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.
(Betway Bowl Chase, 4 April)
This was an immaculate front-running performance.
The rain came just in time and Ruby Walsh soon had his mount tanking along at the head of affairs.
Impressive King George winner Clan Des Obeaux could never get Kemboy off the bridle and who knows what would have transpired in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup had the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old not lost his rider at the first fence.
That said, Kemboy’s record around Prestbury Park hasn’t been without blemish, with a fifth in the 2017 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle followed by a fourth in last season’s JLT Novices’ Chase raising the possibility that he is better served by a flat track like Aintree.
No doubt we will find out next March.
(Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race)
Neil King’s five-year-old was ridden prominently by Aidan Coleman and Farne was separated by the width of the track as she stayed on the far rail in the closing stages.
The first three home look above-average, so the form should work out next season.
POINT OF PRINCIPLE
(Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle, 5 April)
Tim Vaughan’s six-year-old gave 7lb conditional jockey Charlie Price a terrific spin at 25-1 in this hot 2m 4f handicap hurdle.
With Sternrubin helping to force a sound gallop, several fancied runners were gasping for air off the home bend.
Point Of Principle was under a drive but stayed on strongly to hit the front after two out, despite a mistake.
After fending off Canardier, the gallant Point Of Principle couldn’t contain another Irish challenger in the shape of Three Musketeers but this was a storming effort.
(Gaskells Handicap Hurdle, 6 April)
The Skelton family cornered the curtain-raiser on Randox Health Grand National day by saddling the first two home in this extended three-mile contest.
Aux Ptits Soins ran out a handsome winner but stablemate Tommy Rapper travelled equally well into the race, with Bridget Andrews threading her way through from rear.
She had to manoeuvre for a clear run on a couple of occasions and Tommy Rapper was good value for his runner-up spot.
Tommy Rapper racked up a hat-trick of victories in January/February last year and this switch back to hurdling following a couple of attempts over the larger obstacles has restored his confidence.
(Betway Handicap Chase, 6 April)
Another feather in the Skelton cap, with Oldgrangewood making good headway on the inside to assume a challenging position before two out.
Those exertions from the rear of the field took their toll as Oldgrangewood faded into third behind not-to-be-denied Kildisart, but this was a solid effort from his lowest handicap mark in some time.
(Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle, 6 April)
Chief Justice was the icing on the cake for Gordon Elliott, hot on the heels of Tiger Roll’s Herculean exploits, as his four-year-old held off Thistimenextyear in a thrilling finale.
The runner-up’s trainer, Richard Spencer, is another young man making a big splash and Thistimenextyear had a featherweight to carry, with Darragh O’Keeffe taking off 7lb near the foot of the handicap.
If connections were hoping Thistimenextyear’s Fakenham victory on Cheltenham Gold Cup day may have slipped under the radar they were in for a disappointment as there was good money for their gelding.
A winner on the Flat on soft ground, it would be no surprise to see him returning to that sphere at some stage.