Racing Expert & Columnist
Alex Hammond Blog: Tips for weekend's action including the Racing Post Trophy
Last Updated: 26/10/17 3:42pm
Alex Hammond reflects on QIPCO Champions Day and looks ahead to the weekend's racing in her latest blog.
A three-pronged starter after the news that Cracksman is rated higher than Enable after his brilliant win on Champions Day. Is that worthy? Who wins when they meet? Should connections have let both run in the Arc?
The first part of this question is difficult to answer because both horses are exceptional and it's a tough call to separate them.
Enable has kept on pulling it out of the bag with each start this season, sweeping aside numerous top-class horses, culminating with that magnificent Arc performance. Cracksman has been more of a slow burner, getting better with each run as he gradually grew into his frame and matured, both physically and mentally.
I was lucky enough to be at Ascot on Champions Day and Cracksman's win in the Champion Stakes was very reminiscent of his sire, Frankel's win in the same race. On that occasion five years ago, I cheered loudly and unashamedly and was incredibly moved to see such a brilliant horse in the flesh.
I felt the same emotion last weekend, with the hairs on the back of my neck prickling as he powered clear under Mr Ascot (Frankie) and once again welling up at his show of brilliance.
I've been a fan of Cracksman since his win in the Derby Trial at Epsom in the spring, but back at Epsom in the real thing, he didn't look the finished article. Despite that he ran superb races in both the Derby and Irish Derby.
He's been campaigned intelligently by John Gosden who didn't fancy a head-to-head with stablemate Enable at Chantilly, instead keeping him slightly below the top level this autumn before giving racing fans a real treat by sending him to Ascot.
I don't have to decide the ratings thankfully, so I'll leave that to the experts, but if they think he is worthy of being rated more highly than Enable, I'm not going to argue.
As for who comes out on top should they meet next year, I have a sneaky feeling that another winter on Cracksman's back will make him a formidable force in 2018. Gosden will have plenty of fun over the winter months plotting campaigns for both and I don't expect they will meet regularly. When they do, at this stage, I'm with Cracksman, we'll see. Enable is slightly shorter in the market for both the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Arc with Sky Bet.
To the third part of this question, I'm comfortable with the fact they didn't meet in the Arc this year. There is plenty of time for that to happen and both go into winter quarters with exceptional race records.
Away from the feature, what was your highlight - punting or otherwise - on QIPCO Champions Day?
The less said about the punting the better as I only collected winnings thanks to Accidental Agent's fourth place in the closing handicap. I'm not sure why I didn't back Cracksman! So, I think it is probably the win of Order Of St George in the opening Champion Long Distance Cup, I didn't back him as I thought he was too short, but on reflection, a winner's a winner.
I love 'Cup' horses and to reel in Torcedor and get up for what looked an unlikely victory at one stage was a sight to behold. It ensured Champions Day got off to a cracking start for Aidan O'Brien, who went on to equal the achievement of Bobby Frankel with his 25th top level success of the year with Hydrangea in the Fillies And Mares.
O'Brien is now one away from making history and has several lined up for the Racing Post Trophy. Which of the Ballydoyle battalion gets your vote at this stage or are you taking them on?
I'm going strong on Saxon Warrior to etch his name in the record books as O'Brien's history making winner.
He won the Beresford on unsuitably soft ground and looked mightily impressive that day. So, he's already proven at the trip and hopefully the ground won't be too testing at Doncaster on Saturday as connections feel he will improve for better ground than he experienced at Naas last time out.
He's 7/4 to win this weekend's race and 10/1 for the Derby with Sky Bet if antepost betting is your thing.
The horse I'm most worried about spoiling the O'Brien party is Jim Bolger's Verbal Dexterity (4/1 third favourite). He beat Gordon Elliott's smart juvenile Beckford last time out in the National Stakes and won't mind if the ground gets any softer.
Switching codes, Cheltenham returns this weekend. Which horse(s) are you most looking forward to seeing in action?
This is my favourite time of year. I love when the Cheltenham meetings start again as I know it's time to dust off the tweed!
There are some seriously good horses entered to run at Cheltenham and the horse I'm most looking forward to seeing in action on Saturday is Defi Du Seuil.
Trainer Philip Hobbs has him entered in the four-year-old Masterson Holdings Hurdle and he should take a race like that in his stride. He won all seven of his starts since joining Hobbs from France, culminating with wins in the big Grade 1 juvenile hurdle races, the Triumph at Cheltenham and the Aintree equivalent.
It's often hard for horses to take the step up into open company after successful juvenile campaigns, but I hope this horse can make the transition and give the established older hurdles something to think about this season.
Sticking with the Hobbs team and Robbin'Hannon looks like a horse to follow this season. He's entered in the novice hurdle, but the plan is to run here and then go chasing, a sphere in which he is expected to excel, particularly over three miles on soft ground.
And then on Sunday we have Aintree to look forward to. Do you have one for us for the Old Roan Chase?
From Cheltenham to Aintree, what a weekend for jumps fans! There are some real old favourites in this two and a half mile Grade 2 limited handicap chase.
God's Own, Teafortwo, Bristol De Mai, Smad Place, Third Intention and Cloudy Dream to name but a few of the entries for horses we know and love.
However, I'm a big fan of Shantou Village and I hope trainer Neil Mulholland chooses to kick off his season here. He seems to thrive when he runs fresh and could be set for a very good campaign.
He's only seven years old and has won four of his five starts over fences, so there should be much more to come. He enjoys decent ground, so wouldn't want it to get soft, but I'll be following his progress closely with the hope he progresses into a top-class chaser. He's 7/1 with Sky Bet for Sunday's contest.