Racing Expert & Columnist
Sky Sports News HQ's Alex Hammond's racing blog
Last Updated: 26/07/17 4:22pm
Sky Sports News HQ's Alex Hammond is nervous about taking on Highland Reel in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Who do you fancy to end up as leading trainer and jockey in the Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival and, more importantly, who takes top spot in the Tom O'Ryan Tipping Challenge? (current standings here)
For leading jockey, I'm going to go with Danny Tudhope as he's already off the mark and has a shed load of possible rides at the remaining meetings in the GRIYSF (is this a new acronym?).
He's Sky Bet's 6/1 joint third favourite and I think it's worth a punt at those odds. I guess that means I ought to also go with David O'Meara (7/1) to be leading trainer as the pair are a successful team, but Mark Johnston's horses are flying too and he has a lot of ammunition before the week is out. He's 5/2 second favourite to be leading trainer this week.
I'm also loath to leave out Mr Fahey (quite tempting at 4/1). The leading trainer honours look very tough to call, but some value to be had there for sure.
Right, onto the most important accolade; top tipster.
It would seem at the moment I'd struggle to tip my hat. So far I've had an each-way return courtesy of my good friend Jedd O'Keeffe (although I'm sure if he knew I'd tipped one of his horses he's have been horrified given my ability to get a horse beaten in a walkover at present).
Having said that, God loves a trier and I'm hoping my painstaking sharpening of my lucky pin will bear fruit before Sunday. I'm 8/1 and I'm going to keep the faith, despite being up against a clutch of esteemed colleagues and some of the finest trainers in the land. Maybe a collective noun for us all should be 'a desperation' of tipsters?! It certainly applies to me this week.
Magical Memory justified favouritism in the Hackwood last Saturday, but was he the most impressive winner of the weekend?
Magical Memory and Frankie Dettori are a match made in heaven. We weren't expecting to see Frankie back until Goodwood as he continued his rehabilitation from a broken shoulder, but as he said on the day, he misses riding winners and you can see why he was keen to ride Charlie Hills' grey sprinter at Newbury.
The five-year-old did well given the soft ground appeared to go against him, but he wasn't my most impressive winner of the weekend. I was kicking myself after the Steventon Stakes at Newbury. I've been a devout follower of What About Carlo, but ignored him on Saturday and paid the price. Eve Johnson-Houghton's six-year-old is very good on his day and he won with some authority.
He enjoys the soft ground and had plenty going for him in this Listed event on a track that seems to bring out the best in him. Providing he gets soft ground in the future he may be capable of nicking a little group race somewhere.
Who will emerge on top in another mouth-watering clash of the generations in this weekend's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes?
Well this will be an interesting conundrum if dual Oaks winner Enable gets the go-ahead from trainer John Gosden. Gosden has won this race with a three-year-old filly in the recent past, with Taghrooda three years ago, and this filly looks well capable of emulating her.
She gets a stone from the older colts and will handle whatever conditions she encounters at Ascot on Saturday. I'm really nervous about taking on Highland Reel though.
Last year's winner has been in imperious form this summer so far, adding two more Group One wins to the four he has already won.
He is as tough as they come and I think he could beat the filly despite the weight discrepancy. My one proviso is if the ground has soft in the description then play cautiously. Aidan O'Brien's globetrotter prefers his underfoot conditions to be on the faster side and I'm hoping that clerk of the course Chris Stickels is correct in forecasting good ground on Saturday.
Let's hope the weather gods are kind. If not it'll be Enable for me, so maybe wait and see what the weather has in store.
Where does the value lie in the hugely competitive Gigaset International Stakes on the same Ascot card?
Well, I'm not sure what you consider value, but if I backed a 6/1 winner I'd be happy (at the moment I'd be over the moon!).
I put up a few horses to follow after Royal Ascot and one of them runs in this. That horse is ante-post favourite Fastnet Tempest (turns out I wasn't the only one that spotted him!).
The beauty with this horse is he shouldn't mind if the ground remains on the easy side, or indeed if it dries up a bit. William Haggas' four-year-old ran well in the Hunt Cup, finishing ninth, despite meeting trouble in running at a crucial time.
He runs off the same handicap mark here as he did at Ascot and is a worthy favourite. The drop back to seven furlongs won't be an inconvenience either as he won the Victoria Cup over this course and distance. He has the added bonus of Ryan Moore in the saddle, with the former champ getting the leg-up for the first time.
One of the other runners Moore knows well is the Roger Charlton-trained Makzeem. He won on him two starts back and was on board when he was runner-up in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket's July meeting last time out.
If you think Moore is abandoning Roger Charlton's progressive handicapper, well you may be right, but it's worth bearing in mind he can't do the 8st 5lb the horse is set to carry. So, an easy decision and Silvestre de Sousa is 'jocked up' on the horse at this stage.
And what about the best bets at the fantastic Sky Bet-backed York meeting this Saturday?
Ah, the GRIYSF continues here and what a card we have to look forward to on the Knavesmire on Saturday.
The Sky Bet Dash should be a thrilling sprint with some smart and progressive horses entered for the six-furlong handicap. The one I like the look of here in a wide-open contest, very much falls into that category and it's Tim Easterby's Golden Apollo.
Easterby also has ante-post favourite Orion's Bow entered, but this horse looks to be an improving three-year-old with plenty of scope to do better still. At 14/1 he offers each-way value and I'd like to think he was capable of finishing in the first four (look out for extra place offers closer to the time).
The Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes looks like a classy affair with Autocratic heading the ante-post market for Sir Michael Stoute. There is rain forecast at York mid-week and if it amounts to anything significant then Success Days is one to keep on side. When he gets his conditions he's a classy performer and whilst he's smart in Group 3 company, he's yet to score at a higher level than that.
This could be his opportunity, but I can't stress enough how important some cut in the ground is for the Irish raider. He's a 13/2 shot with Sky Bet at the time of writing; if the heavens open this week he's bound to be shorter.
Another horse to keep an eye out for is Theydon Grey. I've got this horse on my radar as one to follow until he gets beaten and William Haggas has him entered up at Ascot on Friday in the Brown Jack Handicap and also in the Sky Bet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap at York on Saturday. Further ahead he's also in the Ebor for which he's currently 33/1 with Sky Bet. Haggas has his team at the top of their game at the moment.