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.
12 TO FOLLOW FROM CHELTENHAM 2018
(Ultima Handicap Chase)
Tom George’s eight-year-old was back for another crack at this event after being pipped 12 months earlier by Un Temps Pour Tout.
The much deeper ground wasn’t in his favour but Singlefarmpayment showed plenty of courage in finishing fifth to well-touted Coo Star Sivola.
A mistake at the last cost him a place but this run maintained his consistent track form.
(National Hunt Challenge Cup)
Derek O’Connor rode a canny race on Philip Hobbs’s seven-year-old, making up his ground steadily from the rear to look menacing running down the hill.
It proved a short-lived effort, however, as No Comment ran out of gas on the home bend, eventually coming home last of the six survivors in a brutal four-mile examination.
No Comment remains relatively lightly raced and boasts a good record at Aintree, so it will be interesting to see where he goes next.
ANY SECOND NOW
(Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase)
Punters rallied behind Any Second Now, sending Ted Walsh’s gelding off favourite in the belief he could make a winning handicap debut following two placed efforts behind Footpad at Leopardstown this winter.
Any Second Now held every chance before fading up the hill into eighth spot but the six-year-old has time on his side to make a mark in this sphere.
(Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)
Black Op’s close second to Santini in a muddy slogfest at Cheltenham in January looked pre-race the best UK form on offer and so it proved.
Ultimately no match for Samcro, Tom George’s youngster travelled well throughout, racing prominently, and he will surely make up into a cracking chaser.
(Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle)
Sent off a 33-1 rag, Stowaway Magic was given a positive ride by Nico de Boinville.
Always handy, Stowaway Magic was sent to the front three out and only capitulated running down to the final flight, fading into eighth.
Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old was beaten less than eight lengths by winner Bleu Berry on by far the deepest ground he had encountered.
Stowaway Magic won at Kempton on a sound surface last April before running a gallant second of 16 at bet365’s big end-of-season bash at Sandown.
ERAGON DE CHANAY
(Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle)
Backed up again only four days after a wide-margin victory at Sandown, Eragon De Chanay was well supported into 8-1 but could never strike a blow.
Gary Moore’s gelding couldn’t go the pace when the principals drove off the final bend but stayed on again up the hill to finish a respectable seventh to Gordon Elliott’s outsider Veneer Of Charm.
Perhaps this race came a little too soon.
(Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle)
Prime Venture ran second in the sponsors’ Long Distance Handicap Hurdle at Haydock’s ‘Swinton’ fixture last May and that could be the plan again this year.
(Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase)
Having only his second start for David Pipe since arriving from France and the six-year-old can make his mark in handicaps next season.
Tom Scudamore had King’s Socks settled into a nice rhythm just worse than midfield before making a menacing move before the home bend.
King’s Socks was one of many in with a shout jumping two out but his effort petered out (fifth) as The Storyteller came through to take another Elliott scalp.
(Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup)
Gave his rider some hair-raising moments as he briefly threatened to get competitive before another error at the 15th finally put paid to his chance.
Nigel Twiston-Davies found a race for him on much better ground at Ludlow last April and Tintern Theatre is just the type to bounce back.
(Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle)
Turned up a relatively fresh horse after winning a prep race NH bumper at Kempton and ran a cracker on desperate ground.
Held up early, Chesterfield made up a significant amount of ground racing off the home bend, so much so that he may have struck the front for a few strides at the final flight.
The eight-year-old had no more to offer on the gruelling climb to the line (fourth) but Seamus Mullins will have a spring campaign in mind if Chesterfield emerges none-the-worse from his labours.
He won twice last April, including a Scottish Champion Hurdle thriller, on decent ground and remains on an attractive mark.
(Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle)
There were some very brave and exhausted young horses crossing the line following this severe examination and Santini came from a long way back to take an honourable third.
This was his first defeat in three starts but Santini will be much better served by a return to less gluepot conditions, with his victory over Black Op at Cheltenham in January remaining a top-drawer performance.
DIESE DES BIEFFES
(Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle)
His fifth to Nicky Henderson stablemate William Henry in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in January entitled Diese Des Bieffes to be in the mix and so it proved as he occupied the same position after flattening the last flight.
A dual winner in novice company on good ground in November, the five-year-old has already come a long way this season.