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.
EYECATCHERS FROM AYR'S WESTERN MEETING
Richard Fahey’s lightly-campaigned three-year-old, running in the famous Bill Gredley silks, won a Novice Stakes over a mile at Thirsk on good to soft before finding Storting too hot to handle at Pontefract 15 days later.
The extra two furlongs here suited this daughter of Sea The Stars and she made quite an impression on handicap debut.
Paul Hanagan was in no rush from his very wide draw and Eva Maria had quite a bit on her plate racing off the home bend.
However, she made steady progress on the outside and gradually pegged back enterprisingly-ridden Ladies First.
The first-time blinkers worn by Iron Mike when getting off the mark at Musselburgh 13 days earlier were retained and he stepped up again, finding only another three-year-old, Dreams And Visions, too strong in the closing stages of this 1m 5f contest.
There’s not much of a run before the first bend looms large at this distance and Joe Fanning did marvellously to get across from stall 17, taking up a stalking position.
Iron Mike went to the front shortly after passing the three-furlong pole and had his rivals in trouble before the winner appeared on the scene.
Well-backed winner Morisco was a portent of even better things to come for William Hill Ayr Gold Cup-winning trainer Tom Dascombe and stable jockey Richard Kingscote, but runner-up Arch Moon didn’t go down without a fight.
The Michael Dods-trained colt showed promise on debut at Ripon in mid-August (fourth) and his local owners had something to cheer about as the front pair pulled four lengths clear of the third.
Arch Moon should certainly pay his way when sent handicapping.
Dark Defender won three times at Ayr for Keith Dalgleish so it was no real surprise to see him outrun his 40-1 odds for Rebecca Bastiman.
The six-year-old was berthed on the unfavoured stands’ side and never got a whiff of winner Music Society.
Held up, he stayed on to finish third in his group and tenth overall, beaten less than four lengths, and Dark Defender is the type to pop up in a big-field sprint when there is a little juice underfoot.
The Richard Hughes stable is emerging from a spell in the doldrums and Gold Filigree boasts plenty of excellent form on the all-weather, which may be her preferred route this winter.
Barbarella broke smartly from a high draw and Sam James had her front until swallowed up two out, eventually trailing home in ninth spot behind 20-1 local winner Aberama Gold.
Kevin Ryan’s filly registered placed efforts at Leicester and Thirsk earlier in the season on softer ground and Barbarella isn’t one to write off when returned to less competitive company, especially if given some slack from the assessor.
Although Be Proud was 3lb out of the handicap he was sent off joint favourite with Karl Burke’s winner Power Play and punters got it right as the market leaders fought out a tight finish.
This was the third time this season Be Proud has lost out in photo finishes in Scotland and he had every chance to go past when brought with what appeared a winning run by Paddy Mathers.
Jim Goldie does well at Newcastle and Be Proud will no doubt be heading over the border this autumn/winter.
Returning from a 71-day absence, Louie De Palma showed all his customary early dash under Hector Crouch, leading the far side group before finding no extra when headed over a furlong out.
Clive Cox’s seven-year-old missed out on a place (sixth) and considering he won on soft at Ascot back in May, the Indian summer heatwave presumably wasn’t what connections wanted to discover when hitting the Ayrshire coast.
A wet autumn could see him in an even better light, possibly back at Ascot.
Wise Counsel had more than two lengths to spare over Angel Alexander when winning his maiden at Haydock last September and didn’t look badly treated in this 7f handicap based on his Sandown success in June.
Wise Counsel seems to have a preference for yielding ground and may not be finished for the season just yet.
Keith Dalgleish kept Bye Bye Euro close to home for her handicap debut and for a 50-1 outsider she shaped well in fourth behind Sir Mark Prescott’s favourite Tell Me All.
Bye Bye Euro, running in Stuart Morrison’s distinctive red sleeves/cap, yellow and light blue checks, was 3lb ‘wrong’ and this performance offers encouragement for the future.