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.
KNIGHT SOON TO BE BACK IN WINNERS’ ENCLOSURE
(HR Owen Maserati Handicap, 8 May)
This was only Elerfaan’s fifth career start at the age of five and he did little wrong in defeat. Despite emerging from stall two in this 7f handicap, Danny Tudhope found himself pushed a little wide on Rebecca Bastiman’s Shamardal gelding. Travelling strongly, Elerfaan traded at short odds in running when hitting the front early in the straight, but Shane Kelly was going equally as well in his slipstream on Gossiping and pounced close home to score by a neck.
Rain was just starting to get into the ground on the opening day but it didn’t seem to inconvenience Elerfaan, even though he won on good to firm at Beverley last May and chased home Margub at Wolverhampton last month. He would appear to be a versatile sort.
(Boodles Diamond Handicap, 8 May)
Leodis Dream has been a revelation for David O’Meara and ran out a deserved winner of this 5f charge. Back in sixth spot, Yolo Again didn’t enjoy the clearest run through, with Silvestre De Sousa stopped in his run when trying to burrow his way up the rail.
Yolo Again, formerly with Johnny Murtagh in Ireland, popped up at 40-1 for Roger Fell at Wolverhampton in January and is worth watching over the minimum trip.
(Gateley PLC Handicap, 9 May)
Tim Easterby’s grand old sprinter Confessional loves it around the tight Roodee turns but he may have contributed to the eclipse of his stablemate Copper Knight, the subject of an old-fashioned plunge that saw him sent off 11-8 favourite.
Copper Knight showed dash from the stalls to take full advantage of his rails draw but was harried throughout by Confessional. Ultimately, the pair proved sitting ducks in the final 100 yards for battle-hardened Merhoob, a generous 22-1 shot, given a fine stalking ride by Liam Keniry.
MR TOP HAT
(Partner Tech Handicap, 9 May)
Despite several near-misses, the fact remained that Mr Top Hat had scored only once in 24 outings coming into this 13-runner 1m 2f handicap. That solitary victory came on heavy at Salisbury in October 2017, so persistent rain in Cheshire was heaven-sent for the David Evans-trained gelding.
Harry Bentley has nurtured a fine rapport with his mount and the result was never in doubt once he pushed Mr Top Hat to the front over a furlong out, having travelled well off the home bend. The stats suggest Mr Top Hat isn’t one to go overboard about when bidding to follow up but he is clearly a force to be reckoned with granted a yielding surface.
(Liverpool Gin Earl Grosvenor Handicap, 10 May)
Jane Elliott gave all-the-way winner Sha La La La Lee a forceful ride to land this Class 2 contest in gutsy fashion. Further behind, a mud-spattered Rachel Richardson was urging Al Erayg into fifth spot, a fine effort considering they were drawn out in stall 14 over this extended seven-furlong trip.
Ex-French recruit Al Erayg has probably taken a little time to acclimatise to life in Yorkshire with Tim Easterby, but is sliding down the ratings to a potentially attractive mark.
(SportPesa Chester Cup Handicap, 10 May)
Bookmakers got a right result thanks to an inspired Franny Norton ride on a very game horse in Making Miracles, but whether they deserved to is altogether another matter. All the leading protagonists shortened noticeably – Austrian School (3-1), Whiskey Sour (9-2), Cleonte (5-1), Who Dares Wins (6-1) and Low Sun (8-1) – with bookmakers betting to 128 per cent.
Thankfully, most regular punters strike their bets well before the ‘off’, taking advantage of the best price guarantees on offer, but SP punters are at the mercy of the on-course layers (and they show no mercy).
Reflecting on the race itself, Cleonte didn’t do badly in sixth, this race coming only nine days after his excellent third to classy Dee Ex Bee at Ascot (good to firm). Stall one proved a poisoned chalice as he was shuffled back in the mud and never stood an earthly.