Catching Pigeons: In no Doubt

Our Catching Pigeons column has the inside track from the training centres and fancies If In Doubt to score at Wetherby.

Philip Hobbs (right) and owner JP McManus (left) team up with If In Doubt at Wetherby

Saphir Du Rheu can bounce back to his best over fences and beat Junction Fourteen and Tea For Two in the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls has experienced the rollercoaster of emotions with Saphir Du Rheu over the larger obstacles over the past couple of seasons, but he remains a high-class prospect if he can finally get his jumping together on a consistent basis. Much work has been carried out in that department, and it is interesting connections have plumped for this option rather than the valuable staying hurdle at Wetherby, in which he would have had a big chance.

Yorkist looks nicely weighted and is fancied to make a winning first appearance for Dan Skelton in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase. A consistent performer for Micky Hammond last term, he looks the type to do well on his first run for a new trainer believes he will be well suited by the prevailing good ground.

Cloonacool can gain compensation for his fall in a valuable event at Market Rasen five weeks ago in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle. Stuart Edmunds' charge is a useful performer over both hurdles and fences, and looked to be travelling strongly when toppling over at the second last on his seasonal bow at the Lincolnshire course. This looks a tougher assignment, but he races off the same mark and is in good form.

Cultivator, a smart bumper horse two seasons ago, is just preferred to decent flat stayer Moscato in the Colt & Fillies Novices Hurdle.

Lightly raced in what was a difficult campaign for a number of Nicky Henderson's team last season, Cultivator will love this good ground and, if he manages to settle, should step up considerably on his only outing over hurdles so far.

Harry Whittington has had a few disappointments in the opening weeks of the autumn campaign, but things are looking up now and Fou Et Sage can strike in the Novices Limited Handicap Chase at Wetherby. A useful performer in his native France, he has delighted his trainer with his work and schooling since his arrival, and looks to have found a good opportunity to make an immediate impact for his new connections.

If In Doubt can come out best in a fascinating race for the bet365 Hurdle. Philip Hobbs was most unlucky not to win the 2016 Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival with J P McManus's eight year old in March, and his trainer is hoping he can hold his own at this higher level. He is reported in good form for his return and gets a handy 4lb from the progressive Ballyoptic.

Pistol Park looks the pick of the weights Beehive Limited Novices Handicap Chase at Carlisle on Sunday. The French bred has seen action in his native country, Ireland and on the home front in his short career and he looked a useful addition to the Brian Ellison team when landing a comfortable win on his British debut at Hexham five months ago.

Although the form of that race does not look strong, he coped with the stiff uphill finish well after making all, and, at five, he has plenty of scope for improvement.

Newmarket paid host to many visitors last week with the mammoth Horses In Training Sales and Gordon Elliott not only took the opportunity to add to his team for the winter but also took time out to visit the heath and watch one of headquarters' leading trainers work his team.

The season may fast be drawing to a close but hopes are high in HQ that there are a few big international prizes to be snared before the nights draw in even further.

Frankie Dettori was aboard Sir Michael Stoute's Ulysses for a piece of work on the Trial Ground on Tuesday that gave connections every hope a bold bid is on the cards when he heads over to the Breeders' Cup while stablemate Queen's Trust caught the eye on the same gallop and should not be underestimated in the Filly & Mares Turf.

Slightly closer to home and Charlie Appleby worked Hawkbill in midweek ahead of a tilt at a Group One prize in Germany while D'Bai also went well in the same group and is worth keeping an eye on.

Stoute looks to have the answer to Monday's Breeders Supporting Racing EBF Maiden Stakes at Kempton with the primising Crystal Ocean for all Hugo Palmer's Sea Tide is expected to leave his Nottingham debut form behind in the same race.

John Gosden's Cashla Bay has come on for her initial start at Haydock and gets a confident vote in the opening EBF Stallions Prestige Vehicles Maiden Fillies' Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday and Roger Varian's Tansholpan is taken to make it two from two in the British Stallion Studs EBF Montrose Fillies' Stakes.

The rumour mill has Varian linked with a possible move over the winter to another historic base in Newmarket while Simon Crisford is another who it's said could be sending out his increasingly impressive string from a fresh HQ yard in 2017.

A beautifully-bred daughter of Dansili out of Group 3 winner Tamarind, Tansholpan was one of the longer priced aspirants in what looked a decent maiden at Nottingham, but looked a youngster of some potential when staying on strongly to nap victory from in the closing stages.

Her subsequent work suggests she should not be out of place in this much tougher company, and she is fancied to see off the strong Godoplhin challenge of Kazimiera and Really Special.

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