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.
ETERNAL SUN CAN SHINE ON FIBRESAND
(Newcastle, 5 February)
With Ben Haslam saddling six winners, plus four placed, through January it was no surprise to see his four-year-old debutante Blindingly perform so well in the mile novice stakes.
Andrew Mullen made his move up the stands’ rail but found the exit route blocked before running on steadily into second behind James Fanshawe’s penalised Kempton scorer Merchant Of Venice.
(Market Rasen, 5 February)
Gary Moore’s French-bred recruit won a 17-runner maiden over 1m 6f at Clairefontaine last summer, so it was no surprise to see positive tactics adopted in this juvenile hurdle.
This was certainly an improvement on Honorable’s first two UK outings when unseating at the first flight at Sandown on debut, followed by a no-show a fortnight later at Ascot.
(Newcastle, 5 February)
All seven career starts have come on the all-weather and she is proving most consistent for Ivan Furtado, winning over course and distance in September and adding to that tally at Southwell before Christmas.
Racing off a 5lb higher mark, Eternal Sun remains competitive judged on her close-up fourth to Another Angel in this 5f sprint, holding a chance until finding no extra in the closing stages.
The track is riding quite slow this winter, which isn’t suiting every horse, and she might be a bit better on Fibresand.
It will be interesting to see how she goes on turf.
(Ayr, 6 February)
It proved an eventful afternoon for Gordon Elliott. After saddling four winners (it would have been five if Pat’s Oscar hadn’t fallen at the final hurdle), he landed in hot water with the stewards over the running of Braid Blue, a considerately-handled fifth behind odds-on stablemate Galvin in the novices’ hurdle, before putting his Ayr raiders into isolation on their return to Ireland.
Perhaps the most impressive of his successful quartet was Veinard, a seemingly exposed ten-year-old, who was at the very top of his game in disposing of favourite Zalvados in the Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
Conor O’Farrell rode a very confident race, allowing Zalvados to kick clear off the home bend before making up his ground steadily.
A spring-heeled leap at the last propelled Veinard clear up the short run-in and he clearly enjoyed the soft ground.
SHA LA LA LA LEE
(Wolverhampton, 6 February)
Off the track for more than 200 days but that didn’t deter punters piling into Tom Dascombe’s four-year-old as he was sent off 2-1 favourite for this 7f Class 3 handicap.
Ultimately thrashed by Documenting, a previous wide-margin course winner and wisely held-up on this occasion by Jason Hart, the result doesn’t tell the whole story as front-runner Sha La La La was pestered for the lead throughout, rather forcing Richard Kingscote to go a stride too fast for comfort.
Sha La La La Lee was treading water when Documenting (clocked fast time) swept past but stuck on for second spot.
He is worth watching.
(Ludlow, 6 February)
Paul Nicholls found the perfect opening for his ex-French filly and she duly obliged.
Miranda, a daughter of Camelot, was noted going comfortably on the heels of the leaders, jumping economically, and Harry Cobden made his move to close down leader Lady Cylla between the last two flights, before asserting on the run-in.
The pair drew 29 lengths clear of the third so the form should be reliable enough.