Catching Pigeons: Mount to peak again

By Catching Pigeons.   Last Updated: 08/05/13 9:40am

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Mount Athos: It's all about Chester and Melbourne

Mount Athos: It's all about Chester and Melbourne

Sky Bet

Catching Pigeons marks our card ahead of this week's big meeting at Chester with gossip from the training centres.

Plenty of trainers have their views on the way that Doctor Marwan Koukash runs his racing empire, but those brave enough to make their views on the situation public tend to find his horses don't hang around for long.

Most understand the simple economics of keeping owners happy and for that reason they will all have had this week's Chester meeting circled in the calendar for months now, even if given free rein they might have preferred to run some of the good doctor's team elsewhere.

Nap of the week for the Koukash brigade is Mount Athos in the Boodles Ormonde Stakes on Friday.

Luca Cumani's team are still far from fully revved up this season, having barely made a hoofprint on the grass thanks to the dry weather, but those that have made it to the racecourse this season have acquitted themselves well in the main and this horse has been on the go longer than most.

A return to Melbourne is on the cards for the end of the year, but Koukash has made it plain to Cumani that this is the only race that really matters beforehand and he looked particularly well when spotted being put through his paces last week.

The Dee Stakes half an hour earlier on the programme lacks an obvious star but could also go to Newmarket courtesy of the Ed Dunlop-trained Contributer.

Ryan Moore rates this horse highly and rode him in a couple of pieces of work before partnering him to win a conditions event at Newbury last month.

Moore is more likely to be in action at Ascot than Chester on Friday (more of that later) but Graham Lee has pencilled in by Dunlop as a more-than-able deputy.

Contributer is lacking the experience of some of his rivals in this line-up, but could yet turn into a genuine pattern-race performer this season.

Incidentally, it was interesting to see Dunlop joined by his father to watch some of his team work last Friday.

Beatrice Aurore, formerly trained by Dunlop senior, could make her debut at York for her new trainer next week, as could Joshua Tree, who has moved to join Dunlop from Marco Botti.

Another Newmarket runner worth a mention on the final day of the meeting is Redvers, who Ed Vaughan is desperately hoping will get a run in the opening seven-furlong handicap.

He's quite a chunky horse, but seems to love hurtling around a bend and he already has wins at turning tracks such as Bath, Lingfield and Pontefract to his name.

Vaughan has put Redvers in a handful of other races as a fall-back plan later in the week, but this is the number one option.

Back to the Ascot evening card and the reason for Moore's presence might become clearer once the well-proportioned Secret Talent has run in the seven-furlong Ascot Racecourse Handicap.

This is Hughie Morrison's best three-year-old (and he's got some quite good ones, by all accounts). Off an official mark of 87, it will be a bitter disappointment to connections if he doesn't take this - possibly en-route to the Britannia.

Today's opening day of the Chester meeting features the Cheshire Oaks - a race always targeted by Barry Hills and son Charlie fancies trying to step into those shoes.

His two runners are both legitimate contenders, but despite a lowly official rating it could be Premium who proves the pick of the pair. She has a high-quality pedigree and seems to have done particularly well from two to three.

Cracking the cup looks hard, but Number One London is a strong fancy in the mile-and-a-quarter Boodles Diamond Stakes despite Brian Meehan's team being still stuck in second gear so far this season.

He was desperately in need of the run first time out this season, but acquitted himself well in the circumstances and Kieren Fallon likes him a lot.

Meehan had even thought about pitching Number One London into the Dee Stakes later in the week, but has gone for a route he believes will end in a confidence-boosting victory.

Sir John Hawkwood was ridden by Moore in a quick spin down the Al Bahathri on Monday morning with trainer Sir Michael Stoute in attendance.

Stoute hasn't been in the best of health of late and might get the pick-me-up he wants with this horse in the opener on Thursday.

An attractive bay from a good Weinstock family, Sir John Hawkwood was backed off the boards for a handicap his trainer always targets with a good one at the Ebor meeting last year and although his season ended in disappointment, he will be bouncing back soon, if not here.

Jazz is also fancied for the Hills team in the two-year-old race later on the card. He has come on plenty for his debut run and looks the sort of nimble horse who will handle the turns.

Yes, his draw could have worked out better, but this one can go a bit at home and ought to be able to secure a decent position against less savvy rivals.

The Al Zarooni saga is not about to go away now that the trainer has perplexingly registered an appeal against his eight-year-ban but Godolphin are preparing for a show of strength at the end of this week as Saeed bin Suroor's wagons start to roll.

Spotted on the Al Bahathri gallop on Monday morning was virtually every member - bar the guv'nor - of the Godolphin hierarchy as Suroor put a number of his team through their paces.

Among those to catch the eye in action were classy stayer Colour Vision and three-year-old Secret Number, who disappointed in the UAE Derby, but is held in some regard by those closest to the stable as being a horse who might put Godolphin back on the map for the right reasons. He could even end up as an Epsom horse if he makes it to York's Dante Stakes.

First and foremost expect a substantial number of runners from Suroor's stable from Friday onwards; instruction appears to have come from above that the show must go on.

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