's gelding followed a win at Fontwell with two solid placed performances in good class events, including an eye-catching second at the Christmas meeting here on his latest start. He finished to great effect over the shorter trip that day and gives the impression he will be well suited by the step up to three miles.
Pink Flamingo - 7.00 Newcastle
On the level, Pink Flamingo is reported in good form and is fancied to concede weight all round in the Ladbrokes Handicap at Newcastle. Mark Johnston’s three-year-old has gradually deteriorated on each of his three outings since failing to make a winning debut at 4/5 favourite at a Wetherby, but he remains a horse of ability and should be a stronger individual after his autumn break. If he can repeat anything like his fourth under Ryan Moore in the valuable Convivial Maiden at York in August, he should take plenty of beating off a mark of 67.