WELCOME to our Eyecatchers column. Every Tuesday form expert 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.
12 TO FOLLOW FROM THE FESTIVE PERIOD
(Newbury, 20 December)
On paper, this looked a hot 2m 4f novices’ hurdle and it didn’t disappoint with the market leaders occupying all three places.
Mr Whipped had made light work of his rivals at Kempton (2-9) on his debut for Nicky Henderson but was allowed to go off a generous 7-1 shot in the wake of strong support for Melrose Boy.
Nico de Boinville had Mr Whipped in front before the last and despite losing an iron, he punched his mount clear of nicely-backed second favourite Gowiththeflow.
There appears scope for even more improvement.
(Towcester, 21 December)
Produced an exhibition round of jumping from the front to turn this two-mile novices’ chase into a procession.
Rather Be won a 22-runner handicap hurdle over 2m 4f at Aintree last April, so it was no surprise to see him finish his race strongly and Nicky Henderson has another classy individual to add to his stockpile of talented young chasers.
(Ascot, 22 December)
Ran a perfectly respectable race behind Claimantakinforgan and brave Dr Des in what looked a warm novices’ hurdle.
Theclockisticking was made to look a bit one paced when the front pair kicked on but Stuart Edmunds’s gelding may have floundered a little on the soft ground, with both his previous victories at Huntingdon and Fakenham (by an aggregate of 42 lengths) coming on a sound surface.
(Market Rasen, 26 December)
Following an initial outing in a bumper three weeks earlier, Olly Murphy wasted no time switching Weebill to hurdles and he was rewarded with a very promising third behind market leaders Ashkoul and Ballinslea Bridge.
Weebill was 18 lengths clear of the fourth horse and has the size and scope to do better in time for this shrewd handler.
(Huntingdon, 26 December)
Showed only a glimmer of promise in points but Classic Ben has recorded form figures of 2-2-1-1 since joining Stuart Edmunds.
The four-year-old was driven along from some way out and needed every yard of this extended 2m 3f trip to master his rivals.
Classic Ben still looked raw as he lugged left under pressure and there should be more in the locker as long as his sights aren’t raised too high.
(Fontwell, 26 December)
Routed the opposition in this 2m 5f mares’ handicap hurdle.
Matt Griffiths sent her to the front three out and the lightly-raced Ellens Way stormed home by 14l and 19l, clearly relishing the deep ground.
She had been a bit disappointing on her two previous starts at Sandown and Wincanton, and it may be that Ellens Way prefers going left-handed as she also won at Warwick (soft) last December.
(Huntingdon, 26 December)
Made a winning debut at Warwick in early November for Kim Bailey and almost certainly improved to chase home Duhallow Gesture, an expensive purchase by Anthony Honeyball (landed an across the card bumper double at Wincanton).
Diamond Gait was always in the firing line but she couldn’t quite match strides with the talented winner.
(Kempton, 27 December)
Held up as normal, Eddiemaurice made his move on the home bend and threw down a serious challenge from two out.
He held every chance until Kayf Grace showed the smarter turn of foot on the run to the line in this 2m handicap hurdle.
Eddiemaurice had hinted he was running into form by posting a fine fourth to Verdana Blue at Ascot in November and he has slipped to his last winning mark.
ODE TO AUTUMN
(Lingfield, 28 December)
John Gosden's juvenile remains a maiden from four runs, finishing runner-up on three occasions.
Ode To Autumn was well supported for this 7f novice stakes, his price contracting to 11-8, but he couldn't contain the power-packed finish of unexposed Maverick Officer.
The winner clocked a fast time and Ode To Autumn did well to take up a prominent position from stall 10 on his first run in 125 days.
His mark of 78 here would make him of interest if dropped into handicap company.
(Southwell, 29 December)
David Griffiths has the knack of training speedy sprinters and Brother Tiger's return from an absence of more than four months was full of promise.
The gelding missed a beat at the start but was soon able to lay up with the pace in the Betway Dash.
Although no match for Foolaad inside the final furlong, Brother Tiger did enough to think that another success over his specialist 5f trip is just around the corner.
(Newbury, 30 December)
David Bass took the bull by the horns when the field stood like statues when the tape was released for the Betfred Introductory Hurdle.
First Flow was soon into a fluent rhythm and, jumping impeccably, he had the race in safe keeping from a long way out barring accidents.
First Flow seemed perfectly at home on the prevailing deep ground and this relentless galloper is going places.
(Southwell, 2 January)
Has returned in grand form for Julie Feilden following a break of almost two months and has clearly taken to Fibresand.
Majestic Moon swept aside pace-making favourite Mama Africa almost two furlongs out and was only nabbed close home by Kelly’s Dino.
The gelding had finished third over a shorter trip on an earlier visit to Southwell and considering Majestic Moon was a close second off an 85 rating at Goodwood in the summer, this mark of 74 should open the door to the winner’s enclosure.