WELCOME to our Eyecatchers column. Every week 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.
ALL YOURS ATR Tracker
(Taunton, 5 February)
A half-brother to last season's County Hurdle winner Lac Fontana, ex-French All Yours possesses bags of potential. Paul Nicholls reached for a hood and tongue-tie, and although All Yours was wayward running down to the last, he always had his race safely in the bag. Interestingly, Nicholls used a novice hurdle at Taunton in February as a stepping-stone to Cheltenham for Sanctuaire when landing a huge gamble in the 2010 Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
GLENS MELODY ATR Tracker
(Warwick, 7 February)
Hacked up in this OLBG Mares' Hurdle festival dress rehearsal and will bid to go one better than 12 months ago when giving Quevega a real fright in the main feature at Cheltenham. Will almost certainly play second fiddle once again to another Willie Mullins stablemate if Annie Power turns up as expected, but Glens Melody would be interesting in the 'betting without' market. The softer the better.
PYLONTHEPRESSURE ATR Tracker
(Naas, 7 February)
Au Quart De Tour had looked Willie Mullins' probable first string for the Cheltenham bumper when scoring at Fairyhouse but Pylonthepressure (also sporting the Ricci silks) would command plenty of respect if crossing the Irish Sea next month. Setting out to make all, he simply overpowered odds-on Space Cadet, a clear-cut winner at Leopardstown's high-profile Boxing Day fixture.
ACTIVIAL ATR Tracker
(Newbury, 7 February)
Put up a sterling effort on his reappearance in The Ladbroke at Ascot and was fancied by many to step up in the Betfair Hurdle. Judging from the nit-picking false start, the intention was clearly to jump out very prominently and his chance was compromised by the subsequent standing start, as Activial (like several others) was caught flat-footed. Bustled along to take up a position behind the pacesetters, Harry Fry's five-year-old stayed on gamely in third and will be of interest if turning up for the County Hurdle. This was only his fifth career start, so there remains potential for improvement.
BIG EASY ATR Tracker
(Exeter, 8 February)
Returned from a 58-day break to register an encouraging fourth to Regal Encore in this competitive Pertemps Network Hurdle qualifier. Always quite handy in a bunched field, Big Easy was just tapped for toe between the last two flights (squeezed run-in) and would have preferred a stiffer stamina test. Cesarewitch hero Big Easy finished sixth in the 2013 Coral Cup and his subsequent course form reads 221 from three runs. The handicapper knows all about him these days but the eight-year-old looks sure to run another big race in the Final (won last year by stablemate Fingal Bay).
LORD WINDERMERE ATR Tracker
(Leopardstown, 8 February)
Will bid to extend a remarkable unbeaten career record during the month of March when defending his Gold Cup crown. Lord Windermere won a novice hurdle at Naas in March, 2012 and scooped the RSA Chase 12 months later before causing last year's blue riband upset. The Hennessy at Leopardstown was once again used as his prep race and connections must have been delighted with his third to Carlingford Lough. Ridden with plenty of dash, which was something of a surprise, Lord Windermere will revert to more patient tactics at Cheltenham. Considering he was beaten 26 lengths in last year's Hennessy before going on to Cheltenham glory, odds of 14-1 for the big one make each-way appeal.
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