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.
ROYAL ASCOT 2019 EYECATCHERS
(Coventry Stakes, 18 June)
Aidan O’Brien’s Arizona stuck his neck out to reward favourite backers but his stable companion Fort Myers deserves plaudits for sticking to his task manfully racing on the other side of the track.
Fort Myers is an imposing individual and this was another stepping stone on the back of his solid second to Temple Of Heaven in a three-way blanket finish at Newbury last month.
(Queen Mary Stakes, 19 June)
The early vibes indicate that this was a tip-top renewal of this fillies’ Group 2, with Raffle Prize edging out trans-Atlantic speedball Kimari.
Closing in third spot was Christophe Soumillon on Final Song, well fancied on the back of her five lengths debut success over course and distance last month.
(Royal Hunt Cup, 19 June)
John Gosden’s gelding feels right at home in these big-field handicaps on a straight course, having run well in last year’s Britannia (sixth) before performing with credit in the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket later in the season.
Often a sloppy starter, Stylehunter probably blew his chance at the start, forfeiting several lengths. Rab Havlin gave his mount time to find his feet before making a positive move two furlongs out.
Stylehunter then found trouble, switching twice to find clear daylight, before rattling home to grab fourth spot behind Afaak.
Stylehunter was an emphatic winner at Goodwood last August over an extended 1m 1f (often goes well returning from a break) and proved he could handle testing conditions on this first encounter with soft ground.
(Windsor Castle Stakes, 19 June)
High numbers dominated the finish, the first three emerging from stalls 24, 22 and 23, so Summer Sands deserves a mention in despatches for his running-on sixth from a single-figure berth.
Richard Fahey’s colt had beaten off a useful rival in Oh Purple Reign to land Beverley’s Two Year Old Trophy just 13 days earlier and he clearly possess talent.
(King George V Stakes, 20 June)
Pipped by Headman on his previous start in the London Gold Cup at Newbury, a handicap that always produces future winners, Sinjaari was all the rage, despite misgivings about his very wide draw.
In the event, the William Haggas-trained colt was given an eccentric, bold, extravagant, bizarre (take your pick, or all four) ride by James Doyle as he took a left turn as the stalls opened.
Racing all on his lonesome, Sinjaari forfeited many lengths and he was running on fumes when the race developed in earnest.
Eighth spot was a respectable effort under the circumstances and he remains one to follow.
The race was a personal triumph for Aidan O’Brien and hats off (toppers, of course) to the master of Ballydoyle for saddling the first three home in this red-hot handicap.
(Britannia Stakes, 20 June)
Another inmate of the William Haggas finishing school, Awe had the talented services of Aussie rider Kerrin McEvoy, a most welcome visitor to these shores as he deputises for Godolphin’s sidelined William Buick.
McEvoy found his mount drawn on the wrong side of the straight course as Frankie Dettori, chasing a jaw-dropping five-timer, whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a masterful front-running ride on Turgenev up the stands’ rail.
Harry Bentley was the ultimate party-pooper when he powered Biometric to victory, with Awe staying on into fourth.
The first three were drawn 29, 22, 18 (and the fifth 31), so Awe gets a pat on the back coming from stall five.
Although raised 6lb for his previous success at Newmarket on much quicker ground, Awe can win again.
(Hampton Court Stakes, 20 June)
Silvestre De Sousa will have had better days at the office as Fox Chairman found plenty of trouble.
Whether he would have caught Sangarius with a smooth passage is a mute point, as the winner stayed on strongly, despite pulling hard in the early stages.
The form of Fox Chairman’s third to Circus Maximus in the Dee Stakes at Chester received a huge boost earlier in the week when the winner followed-up in the St James’s Palace Stakes, so all eyes will be on the Andrew Balding-trained colt’s next assignment, possibly the Princess of Wales’s Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket’s July Festival.
(Sandringham Stakes, 21 June)
Hayley Turner grabbed the headlines with her victory on Thanks Be in this 27-runner fillies’ handicap down the straight course, continuing the feel-good factor generated by Frankie Dettori and ably supported by some outstanding equine performances.
Spanish Aria didn’t pull up any trees back in tenth, with Nicky Mackay burying his mount in the pack before making some late headway.
A winner at Chelmsford City in November, Spanish Aria is by no means one of John Gosden’s stable stars, but she remains capable of picking up a less fever-pitched handicap this season.
(Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes, 21 June)
With heavyweights Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori slugging it out in a breathless finish to this 1m 4f handicap, it was understandable that Fujaira Prince’s close third to Baghdad and Ben Vrackie might have been overlooked.
Roger Varian’s five-year-old was messed about at various stages, coming on and off the bridle as Andrea Atzeni tried to hold his handy early slot.
Fujaira Prince had no more to offer in the final 100 yards but he is lightly-raced for his age, boasting a 50 per cent strike-rate from six career starts, and there is more to come.
(Jersey Stakes, 22 June)
Well-supported on the strength of his comfortable victory over Wadilsafa at York (soft) only eight days earlier, Happy Power dropped away tamely having gone forward from his exposed position in stall one.
He wasn’t knocked about in seventh behind Space Traveller on this much quicker ground and the son of Dark Angel isn’t one to lose faith in, especially when returned to a yielding surface.
(Wokingham Handicap, 22 June)
It proved a frustrating week for Yorkshire trainer David Barron, as Clon Coulis was beaten a nose by Afaak in the Royal Hunt Cup, with fancied stablemate Kynren also running a cracker in fifth from a bad draw.
With the track drying out, Gunmetal was expected to go close in the Wokingham, having made all to land the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon (good to firm) last August, and he fared best of the horses drawn in single figures, finishing sixth to impressive favourite Cape Byron.
Gunmetal posted a fine fourth to rejuvenated Duke Of Firenze in the William Hill Sprint at York in May and there could be another big sprint in him this season.
(Wokingham Handicap, 22 June)
With the Keith Dalgleish yard banging in the winners up north, Soldier’s Minute was fancied to make a bold show.
As it transpired, Soldier’s Minute, a general 16-1 shot overnight, drifted to 40-1 on Betfair at the off, suggesting something might have been amiss.
His berth in stall 29 was certainly of no assistance, with the action unfolding down the centre of the track, and Soldier’s Minute had looked so impressive on his previous start when scoring by three lengths at York, that he deserves another chance, especially when the market reacts more positively.