Catching Pigeons: Rafeej To Shine
Catching Pigeons: Rafeej To Shine
Sporting Life

Mark Johnston

Mark Johnston has made a fine start to the new season but the rumours from Middleham are that the best could be yet to come.

The unbeaten Rafeej was given plenty of time last season and didn’t make it to the racecourse until October, but he has benefited from that sympathetic treatment and excelled over the winter.

Having worked particularly well with’Es Que Love in recent weeks, Rafeej was already exciting the Johnston team, but since that horse’s comprehensive victories in handicaps at Pontefract and Newmarket, expectations have grown even further.

With winning form on heavy ground already in the book, he has less to prove in the mud than most and should take all of the beating in the opening five-furlong handicap at Sandown on Friday.

That said, don’t rule out a big run from Ballesteros, who Brian Meehan fancies strongly in the same contest after blowing away the cobwebs at the Craven meeting.

John Gosden has also begun the campaign in good form and has plenty of bullets left to fire still in the weeks ahead.

Starboard is a flashy type, who travels nicely and has worked sweetly since moving up a gear a month or so ago. He could be the type to promise more than he delivers but would still be backable, if not for uncertainties over the ground in the one-mile conditions event.

Gosden also runs Questioning in the Bet365 Mile, Friday’s feature contest, who was a bit of a naughty boy last year forcing his trainer to try different types of headgear in a bid to calm him down.

He still doesn’t look straightforward and despite getting the better of Twice Over last week, remains one to be very wary of. Famous Name and Dubawi Gold are far safer bets, for although the Hannon team reportedly can’t split their two, Libranno’s stamina will surely be suspect in the ground.

Trader Jack is a very impressive specimen and one to follow this season. He won’t mind the ground in the Esher Cup but the worry for his backers on Friday is whether he might just need the run first time out. That said, his regular work partner Rosslyn Castle hosed up at Windsor the other day and Trader Jack is still worth backing as long as he’s not a silly price.

His brother Al Kazeem runs in the Gordon Richards Stakes on Saturday and holds obvious claims, but connections of Poet are also full of hope and both could give Twice Over (a little disappointing last week despite finishing second) something to think about.

The real riddle is why the Juddmonte team have decided to run World Domination in the same race as Twice Over. It’s the worst kept secret in the world that this colt is reckoned a potential good’un by Sir Henry, but it’s no afterthought to have him take on Twice Over as Jamie Spencer was called up to ride the horse in work on the Al Bahathri on Wednesday in preparation for their pairing in this race.

Also spotted in action this week for Cecil was Hayley Turner, but with a team of horses quite so large, it’s no wonder the trainer is broadening his horizons.

The Jeremy Noseda-trained Falcon In Flight is a big filly who has done well since her recent maiden victory and she carries confidence going to Doncaster on Saturday evening.

But the names of stablemates Burke’s Rock and Garde Cotiere are also well worth keeping in mind, despite both having been pulled out of their weekend targets as a result of the worsening ground conditions.

Both are reckoned smart prospects this season, particularly the latter, who has been off the track for more than 18 months but works as if he will repay the patience of connections.

Finally, congratulations to Steve Jones, Templegate of the Sun and a former resident of Sporting Life towers for his victory this week in the Racing Post’s National Hunt tipping competition.

Jones was helped to victory in no small part by the 33-1 victory of Neptune Collonges in the Grand National, but it could all have been such a different story. An eagle-eyed friend of the Sun’s tipster, working for one of the Post’s sister papers, phoned Jones to question his sanity for tipping 200-1 outsider Neptune Equester. Happily the call came in time for the tipsters’ table to be amended.

View the original article over at Sporting Life

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