Racing Expert & Columnist
Alex Hammond's blog: Have some Swagger at Haydock!
Last Updated: 09/06/17 12:50pm
Our very own racing expert Alex Hammond gives her verdict on the Derby and offers some tips for this weekend's action.
So what did you make of the Investec Derby? Can Wings Of Eagles uphold the form with Cracksman in the Irish version if they meet at the Curragh?
Well it was certainly an exciting race, but it perhaps wasn't a great one. The fact is that one of the horses who looked to have the very most to find on the formbook won the most famous race in Flat racing and his starting price of 40/1 confirms that.
I was a Cracksman backer and at one point thought he might be able to do it, but he flattened out to finish third behind the Aidan O'Brien duo, Wings Of Eagles and Cliffs Of Moher.
With hindsight, Cracksman ran a good race on what was just his third start and his first at this level, in fact his first in Group-race company. John Gosden's son of Frankel is some way off being the finished article and the run should have made a man of him. It wasn't ideal that he was unable to run in the Dante (ground conditions) as that might just have added the spit and polish required. With all that in mind, I don't suppose Gosden and Dettori will be losing any sleep over taking on any of Saturday's runners again.
I thought it was remarkable to see Cliffs Of Moher run so well given the state he got himself into beforehand. He was throwing himself around and in a muck sweat as he approached the stalls, but it didn't stop him in the race. It's something to watch in future as it could just be him, but that was at the worst end of sweating up, even considering the electric atmosphere at Epsom.
It's not often you see a fairytale result in the Derby. In this day and age the main protagonists are usually to the fore, but this result threw up its own feel good story with Padraig Beggy winning the race on his first ride in the blue riband. Not only that, but Beggy isn't seen a great deal 'in anger' on a racecourse, but seems a laid-back chap who took it all in his stride. He was certainly engaging and in the immediate aftermath will have gained himself a few fans when ITV's Oli Bell interviewed him on pulling up.
Sky Bet's odds compilers are of the same opinion as me about which horse might ultimately turn out to be the best as they have Cracksman as their 9/4 favourite for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, ahead of Wings Of Eagles at 5/2.
Enable has been given a BHA rating of 122 following her Oaks win. Does that make her capable of 'doing a Taghrooda' and beating the colts in the King George?
Enable has a good chance of beating the boys in future as her Oaks performance was impressive. Her winning time was only marginally slower than that of Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup and that of Wings Of Eagles, but throw into the mix the disgusting weather conditions that the Oaks was run in and I think that makes her effort all the more impressive.
I might be wrong, but the colts don't look a vintage bunch, and the girls are looking strong across the board. Given the fillies' allowances in races like the King George, then that gives her a good chance of being very competitive.
As a three year-old filly she would get over a stone from older male horses, so the 6/1 currently on offer with Sky Bet may not look bad value come mid-July. There are some very smart older horses that could line up at Ascot, but are they good enough to give all that weight away? We'll see.
What else did you take from the Epsom meeting? Highland Reel defied a less than ideal journey to the track before landing the Coronation Cup for one...
Yes, it certainly wasn't ideal for Highland Reel. For anyone that didn't watch Friday's racing, the O'Brien contingent were grounded in Ireland thanks to a faulty aircraft and arrived at Epsom at the eleventh hour, much later than you would like for any horse, let alone in these circumstances at such a prestigious meeting.
As it happens, I don't think it really had a major affect upon Highland Reel who won, or Rhododendron who ran a great race to be runner-up in the Oaks.
Highland Reel is a hardened pro and takes all the travelling in his stride. He deserves to be 7/2 favourite to win a second King George and may head to Royal Ascot, before that for the Hardwicke for which he's 3/1 favourite with Sky Bet, a race he was only beaten a head in last year. He's an admirable horse - one you would always want on your team.
John Gosden also had another notable winner at Epsom in the shape of Laugh Aloud who won for the beleagured Godolphin team in Saturday's Princess Elizabeth Stakes. She's really smart and is now 2/1 favourite for the Duke Of Cambridge at Royal Ascot. She looks to be even better as a four year old and could have a very good year in the capable hands of John Gosden.
Brametot pulled a cheeky win out of the fire in the French Derby. How big a player is he likely to be in races like the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?
Nerve-wracking stuff if you are a supporter of Brametot as he has an awkward tendency to fluff his lines at the start and come fast and late. I'd suggest if you back him in future and are of a nervous tendency, to catch up on his races via a replay, rather than watch them live; he's not good for the blood pressure!
Talented he is though and he's with a master trainer in Jean-Claude Rouget, who called his dual Classic-winning colt a superstar after the Prix Du Jockey-Club on Sunday, saying he was amongst the great champions he has trained.
He took the step up to 10 and a half furlongs in his stride and I'd imagine the 12 furlongs of the Arc would be within his compass too as there is stamina on the dam's side of his pedigree and his running style suggests he'll stay.
He's now 8/1 second favourite for the Arc, but it will be intesting to see where he goes before then as he's versatile tripwise, which gives his trainer plenty of options.
I think he still has a bit to prove before we can hail him a potential Arc winner, but he's going the right way (if you can say that about a horse that has won a French Guineas and Derby?) and I'm looking forward to watching him (maybe on Sky+!) over the next few months.
Plenty of racing action around the country this weekend. Anything you're really looking forward to and what's your best bet?
We don't have any action of the quality of last weekend to look forward, but there is still plenty of competitive fare to get stuck in to.
The Liverpool Gin Handicap at Chester looks an open event, but I'll be keeping an eye on the draw handed to Richard Fahey's Starlight Romance in that one. If she is drawn favourably (low) then must have a good chance of winning her second race of the season.
She won on reappearance at Beverley when she hadn't come in her coat (meaning she was not particularly forward looking, which can be the case with fillies in the spring as they are reluctant to shed their winter coats). She then didn't get the clearest of passages in a decent York handicap at the Dante meeting and looks to be on the upgrade. She also seems at home on most ground and at 7/1 looks a fair bet in the seven-and-a-half furlong contest; just don't forget to check the draw after declarations are made though if you fancy her as a wide stalls position can really scupper a horse's chance at Chester.
At Haydock, the John Of Gaunt Stakes looks competitive. Home Of The Brave won the race last year and is back for more. The seven-furlong trip is his optimum and if he's in the same form that saw him win on his reappearance at Leicester in April, he's the one the rest have to catch.
However, with plenty of rain forecast in the area before Saturday it might be worth finding something to take the antepost favourite on with. With that in mind it might be worth taking a chance on Mitchum Swagger, who relishes significant cut in the ground. This is an easier task than the one he faced in the Lockinge last time out and seven furlongs or a mile seems to come the same to him. He hasn't won for some time, but this could be a good opportunity; he's 7/1 now with Sky Bet having already come in for some support.
Another horse I'll be watching with interest is Lord Yeats if he runs in the John Sunley Memorial at Newmarket on Saturday. Jedd O'Keeffe is based on the edge of the stunning training centre of Middleham and is a very capable trainer. He looks to have another nice horse on his hands here.
As the four year-old's name suggests, he is by brilliant stayer Yeats and this will be his first start over a mile and three quarters, which looks sure to bring out more improvement in him. He has already won two races for the O'Keeffes from just eight starts since joining their yard and if there is some cut in the ground he will take all the beating. He's currently 6/1 second favourite in an open-looking handicap and I think there will be more to come from this likeable horse this season.
As you can see then, no Classic races this weekend, but plenty to look forward to. Have a great one and lucky punting!