catching pigeonsJohn Gosden has lined up most of his big guns to fire on Champions Day at Ascot and the Newmarket trainer will be hopeful of bagging at least a chunk of the mega-bucks on offer.

But for punters who prefer a good 20-runner handicap to the glitz and glamour of the rest of the card, it’s Gm Hopkins who is suggested as a decent bet for the trainer in the Balmoral Handicap.

Little went right for Gosden’s quirky but talented five year old in the Cambridgeshire last time out, and, after a slow start and traffic problems, he could only finish 12th behind Spark Plug.

It’s interesting though that Ryan Moore, who partnered him that day and has steered him to victory twice over this course and distance, has decided to continue with the association here, giving his chances a major boost and the fact he is 2lb lower in the weights is another useful bonus. He was far from knocked about as he made late gains in the Cambridgeshire and that sympathetic ride could pay a decent dividend here at an appealing price. Gosden sent him on a solo spin up the Limekilns this week to sharpen him up and he looked on particularly good terms with himself.

Jack Hobbs is another Gosden representative worth backing at a decent price in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

It’s been a long road back for last year’s Irish Derby winner after his nightmare effort at Newmarket on his reappearance, but he has been wound up steadily on the gallops and his last three or four pieces of work have all been very solid and to the same sort of standard he was performing last season when at his peak.

There are questions to be answered here, once the horse is asked to run through the pain barrier again, but the price reflects those uncertainties and nothing seen on the gallops would put you off his prospects.

Incidentally, while we’re on the Gosden theme, one to look out for next week from the yard is Shutter Speed, pencilled in for Yarmouth. A Dansili filly, she might just prefer the ground there to dry out a little, but there is plenty to like about her judged on home evidence and she could even prove a Classic contender next season.

As advertised here, Shalaa was in need of the run before the Bengough Stakes at this track a fortnight ago, and it was to his credit that he dug deep to win well. He has improved since and must go close in the British Champions Sprint, even if the market hasn’t missed him.

But at a fractionally better price, preference is again for Ryan Moore and another of his old allies, Twilight Son.

The pair found only the mighty Muhaarar too good in this race 12 months ago, and enjoyed their finest hour together when they went one better in the Diamond Jubilee at the Royal meeting here in June.

A below-par effort followed behind stablemate Limato in the July Cup at Newmarket, but he is back in very good heart after a good break, and his trainer reports his work has been of a high order – which might just have helped make his mind up about whether or not Limato was better keeping for the Breeders’ Cup. If Twilight Son can reproduce his best form on ground which will suit, he represents solid each-way value.

Simple Verse has sound prospects of adding the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup to her win in the Fillies and Mares at his fixture in 2015. Like 12 months ago, she heads here after a win at the Doncaster Leger meeting, and while she will have to step up on that form to prevail, it confirms she is at her most effective at the back-end of the campaign.She should appreciate the step up to two miles, and she will have no problem with the ease in the ground.

Godolphin suffered a setback to their plans when the fancied Silent Attack just missed out on a run in the Balmoral and are not that strongly represented on Champions Day. However, Ribchester has been very much trained for the race and he will prove very hard to beat in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Richard Fahey has made no secret of the fact he has the son of Iffraaj in prime nick for his clash with Minding, Galileo Gold and the rest, and the royal blues are more than hopeful he improve further on the impressive form he has already shown this season.

Up at Catterick, Machine Learner makes plenty of appeal with his weight allowance in the toteexacta Handicap. A likeable and progressive handicapper, his jockey had a bit of a nightmare on him at Haydock last time, but a change of 3lb apprentice sees Eddy Greatrex drafted in and he’s definitely worth a chance despite a considerable hike in the ratings since his last run. He was spotted among Michael Bell’s string on the Watered Gallop this week, where he looked in splendid order.

Welsh Shadow can prove the most popular winner at Ffos Las by landing theWalters Group Welsh Champion Hurdle. Dan Skelton’s gelding carries the colours of the race sponsor and course chairman Dai Walters and developed into a very useful novice last season. He looks the sort to progress again this term and his trainer is sure to have him nicely revved up for what has been his early autumn target for some time.

Rebecca Curtis can also give the locals something to cheer with Beast Of Burdenin the Volvo Beginners’ Chase. Her Pembrokeshire base was out of sorts for much of last season, a point underlined by this former smart novice hurdler in his three outings. However, Curtis could not be in better form as the autumn campaign moves into top gear, and, despite failing to get around on his two outings over fences so far, this seven year old has the class and scope to see off Whataknight and Minella Daddy.

Copper Kay has always been well regarded by Philip Hobbs and this useful performer in bumpers can make a great start to her career over timber in theTanners E Wines Mares National Hunt Maiden Hurdle. The race has cut up disappointingly from the five-day stage, and she should readily see off her three rivals.

L’Aigle Royal, a winner on his first appearance for his former trainer John Quinn, looks the type to do well for a change of scenery, and should go well of his first appearance for Skelton in the Spire Brewing Company Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen. Skelton has shown several times in his short career as a trainer that he has the knack to rejuvenate horses after a lacklustre run of form and L’Aigle Royal looks capable of winning a decent handicap off this mark.

Pink Play did her bit to contribute to what was a terrific season for Harry Whittington last term and she can continue where she left off with victory in theSpire Brewing Company – Chesterfield, Yaroslavna Mares Handicap Hurdle. The form of her two successes to end her first campaign over timber looks very solid and her overall profile is of a consistent mare,who should continue to progress.


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