Last Updated: 01/02/14 3:04pm
John Ferguson: Looks to be sending strong team to Musselburgh
Our Catching Pigeons column is back with the inside track on some of those heading north to Musselburgh on Sunday.
A number of the top southern trainers are heading to Musselburgh on Sunday in the search for decent ground and there should be some Cheltenham Festival clues to emerge from what looks a cracking card.
Broughton makes his eagerly-awaited second appearance over timber in the John Smith's Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial.
A very useful performer on the level for Mark Johnston, he was quietly fancied on his hurdling bow at Doncaster, and only just failed to deliver. He had one or two smart sorts behind him that day and connections are confident he will improve plenty for the experience.
He schooled very well on the turf at Bloomfields on Friday morning, and his Flat performances suggests he should be able to handle this sharp course. Ferguson also runs Hawker, a winner on the all-weather at Lingfield in November. He looks to have a future over hurdles and is one to note.
Themilanhorse makes his debut for the same trainer in the CGA Scottish Foxhunter Chase and connections are looking for a big run. He has pleased in the build up and if he does manage a win, could well book his place in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham.
Nicky Henderson sets a real poser with both Ericht and Top Of The Range heading for the John Smith's Scottish Future Champions Novices Chase. Barry Geraghty rides the former and he has a clear chance of reversing the form with the useful Funny Star on their meeting at Doncaster in November. However, Top Of The Range has been in very good form at home and has schooled well. He produced a good performance to win at Ascot on his only start over fences so far and could prove the value bet.
Henderson loves his annual trip north for this meeting so don't be thinking that anything he saddles at the meeting comes as a result of his hand being forced. Indeed, he has had this pair in mind for this race for some time.
Sunday's Visit And Dine In The Panoramic Maiden Fillies' Stakes at Kempton has cut up a little and looks to afford a good opportunity to Garraun. Jeremy Noseda's charge has been doing everything asked of her at home since a pleasing debut last month.
Lydia Pearce saddles Sweet Talking Guy on the same card and husband Jeff recently returned to her Newmarket yard after completing the ban handed out to him by the BHA. Their children continue to carve out quite a reputation in Australia, their daughter Emma being an assistant yard manager for Gai Waterhouse and son Simon riding Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente in a lot of his prep work for the Flemington showpiece.
February 1st is always a notable date in Newmarket as it signals the opening of the grass gallops on Warren Hill. It was a date that the late, great, Sir Henry Cecil, relished, but it seems it may be quieter than usual this time around. Plenty of the big battalions will be continue their preparations on the all-weather surfaces for the time being.
It's not clear whether Clive Brittain will allow his string out onto the grass on Saturday but the notoriously early riser has been spotted putting his two-year-olds through their paces and looks to have a nice bunch on his hands for the months ahead.