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.
SMART MARE CASABLANCA WILL BE IN THE MIX THIS SEASON
(Lingfield, 21 November)
Trainer Simon Dow has been going through a quiet spell but he will have been encouraged by Eminem’s third in this decent 1m 2f handicap.
His gelding settled on the shoulder of disappointing favourite Middle Kingdom and took his measure early in the straight before being overhauled at the furlong pole.
(Newcastle 24, November)
Jim Goldie is just one of many northern trainers who regard the all-weather track at Gosforth Park as something of a godsend through the winter months and Oriental Lilly may not be long in boosting the Scottish trainer's strike-rate.
Oriental Lilly, a daughter of Goldie's former stalwart Orientor and stablemate Eternal Instinct, has been placed five times in nine career starts and she belied her 40-1 odds in this 5f handicap, running on into third.
Winner Casterbridge clocked a smart time on the night and Oriental Lilly is worth watching, especially if Goldie's 'go-to' jockey Danny Tudhope is booked.
(Huntingdon, 25 November)
Nicky Henderson found Casablanca Mix the perfect opening and she had this mares' novices' chase in the bag when sent to the front off the home bend.
Ex-French recruit Casablanca Mix has acclimatised well and had put down a marker 20 days earlier when chasing home Willoughby Court over course and distance.
She is one to follow this season.
(Haydock, 25 November)
Ridden aggressively, Donald McCain's five-year-old had his field well strung out turning for home in the competitive Class 2 Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle.
However, the wheels came off before two out and Chti Balko eventually faded into fourth behind impressive Limited Reserve, not a bad performance considering he was conceding 15lb to the winner.
A dual scorer over two miles last season on soft ground, Chti Balko may have found this 2m 3f trip a shade too far.
(Wolverhampton, 25 November)
Formerly very useful for Saeed Bin Suroor, Tha'ir is now in the hands of Michael Appleby and his shrewd trainer will surely find an opening for him off a crumbling handicap mark.
The seven-year-old was dropped into a claimer here but had the misfortune to run into the heavily-supported General Hazard, plugging on in second without troubling the winner.
(Kempton, 27 November)
Travelled supremely well up with the pace in this 2m 4f handicap chase but his jumping went to pot in the closing stages as he blundered away a winning opportunity.
Volt Face hasn’t won in almost four years (sidelined for two seasons) but Charlie Longsdon’s gelding retains the ability to end that drought.