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.
DOCTOR BARTOLO IS ONE TO KEEP ONSIDE WITH CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL NEARING
WHAT’S THE STORY
(Newcastle, 21 February)
Never out of the money in six starts for Keith Dalgleish, punters shovelled on the cash in expectation of a winning return to action. What’s The Story hammered a 20-strong field on his final start last turf season at Doncaster (soft) in November, resulting in an 8lb rise, but he travelled strongly before Straight Right delivered a knockout blow. What’s The Story appears destined for another successful year at this specialist 7f trip.
(Warwick, 23 February)
Following two near misses, Doctor Bartolo got off the mark in this juvenile hurdle, steadily drawing clear of ex-French stablemate Jaboticaba. A dual scorer on the Flat for Charlie Hills, Doctor Bartolo looks the type to bag a nice prize when sent handicapping by Alan King, with the Fred Winter Juvenile at Cheltenham surely under consideration.
(Lingfield, 23 February)
Adam Kirby couldn’t breach a wall of horses in front of him racing off the home bend and allowed Alfred Hutchinson to coast home in 10th place in this messy 7f handicap won by Eljaddaaf. Alfred Hutchinson has dropped to an attractive mark and a repeat of his course second to Goring on New Year’s eve off the same official rating (90) will make him competitive in future events granted a clearer passage.
OFF THE HOOK
(Newcastle, 24 February)
Has found one too good in three races this year but it can only be a matter of time before she snaps this frustrating sequence. Lucy Alexander was closing down useful winner Raised On Grazeon when a heart-stopping blunder at the penultimate obstacle put paid to Off The Hook’s chances. The mare looks a handicap snip up north.
(Chepstow, 24 February)
Has been something of a disappointment since arriving from France, but David Pipe’s gelding showed up well in this 3m handicap hurdle. Poker Play couldn’t go with principals Carnspindle and Sainte Ladylime from two out where an error put paid to his chances. Poker Play, only a five-year-old, has time on his side.
INN THE BULL
(Wolverhampton, 26 February)
Made light work of a 7lb rise incurred for a previous course victory over the longer 1m 6f trip. Martin Harley was happy to bide his time on Inn The Bull before nudging his mount into contention on the home bend.
He didn’t need to over-exert himself as Inn The Bull pulled readily clear of another in-form rival, Reckless Wave. Inn The Bull has benefited for the switch to Tapeta following some modest efforts on deep ground this winter over hurdles.
The five-year-old, a winner on good to firm at Ludlow earlier in his career, is well handicapped in that sphere and Alan King has the option of going hurdling again once the ground has dried up. Meanwhile, Inn The Bull could well defy the assessor once again on the all-weather.