WELCOME to our Eyecatchers column. Every week 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.
(Investec Mile, 31 May)
Mark Johnston’s durable five-year-old hasn’t won since August last year but continues to perform with distinction in these tough handicaps.
Masham Star proved no match for progressive Gossiping but just missed out on a minor place (fourth) after chasing the winner hard down the straight.
(Investec Wealth & Investment Handicap, 31 May)
A 5lb rise for defeating Aquarium over course and distance in April didn’t deter punters from smashing into Roger Varian’s gelding in this 1m 2f contest.
Their faces must have been creased with smiles when Andrea Atzeni made his smooth, race-winning move on the outside two out, with well-held northern raider Jazeel running a race full of promise in second.
Mountain Angel has plenty of solid form on soft, too, and he may well defy another increase given his ground flexibility.
(Investec Zebra Handicap, 31 May)
Began his career with Saeed Bin Surroor but has paid his way since switching to Paul Midgley.
Start Time finished out of the money on this occasion (eighth) behind Corazon Espinado after hanging away his chance down the camber two out, but he wasn’t knocked about by Gerald Mosse.
The six-year-old was a dual winner over this 7f trip at Thirsk last August and is sliding back down the ratings to his previous winning mark.
DUKE OF FIRENZE
(Investec ‘Dash’ Handicap, 1 June)
The annual ‘Dash’ was a rousing spectacle with 19 speedballs hurtling down the quickest 5f chute in the country and shock winner Ornate, the less-fancied stablemate of Duke Of Firenze, was another shining example of David Griffiths’s mastery with sprinters.
Duke Of Firenze wouldn’t have been far away with a clear run, as Nathan Evans tried to thread a path through some tiring rivals, eventually beaten less than two lengths in seventh.
Although he has turned ten years of age, Duke Of Firenze showed all his old enthusiasm to scoop the William Hill Sprint at York the previous week and this was a fine effort under his penalty.
(Investec Out Of The Ordinary Handicap, 1 June)
Sextant, carrying the Queen’s silks, proved all the rage for this 1m 4f handicap, despite a hefty 8lb rise for his recent wide-margin Ascot romp (good to soft).
Perhaps the combination of an elevation in class, the tricky track and faster ground contributed to his disappointing fourth behind course specialist Soto Sizzler but the lightly-raced four-year-old is certainly worth another chance, probably given a slightly more yielding surface/conventional circuit.
Sextant competed off a mark of 97 and that would just about squeeze him into the entirely appropriate Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot.
(Investec Asset Management Handicap, 1 June)
On paper this looked a very tricky finale, with 14 runners going to post, but David O’Meara’s Watchable turned logic on its head by scooting clear, breaking the 6f track record in eye-popping fashion.
Runner-up Lake Volta was handed an extra 5lb for a recent Goodwood triumph and his chance was slightly compromised at the gate as he stumbled after a couple of strides.
Joe Fanning had his mount back on an even keel quickly but Lake Volta could never quite get to grips with the tearaway winner.
Mark Johnston’s four-year-old already is a dual winner through the first two months of the turf season and this confirmed trailblazer remains in the form of his life.