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.
MUSIC MAJOR REMAINS A DANGER AT CLASS 6 LEVEL
(Lingfield, 13 December)
Michael Attwater’s gelding has been in good form lately and posted another fine run at his favourite track.
Unlucky Rab Havlin endured a torrid passage off the home bend, having to take a pull when a weakening frontrunner fell into his lap.
Winner Bayston Hill took full advantage to dart clear but, to his credit, Music Major stayed on strongly into second.
This five-time winner remains a dangerous sort at Class 6 level.
(Cheltenham, 15 December)
Not particularly fancied for this 3m 2f handicap chase on the back of a mishap at Sandown the previous week, but Shanroe Santos produced an excellent effort in defeat.
The eight-year-old had tickled the birch a few times before blundering at the penultimate fence when delivering a strong challenge.
Lucy Wadham's gelding, a dual winner in February/March, rallied gamely to get within two lengths of Robinsfirth.
(Newcastle, 16 December)
A three-time course winner over 1m 2f, Bollihope was stepped up to 12 furlongs for this low-grade handicap and, on this evidence, a return to the shorter distance is on the cards.
Nicely backed beforehand, Richard Guest's gelding was held up well off the pace before making up his ground quite readily out wide.
However, Bollihope's finishing effort fizzled out and seventh spot was the best he could manage behind Esspeegee.
(Doncaster, 16 December)
Nicky Henderson often sends a promising young horse to Doncaster, a very fair, galloping circuit, and JP McManus's mare will have enjoyed her experience on Town Moor.
Nico de Boinville was always oozing confidence aboard the odds-on shot and the race was quickly put to bed when he eased Countister to the front two out.
This wasn't much of a contest but she could be fairly useful.
(Cheltenham, 16 December)
Willie Mullins’s starlet put down a Champion Hurdle marker with this promising third to My Tent Or Yours and The New One.
Melon compromised his chance by taking a tug through most of the race, expending vital energy. After some scrimmaging on the home bend, Melon was still bang in the firing line jumping the last but could find no extra.
His hurdling was sleek and accurate, and although he will need to improve to trouble Faugheen and Buveur D’air, last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up will be better served by a stronger end-to-end gallop.
Several bookmakers will be betting without the first two when March comes around and that may be the way to go.
(Wolverhampton, 18 December)
Connections were probably hoping confirmed front-runner X Rated might enjoy an easy lead in this amateur riders’ handicap but their aspirations were dashed when Berlusca took a fierce pull to race upsides.
The pair locked horns and although Emma Bedford pushed her mount a couple of lengths clear off the home bend, those earlier exertions took their toll, with X Rated fading into fourth.
Mark Johnston’s gelding scored on firm ground at Bath off a similar mark in midsummer, so remains of interest.