WELCOME to our Eyecatchers column. Every week Alan Thomson pinpoints horses primed to strike in the next few weeks, if not days. Remember, you can add Alan's weekly updates to your ATR Tracker.
ZUBAYR CAN FOLLOW IN ZARKANDAR’S CHELTENHAM HOOFPRINTS FOR PAUL NICHOLLS
Mopped up an Irish bumper for Sabrina Harty and wasn’t knocked about on his first start for Neil Mulholland.
Settled off the pace, the six-year-old Dylan Thomas gelding made steady headway into fourth in what appeared a decent novices’ hurdle won by David Pipe’s Chic Theatre.
Peter The Mayo Man was a bit awkward at a couple of flights but travelled like a decent horse.
None too consistent, hence his 33-1 starting price, but Wildomar ran out of his skin to chase home Fern Owl in this 12f handicap.
He dead-heated for second with Biff Johnson and the Scottish raider put a real gloss on the result by winning in some style at Wolverhampton on Monday.
Due to drop another 2lb to a mark of 59, Wildomar would be of interest if Peter Hiatt can find a suitable 0-60 contest in the next couple of weeks.
The 10-year-old was oozing well-being in the parade ring and Noel Fehily was oozing confidence throughout this 2m 4f contest as Minella Reception coasted into the lead before the final fence. The gelding will win again on this display.
So unlucky on his racecourse debut at Kelso in December (33-1) when falling at the final flight with the race in safekeeping but made amends here, handing out a drubbing to Dan Skelton’s 116-rated Samtu. Keith Dalgleish’s late-maturing mare looks worth keeping onside.
Punters have been scrambling to find a foothold in the JCB Triumph Hurdle market but Zubayr jumped out of the pack with a clear-cut victory in the BetBright-sponsored Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls used this event as Zarkandar’s Cheltenham prep before landing the 2011 Triumph, earning that horse an official mark of 154. On Saturday, the 151-rated Gibralfaro finished a laboured fifth (beaten around 10 lengths) to Zubayr which, even allowing for a disappointing effort from Alan King’s favourite, puts the Nicholls gelding bang in the Festival firing line.
Zubayr’s only other public outing came at Longchamp last June (fourth) and the son of Authorized should improve again for his Kempton experience.
Remember him? Nicky Henderson’s 2014 bet365 Gold Cup winner had been off the course for 392 days priors to this comeback run in the BetBright Chase won so decisively by Theatre Guide and he finished a perfectly respectable seventh.
The nine-year-old was entitled to be a little ring-rusty and although holding a Cheltenham entry (Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase), his main target is this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National.
Hadrian’s Approach has been given a weight of 10st 6lb which should get him in nicely near the bottom of the handicap at Aintree.
Alan Thomson's Eyecatchers column is sponsored by SIS - visit www.sis.tv for more information on a range of services for bookmaker and punter.