Catching Pigeons: Light touch

Our Catching Pigeons column returns with all the gossip ahead of a bumper weekend of action.

Song Light: Betfair Hurdle fancy

Song Light could prove a bit of each-way value in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.

Seamus Mullins has a couple of very useful performers for this type of race this season and came close to "nicking" the big handicap at Ascot in December with Fergall.

Song Light also ran a cracker to finish a close third in the Greatwood at Cheltenham in December and a repeat of that performance will surely see him go close in a race which features few established hurdling stars and has several at the bottom of the weights heading the market.

Song Light will be helped by his rider's 5lb claim and, having proved himself in soft ground, should handle conditions better than most. He heads here a fresh horse after a winter break, and should give the novices Movewiththetimes and Ballyandy plenty to think about.

J P McManus, owner of the former, has a great record in this race, and has another big-priced live outsider heading to post in De Name Escapes Me. He has yet to run this season but is progressive and a bold show is on the cards.

Bristol de Mai can boost his Gold Cup prospects with victory over Native River in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase.

Nigel Twiston-Davies looked to have a top class prospect with which to do battle after a successful first season over fences last term, but he did not seem to see out his race when looking the likely winner of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November.

However, things were not quite as they should be physically after that defeat and some corrective tinkering was prescribed.

Confidence was restored in the wake of this treatment and it was certainly not misplaced. Jumping boldly, Bristol De Mai thrashed a decent field – headed by his Newcastle conqueror and subsequent Sandown winner Otago Trail – in the Peter Marsh at Haydock last month and thoroughly deserves a return to this level.

Multiculture can maintain his 100 percent record over timber in the opening Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Novices' Hurdle.

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Philip Hobbs' gelding hacked up on his only start so far at Uttoxeter two weeks ago, and the fact that the race was for conditional jockeys means he escapes a penalty for the success. This is a much tougher task, but he gets a handy few pounds from more experienced rivals Azzerti and High Bridge.

French import Daphne Du Clos faces some quality opposition in the closing Listed Betfair Ready Bumper, but she gets all the allowances as a four-year-old filly and both her debut effort for Nicky Henderson at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and her recent work on the Seven Barrows gallops suggest she will give Sean Bowen a great ride.

The clash between Altior and Fox Norton in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase is another mouthwatering prospect , and will be given more than a cursory glance by Noel Fehily, the only man to have ridden both horses on the track.

A first class deputy for Henderson's stable jockey Nico de Boinville when he was injured during the first half of the season aboard the unbeaten Altior, Fehily lost the ride on 'The Fox' when he was sold out of the Neil Mulholland emporium to join Colin Tizzard

The Pigeon's money would be on Altior if forced, but it may just be a race to savour.

Fehily will be at Warwick for both Muholland and his number one employer Harry Fry, who could supply him with a winner courtesy of the improving Overland Express in the Grade Two Betway Kingmaker Novices Chase.

It is rare nowadays to see a nine-year-old performing to a high level in novice chases, but Overland Express produced a performance deserving of a move up in class when landing an emphatic win in the good class handicap over course and distance last month.

Connections are hopeful he can progress again despite his advancing years and the very demanding ground is sure to play to his strengths.

Mulholland's Activial will have to improve his jumping if he is to complete a double for the jockey in the Racing UK In HD Warwick Castle Handicap Chase, but he will be much sharper than on his disappointing debut effort for his new trainer at Kempton last month. An improved performance is anticipated with his regular partner back on board.

Jake Greenall has some good rides at Uttoxeter and he should land the first two races on the card with Samdibien and Quids In.

The former was an unlucky loser for Sam Thomas at Fontwell last time and gets the vote in the Connor's 21st Birthday Celebrations Novices' Handicap Hurdle while the jockey's brother Oliver saddles Quids In who has an outstanding chance in the Bullock & Bosson Maiden Hurdle.

Long John Silver should go well for the bang-in-form Jamie Osborne in the 32Red Maiden at Lingfield.

Thankfully not as deficient as his fictional human namesake in the leg department, he looks an interesting prospect for the future, being a well-bred son of Rip Van Winkle out of the very smart race mare Tropical Lady.

John Gosden runs Royalistic in there and he is respected while watch out for stablemate Sun Or Shade at Kempton on Wednesday. He's a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf hero Wrote among others and part-owned by the Coolmore team.

Things continue to tick over in Newmarket, Postponed and Jack Hobbs among the horses to stretch their legs on the Al Bahatri last week. Sir Mark Prescott had a team of youngsters out too and he looks set to strike at Newcastle on Tuesday with Boost.

It could be a profitable meeting for Headquarters too with David Simcock and Saeed bin Suroor also likely to send fancied horses north up the A1.

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