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Alex Hammond previews racing meets at Leopardstown and Haydock

Alex Hammond Posted 7th June 2013 view comments

Last weekend we enjoyed the Derby at Epsom and there were certainly a few fingers burnt with the poor show from Dawn Approach.

Who knows what caused him to run so keenly, but it was a total disaster from the point of view of his connections and let's hope it hasn't left its mark; the slow early pace contributed to him unravelling so spectacularly, but for a horse who is normally so relaxed he blew it big time.

Salsify: Alex's tip for the Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters' Chase

Salsify: Alex's tip for the Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters' Chase

The good news is that if you read the blog last week, hopefully you will have backed Libertarian each way. I really fancied him to run a big race and with the news that he had galloped the 'wrong' way round Middleham's High Moor gallops I was even more confident of a bold show.

If he had been trained by any of the so-called leading players he would have been a much shorter price and I was amazed the Dante winner returned at such a generous SP. He now looks like being supplemented for the Irish Derby where he could meet the winner, Ruler of the World, again.

City Girl is lightly raced having only had the six starts and should be sharper for her reappearance at Newbury.

Alex Hammond
Quotes of the week

I'd be more interested to see him take the same horse on again in the St Leger, though. He is currently 5/1 second favourite behind Ruler of the World at 4s and over the extra couple of furlongs on a more conventional track I'd fancy him to reverse the placings.

Onto this weekend now and things are much more low key as we build up to Royal Ascot in a couple of weeks. There's a decent card at Leopardstown on Friday night, though, with the feature race the Listed Saval Beg Stakes over 1m 6f.

Aidan and Joseph O'Brien team up with one of the leading contenders, El Salvador, who like the Derby winner last weekend will wear cheekpieces, although in this horse's case not for the first time.

He has to put a disappointing run in the Vintage Crop Stakes behind him when he was beaten favourite and it will also be the first time he has encountered fast ground on turf, although he has won twice on the polytrack at Dundalk. He has a habit of sweating up badly before a race, but he has done that a couple of times and it doesn't seem to stop him.

Dermot Weld had Rite of Passage entered in the race, but he goes straight for the Ascot Gold Cup now in order to avoid a run on fast ground. Weld does have a chance of winning the race though with the filly Pale Mimosa. She hasn't run since October, but the trip should suit and the ground shouldn't be a problem either.

This will only be her fifth start and there could be much more to come from her. To date she has won two of her four starts including the Listed Galtres Stakes at York over a mile and a half. She's an exciting prospect and I hope she can win this en-route to better things.

Highest rated

There is another Listed race on the card, the King George V Cup for three-year-olds over 1m 3f. The O'Brien's team up with Count of Limonade who is highest rated in the field. One of his main dangers is Fighter Squadron who is in the same ownership of Magnier, Tabor and Smith, but this horse is trained by David Wachman.

The pair finished third and fourth in that order in a Group 3 at the Curragh last time out and the one to take out of that race was probably Fighter Squadron who looked like this step up to 1m 3f would suit.

Dibayani was second in that race but the step up to this trip didn't necessarily look like it would be ideal as he ran a bit freely that day. I'm going to side with Fighter Squadron to beat those two this time.

There is also a Listed race at Haydock, the Achilles Stakes over five furlongs. Excelette is bidding to win the race for the second year in succession for Bryan Smart and she should run well once again.

Joey Barton owns My Propeller but she made no impression in the Palace House last time out and will need to produce more with Ryan Moore riding for the first time.

Medicean Man is the highest rated by some way for trainer Jeremy Gask. He won a handicap in Dubai back in January and has run well here in the past. He has been off since March and I'm not sure fast ground is what he wants.

Robert Cowell is the trainer to go to with sprinters and his Jiroft merits plenty of respect. He made his debut for the trainer in the Dash at Epsom last weekend and wasn't disgraced finishing fifth and he could be sharper for that run as it was his first since September. He is a multiple winner in Italy and looks capable of winning in this grade once again.

Staying with Friday's action and for you jumps fans there's a top class Hunter Chase at Stratford, the Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters' Chase. It's probably fair to say that Salsify is one of the very best hunters around at the moment.

He was though a fortunate winner at the Cheltenham festival when left clear when Oscar Delta jinked 150 yards from the line. He has since followed up with another win at Punchestown and he looks set to do the same again here in a bid to repeat last year's victory. Chapoturgeon was resolute in winning at Newton Abbot last time out though and he can continue to progress in this grade.


Let's take a look at Saturday's action now and at Haydock the Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes is one of the highlights. There are some interesting runners in this mile and a half race which is restricted to fillies and mares.

I quite like the former Mark Johnston trained Prussian, who is now with Saeed Bin Suroor. She is a tough filly who ran well in Meydan at the World Cup Carnival behind Sajjhaa and her stable have been amongst the winners of late.

I think it's a tough race to call with a runner from Germany, Nymphea, who can go well if proving as effective on faster ground. Marco Botti has a former Italian trained runner too in Souviens Toi, who ran well at Goodwood over 1m 4f on her debut for the trainer. Given it's such an open race it may be worth chancing her at the likely prices.

Also at Haydock and the Group 3 Jury Stakes (registered as the John Of Gaunt Stakes) has attracted a decent field. This seven-furlong trip suits some horses really well and there are a few in this race that will suit the distance.

They include Eton Forever who showed his wellbeing by winning on his reappearance over this course and distance. My one worry about him is the ground though as he seems to be most effective when there is some cut in it.

Last year's winner Pastoral Player also lines up. He's a quirky individual, but he ran an encouraging race behind Eton Forever last time out. Amarillo is another runner sent over from Peter Schiergen's stable in Germany.

He maybe better suited to a mile though and again fast ground is an unknown. Libranno will love the trip but is vulnerable under a penalty. On his day he could win this though and the drop back in trip should suit.

Red Jazz isn't the most consistent, but conditions suit him. If Eton Forever handles the ground he should go very well but there is that doubt in my mind. Libranno can run well despite the penalty and at the likely prices I may give him a chance, albeit an each way chance, if the price allows.


The Cecil Frail Stakes is another race worth a second look. It's a Listed contest for fillies over six furlongs. Gracia Directa is another German runner and comes here in good form with a second in Group 3 company at Munich last time out. She won the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York last July, again though that came on softish ground.

City Girl is only a three-year-old taking on older fillies and that can be a tough ask at this time of year (although it is getting easier all the time). She hails from the Oaks-winning stable of Ralph Beckett and I think she can continue his great run of form here.

She is still lightly raced having only had the six starts and should be sharper for her reappearance at Newbury over this trip last time out. She handles faster ground too and is still on the upgrade.

Finally, I think Richard Hannon can win the Sandy Lane Stakes with Professor. He won a seven furlong handicap at Ascot last time out off a mark of 98 and takes the step back up into listed company here.

The drop back to six furlongs in this shouldn't be a problem as he seems quite versatile and he runs here en-route to Royal Ascot where he is being aimed at one of the handicaps.


Libertarian in the St Leger @ 5/1 with Sky Bet

Pale Mimosa in the Saval Beg Stakes

Fighter Squadron in the King George V Cup

Jiroft in the Achilles Stakes

Salsify in the Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters' Chase

Souviens Toi in the Pinnacle Stakes

Libranno in the Jury Stakes (each way)

City Girl in the Cecil Frail Stakes

Professor in the Sandy Lane Stakes

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