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.
SKYLINE HAS ROYAL ASCOT CREDENTIALS AFTER EPSOM EFFORT
Improved by one position on last year's sixth in the Investec Mile but Epsom doesn't appear the sort of track to bring out the best in Richard Fahey's gelding. Spring Offensive assumed a lovely position, tracking the leaders on the rail, but he didn't find much when Andrea Atzeni pressed the button two out.
Spring Offensive, like the others, was never able to strike a blow as G K Chesterton maintained a relentless gallop out in front. Although slightly hampered close home, he was never nearer and the return to a more conventional configuration should see the gelding proving competitive in mile handicaps.
Having his 11th start since February, Final is fully exposed. However, Mark Johnston keeps chiselling bits of improvement out of his middle-distance handicappers and Final shouldn’t be dismissed as a winter/early season performer.
Ten furlongs around here was always going to be a speed test which doesn’t suit the five-year-old and, predictably, Franny Norton was niggling away right from the off as Final trailed the field. Despite an interrupted passage, Final closed to eighth in a bunched finish that saw Not So Sleepy prevail.
Final scored over 12 furlongs at Newcastle and ran a stormer at Newmarket last month when fifth to Frontiersman over the same distance. That seems to be his optimum trip.
Seasoned racing people will have been chuffed to see popular William Jarvis back in the spotlight after a few lean years and he has a progressive handicapper on his hands. Juanito Chico was most unlucky when third to Hajaj at Ascot on his previous start and for much of this race it looked like Groundhog Day as Sylvestre De Sousa found himself trapped in a cul-de-sac.
When Juanito Chico was eventually switched off the rail a furlong out he engaged turbo gear to cut down well-ridden Wahash in the manner of a progressive three-year-old.
David Elsworth’s gelding was on a hat-trick at Newmarket last month following wins last season at HQ and Yarmouth, but he was denied in the final stride by Grey Britain. That looked arguably the strongest piece of form on offer for this 1m 2f Listed contest but Desert Skyline was all at sea on this idiosyncratic course as he hung down the camber, eventually taking third spot behind Drochaid and Emenem.
With the Queen’s Vase distance controversially trimmed to 1m 6f, that could be an interesting Royal Ascot target with his official rating of 98 comparing well with last year’s victor Sword Fighter (89).
The Investec Dash is one of the most exciting spectacles on the calendar and this year’s renewal didn’t disappoint, with remarkable course specialist Caspian Prince only just holding Dark Shot’s breathtaking burst.
Further down the field, but not beaten far, Boom The Groom was finishing with some aplomb into sixth spot, Adam Kirby encountering some traffic issues over a furlong out. Tony Carroll’s six-year-old will doubtless be heading next to the Wokingham (18th last year), but he has never run well at Ascot and is one to watch out for in high summer.
Boom The Groom pipped Duke Of Firenze in a 20-runner sprint at York’s Ebor meeting last August, following up a victory from 15 rivals at Glorious Goodwood. The gelding is only 2lb higher and retains all his speed.
Quite a few hard luck stories in this helter-skelter 6f handicap, none more so than solidly-backed Naggers.
Clobbered with a 10lb rise on the back of his easy Thirsk victory on soft ground a fortnight earlier, Naggers would have reeled in winner Reputation in another few strides and Paul Midgley will be eyeing up one of the big summer sprint handicaps, although some ease underfoot clearly suits.