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.
JOHNSTON'S PRINCE LOOKS ONE TO FOLLOW BACK ON TURF
(Chelmsford City, 3 May)
Connections have had to be patient, with Roc Astrale having been sidelined since his debut run at Lingfield last April. Following a gelding operation and wind surgery, he reappeared in this 1m 2f Novice Stakes and wasn’t disgraced in fourth behind some promising three-year-olds. The race was won by John Gosden’s Main Street and Pat Dobbs had Roc Astrale in a handy slot throughout before the younger brigade pulled clear in the final furlong. Roc Astrale can pay his way in handicaps in due course if his trainer, Amanda Perrett gets a smooth run with him.
(Redcar, 3 May)
Mark Johnston’s gelding came here on the back of two wins and a second from three starts on the all-weather, so it was no real surprise to see him run so well. Franny Norton always had his mount to the fore, nosing to the front two out, and although ultimately beaten under a length by the William Haggas-trained Completion, the attractive Poet’s Prince finished well clear of the chasing pack. Completion dipped under standard and this augurs well for the pair of them this summer.
(Chepstow, 4 May)
Despite finishing last of 15 at Pontefract 11 days earlier, there was money in the ring for David Loughnane’s filly and connections were a bit unfortunate to cross swords with hot-pot Gilded Hour. Milan Reef jumped out smartly and kept up a brisk pace until collared by the winner at the furlong pole. She scored here over a mile last September on soft ground and clearly handles Chepstow’s undulating track.
(Doncaster, 5 May)
Can be a difficult ride as he is best held up off a decent gallop and this farcical contest didn’t play to October Storm’s strengths. The runners crawled round and this competitive 1m 6f Class 4 handicap developed into a dash down the straight. Silvestre De Sousa was at pains to restrain his keen mount in last place and they were caught in a hopeless position when the pace eventually lifted. October Storm landed a 2m handicap at York last autumn and is by no means one to write off after his sixth-place finish here.
(Newmarket, 5 May)
Mopped up early-season events at Newcastle and Ascot in 2017 (favourite on both occasions), before his form tapered off in a couple of better races. Gelded since, Curiosity made a noteworthy return after 239 days off, just failing to wear down Symbolization after giving Oisin Murphy a bumpy ride from the stalls. Hugo Palmer’s gelding could have a decent three-year-old handicap in him this summer, probably around a mile or a little further.
(Ayr, 7 May)
The five-year-old, running in the Waiting Patiently colours of owner Richard Collins, proved a ready winner on his hurdles debut, stretching clear of southern raider Swaffam Bulbeck. Return Ticket won his bumper at Catterick (good to soft) just before Christmas and is being brought along steadily by Ruth Jefferson, adopting the canny approach so characteristic of her late father Malcolm.