Eyecatchers

Wicked Willy (20-1), Ch’tibello (12-1), Beware The Bear (10-1), Any Second Now (6-1), Samuel Jackson (4-1), Second Collection (7-2), Duhallow Gesture (11-8) and odds-on shots Scaramanga and Lord Yeats were Previous Eyecatchers to win in the past fortnight and Alan Thomson has nominated 12 to follow from the Cheltenham Festival.

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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.

TWELVE TO FOLLOW FROM CHELTENHAM 2019

DUC DES GENIEVRES
(Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase)

Gold Cup-winning trainer Willie Mullins made a whirlwind start to the festival, bagging the curtain-raiser with Klassical Dream, and Duc Des Genievres triumphed in equally impressive fashion some 40 minutes later.

Paul Townend rode the textbook race, moving his mount into contention at halfway before latching on to the leader running down the hill.

The six-year-old led before two and fairly charged up the hill to put daylight between himself and his rivals.

His task was made simpler by the fairly early departures of Glen Forsa and Kalashnikov, but it would have taken a very good one to lower his colours.

Equally at home over 2m 4f, Duc Des Genievres could return next year for a crack at the Ryanair Chase.

LAKE VIEW LAD
(Ultima Handicap Chase)

Nick Alexander has become a force to be reckoned with up north and he has improved Lake View Lad leaps and bounds.

The nine-year-old won a novices’ handicap chase at Newcastle in December before scooping three more first prizes, graduating to a mark of 155 here.

The Ultima was run at a fair clip, with first Activial and then O O Seven forcing the gallop.

By the time Vintage Clouds had taken it up three out, Henry Brooke was busy getting serious on his mount and Lake View Lad responded gamely to take third spot behind Beware The Bear.

This was a very solid effort under top weight and ‘Mr Aintree’ Trevor Hemmings can look forward to his colours being carried with distinction in the Randox Health Grand National by both Lake View Lad and Vintage Clouds.

The whole of Scotland will be hoping the former can emulate 2017 tartan hero One For Arthur.

THE RUSSIAN DOYEN
(Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase)

Seems at his very best when enjoying a break between his races and Colin Tizzard’s six-year-old looked cherry-ripe under a 3lb penalty for landing the odds at Newbury 55 days earlier over a shorter trip.

The Russian Doyen was always in the firing line, with Harry Cobden happy to take up the running three out before being left for dead by turbo-charged A Plus Tard, a big market mover.

The Russian Doyen faded in the final 100 yards but fourth spot was still an honourable effort. He will have gained valuable experience of big-field handicaps.

JERRYSBACK
(National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Handicap Chase)

An attritional contest mired in controversy, with only four of the original 18 starters still on their feet (with two of them out on their feet) at the end of a gruelling four-miler.

There was courage in abundance as Le Breuil and Discorama traded blows up the straight but third-home Jerrysback deserves a gallant mention in despatches.

Jockey Declan Lavery received a 10-day ban for continuing to persevere on the toiling Jerrysback but whatever the merits, or otherwise, of that suspension, the Irish rider gains plaudits for maintaining the partnership after being badly hampered at the 13th, losing his irons in the process.

This wasn’t pretty and public perception may see a change in race conditions, despite the National Hunt Chase being steeped in Cheltenham history.

BRIGHT FORECAST
(Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)

The winner of two of his three races for Ben Pauling, Bright Forecast marked himself down as a stout stayer as he ran on into the minor berth behind City Island and Champ.

Rated 13lb lower than the runner-up by the British handicapper, Bright Forecast gave leading rider Nico de Boinville, wearing the famous Aldaniti colours, a great spin and will be a force in decent races around three miles next season.

SANTINI
(RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase)

With his participation remaining in doubt only a matter of days before this major assignment, Santini ran a blinder in splitting Topofthegame and Delta Work.

The principals drew well clear of some talented rivals, so this form looks top drawer, and Santini recovered well from a stumble four from home to lead two out.

Topofthegame had more than three lengths in hand when the pair had chased home La Bague Au Roi at Kempton on Boxing Day and confirmed the places in a driving finish.

After running third in last year’s Albert Bartlett, Santini kicked on to Aintree, justifying favouritism in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle from last week’s fortuitous festival scorer Roksana.

CRACKING SMART
(Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle)

Gordon Elliott delivered a positive pre-race bulletin and his young hurdler didn’t let the side down, although ultimately fading into 11th spot as William Henry and Wicklow Brave fought out one of the finishes of the meeting.

Jack Kennedy had Cracking Smart handy and they held a slim advantage on the home bend before capitulating.

The handicapper has probably squeezed the last bit of juice out of Cracking Smart and his future may well lie in novice chases next season.

BAND OF OUTLAWS
(Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle)

Joseph O’Brien crossed the water with a hatful of fancied runners and after a few near misses he must have been a relieved man when Band Of Outlaws got his name on the scoresheet.

Favourite backers pulled on their betting boots, forcing Band of Outlaws into 7-2 at the off, despite the presence of 20 rivals, and the only moment of concern came running down to the last flight when JJ (James Joseph) Slevin found himself squeezed out at a crucial stage.

Band Of Outlaws shrugged off that inconvenience in the manner of a very smart juvenile, dashing clear on landing and completing a hat-trick in the process.

SEMPO
(Weatherbys Champion Bumper)

The leading protagonists came to the fore, with heavily-backed Envoi Allen gamely justifying market confidence.

Joseph O’Brien’s Sempo cuts a dash as a prospective winner over obstacles and the five-year-old produced an encouraging performance back in sixth (nine lengths clear of the seventh).

Anchored towards the rear, Sempo made his move on the inside under Derek O’Connor but couldn’t engage an extra gear to trouble the principals.

This Thurles bumper winner in early February is one to watch next season.

DEFI DU SEUIL
(JLT Novices’ Chase)

The formbook worked out, with Defi Du Seuil producing a highly professional performance under our star blogger Barry Geraghty, jumping accurately and finishing strongly up the hill to master old foe Lostintranslation.

Coming into the race, the scoreline between the pair read 1-1 after thrilling jousts at Cheltenham and Sandown, and admirable Lostintranslation served it up to the winner throughout.

Defi Du Seuil’s Exeter victory over Topofthegame in November is also looking top notch form in the light of subsequent events.

JANIKA
(Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase)

Runner-up on all three UK starts for Nicky Henderson since arriving from France, Janika was the ‘moral’ winner as he failed only narrowly to concede 18lb to his previous course conqueror Siruh Du Lac.

There was a slight scare when Janika had to jink to avoid faller King’s Odyssey at the 7th, but the top weight was soon back travelling strongly.

He looked the most likely winner three out but the bold-jumping leader just wouldn’t be denied.

The track was drying out all the time under the strong gusts and Janika in all likelihood would have preferred it a bit softer.

MR ADJUDICATOR
(Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle)

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old was probably the most interesting runner in this helter-skelter two-mile puzzle, having run second to Espoir D’allen at Naas when last seen in November.

Mr Adjudicator had good juvenile form last season, chasing home Farclas in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and occupying the same position at Punchestown the following month.

Paul Townend was content to let the action unfold well in front of him and Mr Adjudicator was in the process of cutting into that deficit when hanging left in the straight, finishing a respectable eighth to Ch’tibello.

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