Racing Expert & Columnist
Alex Hammond's racing blog
Last Updated: 06/07/17 1:24pm
Sky Sports News HQ presenter Alex Hammond is looking forward to seeing a couple of her favourites in action at Sandown.
What did you make of the Irish Derby and which horse, if any, would you take out of the race for the rest of the season?
It's a shame that Wings Of Eagles suffered serious injury in the race which sees him retire to stud as a bit of a one hit wonder. Still, that hit came in the Derby and from Coolmore's perspective it's job done. He fractured a bone in the back of his leg and ran a gallant race in defeat in the circumstances. He never really had a chance to show us what else he was capable of, but I'm sure there would have been other days in the sun for the son of another Derby winner in Pour Moi and he will have his share of decent mares, although you suspect he will be more attractive to the jumping market than top class flat mares.
Aidan O'Brien may not have done the Derby double with him, but he won the race nonetheless with Capri who didn't look in love with the track at Epsom when five places behind his 40/1 winning stablemate. The Curragh brought out the best in Capri as did a well-judged ride from Seamie Heffernan. It was a tough performance from the colt who looks like he will stay the Leger trip and I'm sure that must be on his agenda in September. He's now 5/1 joint favourite alongside Irish Derby runner up Cracksman with Sky Bet.
I will not lose faith with John Gosden's son of Frankel. He was my pick for the Irish classic and ran another solid race in defeat. It's worth remembering that his run on Saturday was still just his fourth and physically he looks like the type of horse that will progress for another winter on his back. Mentally he will be improving with each run too and of the first two home, I'll be with Cracksman (once again) in the Leger if he goes there.
What other performance most impressed you from the three days of the Irish Derby Festival?
It's not very original, but Beckford looks the real deal for Gordon Elliott. Ireland's leading jumps trainer is proving he can turn his hand at training anything and this juvenile was his first winner in that age category. It was good to see the colt back up his debut win at the Curragh on his step up in class at the same venue in Saturday's Railway Stakes and he can go on from that and take another step up in grade into Group 1 company, possibly in the Phoenix Stakes back at the Curragh next month.
Aidan O'Brien has already won the Coral-Eclipse on five occasions, will that be six by Saturday evening?
As you all know by now I'm a huge fan of Barney Roy and can't wait to see Richard Hannon's colt stepped up to a mile and a quarter in Saturday's big race. Aidan O'Brien's Derby runner up Cliffs Of Moher is Sky Bet's 2/1 favourite, but I'd be keener on the 7/2 on offer about the recent St James's Palace Stakes winner. Barney Roy's pedigree doesn't scream stamina, but he runs as if 10 furlongs is well within his capabilities and as Hannon said this week, he has the temperament to stay as he is relaxed and doesn't pull in his races.
Cliffs Of Moher drops in trip, but should get the race run to suit with Ballydoyle having four other horses entered. Eminent is in the bad books after unshipping his regular work rider earlier this week, but that is hopefully just a sign of his wellbeing and not a quirk of his nature (as a son of Frankel you wouldn't be surprised if he was highly strung). To be fair to him he hasn't done anything wrong so far and I suspect the trip will suit him perfectly too. He will be ridden by the man in form, Silvestre de Sousa for the first time.
It looks like it's going to be hard for the older horses to beat a smart bunch of three year olds, but Decorated Knight hails from the in-form yard of Roger Charlton and he ran a cracker to be second to Highland Reel in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. In the context of this race I think he's the best of the older brigade. Ulysses was only a short head behind him at Ascot and is another horse I really like, but he was fading that day after running too freely. Jim Crowley gets the opportunity to shine on him here having lost the ride on Eminent for some reason.
Unless we get a cloud burst before Saturday then the ground will probably be too fast for Jack Hobbs. So, it's Barney Roy once again for me with Decorated Knight my next best.
That's the highlight on a cracking card at Sandown but does anything else take your eye on the undercard?
The big question for me is, do I give up on Goldream or not? He's 7/1 with Sky Bet for the Coral Charge, but has to step up from his 10th place finish in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot. Muthmir was 4th that day and ran a good race, but if Goldream chooses to put his best foot forward he would be a real threat to the protagonists. Does that sound like someone chasing losses?! Hopefully the thundery showers that are threatening in the week will miss Sandown and he gets the fast ground he loves.
There's also plenty to enjoy at Haydock where the focus is on the Old Newton Cup and Lancashire Oaks. Has either race tempted you into the ante-post markets?
Sir Michael Stoute has a couple of interesting runners at Haydock on Saturday. Abingdon is ante post favourite for the Lancashire Oaks (5/2) and Shraaoh has been well backed to win the Old Newton Cup (now 3/1 favourite with Sky Bet). It would be a boost for Abingdon's breeding career to bag a Group 2 and she showed she was as well as ever when kicking off her season with an easy win in a listed race at Pontefract last month. She looks well up to winning a group race and this could be a good opportunity. She holds a couple of Group 1 entries later this season and will be popular on for Saturday's mile and a half contest. One of her rivals could be Bateel, who is now trained in France but won over this course and distance last time out beating Ajman Princess (3rd). The suspicion is the soft ground suited Bateel better that day and Roger Varian's filly may reverse those placings. There may not be enough rain around to make it soft enough for the French raider.
The Old Newton Cup is typically competitive, although as I mentioned Shraaoh has been well backed. He was also well backed to win a handicap at the Derby meeting at Epsom, but didn't look entirely comfortable there and has a chance to make amends back on a more conventional track. Charlie Appleby's horses appear to have gone slightly off the boil, but Kidmenever should go well if he can emulate his 3rd place finish in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot. The ground was fast there and Haydock's 'good' ground should be more suitable.
With the favourite's price looking a bit skinny now I'm more inclined to find a bit of each way value and Blakeney Point appeals to me for his in-form stable. Roger Charlton's 4 year old is 14/1 with Sky Bet and looks to be decent each way value if the drop back to a mile and a half doesn't inconvenience him too much. Whilst his mark of 95 may seem a bit steep, he has some smart form earlier in the season which looks good in the context of this race. He won the Queen's Prize over 2 miles on the all-weather at Kempton beating none other than the subsequent Northumberland Plate winner Higher Power; and he did that easily. Higher Power has progressed since then, but it's solid nonetheless. He was able to dictate things from the front at Kempton and although he has since disappointed in the Chester Cup, he ran better at Goodwood last time out in May and should come here a fresh horse. Draw depending, he could make this the stamina test he requires.