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.
DAVID PIPE'S DOCTOR HARPER IS POISED TO STRIKE IN A CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL HANDICAP
David Pipe’s eight-year-old remains comparatively lightly raced and this patient approach should be well rewarded.
Doctor Harper’s jumping was a joy to behold and he swatted Deep Sensation aside with aplomb.
The son of Presenting has been running on deep ground, shaping well behind Arkle aspirants Garde La Victoire (Ludlow) and L’ami Serge (Plumpton), but he promises to be even more effective on a sounder surface.
Indeed, the sole occasion Doctor Harper has encountered good ground came at Aintree last year when he quickened clear of 21 rivals in a Class 1 handicap hurdle.
Pipe will have Doctor Harper well entered up at Cheltenham, with the CHAPS Novices’ Handicap Chase, Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase all possibilities.
Doctor Harper would also have claims over hurdles in the Pertemps Network Final but he jumps so well it would be a pity to see him going back down that route.
Running in the JP McManus colours, No Comment was heavily supported on the back of a promising debut in a Ludlow bumper when he chased home Rather Be, a Nicky Henderson hot-pot.
Once again, No Comment found one too strong, namely Sandy Thomson’s relentless galloper The Dutchman, another horse beaten on his bumper debut, this time at Ayr.
Richard Johnson attempted to squeeze through a narrow gap on the rail after the last flight but looked held when the door closed. The pair forged clear and it looked a decent event of its type.
Philip Hobbs should find a race for No Comment.
Some classier maidens are beginning to appear on the all-weather and Derby entry High Grounds stamped his authority all over this field with a breath-taking performance in a steadily-run affair.
Robert Winston gave a fair impression of Tyson Fury as he became embroiled in a bruising barging match on the run to the home bend and High Ground’s backers were sweating as he had plenty to find in the straight.
However, Charlie Hills’s 115,000-euro colt went ‘whoosh’ when finding his full stride and the son of High Chaparral appreciated every yard of this 10-furlong trip.
Remains a progressive young hurdler for Dr Richard Newland.
The seven-year-old ploughed through the mud to score at Lingfield in early January and was handed another 6lb by the assessor for chasing home Yala Enki in the Lanzarote at Kempton.
Westren Warrior looks the type to appreciate an exacting test of stamina and was doing good work on the run-in without troubling Taj Badalandabad.
Alan King’s bumper horses are always worth a second glance but paddock watchers noted Zipple Back as ‘edgy’.
Things got worse when Zipple Back reared and threw himself to the ground but, despite these wayward antics, the son of the Aga Khan’s Group 1 winner Sendawar remained popular with punters (4-1).
Restrained early, Zipple Back moved into contention early in the straight but could only plug on into third behind favourite Bags Groove. Zipple Back will surely have learned plenty from this experience.
Made a highly satisfactory UK debut for Paul Nicholls, chasing home prolific winner Solstice Star and Cheltenian, another solid yardstick. French-bred Frodon is only a four-year-old and deserves credit for serving it up to his more experienced rivals.
He has plenty of time on his side.
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