Alex Hammond: Withhold wager!

Alex Hammond looks ahead to the upcoming action.
Image: Alex Hammond looks ahead to the upcoming action.

Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond reflects on Royal Ascot and looks ahead to this weekend's Northumberland Plate in her latest blog.

What was your most memorable moment of Royal Ascot 2019?

It was a real pleasure to be at Ascot with Sky Sports Racing for the Royal meeting. The team put so much into the broadcast to make it a success and we had huge fun along the way. There were so many memorable stories on the track that it's hard to narrow it down to just one. Like most people, the fabulous four-timer from Mr Ascot himself, Frankie Dettori, will live long in the memory. I spoke with Frankie the following day and he said he couldn't believe what was happening (or 'appening' as he puts it!) when the first three went in. Stradivarius was exceptionally tough for Frankie's fourth and I have to admit, I thought the horse was vulnerable, but he proved me wrong. The intense atmosphere when it momentarily looked like Frankie might make it five winners when Turgenev came tanking into the lead in the Britannia made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck; all in all a most wonderful day.

It wouldn't be fair not to include Hayley Turner's win on Thanks Be in the Sandringham as one of my most memorable moments too. It's 32 years since Gay Kelleway rode into the history books back in 1987 and until Friday she was still the only female to have ridden a Royal Ascot winner. It seemed fitting that it was Hayley that matched Gay's achievement as she has been a trailblazer in so many ways. Her infectious enthusiasm in an age when not all sports people show heartfelt emotion is a delight and no one deserved it more; well done Hayley.

Give us three Ascot horses you think it'll pay to follow wherever they turn up next.

Well regular readers of this blog will know I'm a big fan of Advertise and hopefully (like me) you backed in the Commonwealth Cup at around 16s. Another highlight from the meeting was the sprint double pulled off by Blue Point in the King's Stand and Diamond Jubilee, but with the Godolphin colt now retired to stud, the world is Advertise's oyster. I was at Windsor on Monday evening and his trainer Martyn Meade had another winner, which makes it four from eight for the Manton handler in the last two weeks. Meade has had to be patient and a voluntary near six week shut down of his yard has paid off with the horses firing on all cylinders again now. Advertise is an exciting young sprinter and there will be much more to come. He's Sky Bet's 4/1 favourite for the July Cup at Newmarket next month.

Japan is another buzz horse from the meeting. Aidan O'Brien's colt was an eye-catching third in the Derby at Epsom and he showed no ill effects of that effort when an impressive winner of the 'Ascot Derby' the King Edward VII Stakes. As you'd expect he has the best of pedigrees, but even by Coolmore standards, his is pretty special as a Galileo full brother to Oaks runner up Secret Gesture and another smart performer Sir Isaac Newton, with his dam a half-sister to Arc winner Sagamix. I hope we see him in the King George, for which he's a 6/1 shot with Sky Bet behind 9/4 favourite Enable.

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The third horse I'd like to take out of the meeting is Corgi, who finished fourth in the Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap on Friday. I liked the profile of Hughie Morrison's four year-old before the race and he ran a cracker to finish behind Baghdad, Ben Vrackie and Fujaira Prince. I thought, looking at the performance, that he may well find a bit more when stepped up to 1m 6f, so maybe something like the Sky Bet Ebor could be on his agenda, for which he is now a 16/1 shot with the big race sponsors.

What's the best bet in this weekend's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle?

I'm looking forward to heading up to Newcastle this weekend for the Northumberland Plate, or Pitman's Derby as it's known locally. There's been a gamble gathering pace in this two mile handicap on Gibbs Hill who is now Sky Bet's 9/2 favourite. His trainer Roger Varian is in outstanding form at the moment and is well capable of readying one after a long layoff. He'll have to mind you, as this horse hasn't been seen on a racecourse for almost two years! He has some smart form to his name though and is unexposed, so I can see why the gamble is gathering momentum. At that price though, I'm going to look elsewhere and I think it could be worth siding with another horse that is returning from a layoff. Withhold hasn't been seen since being beaten in Australia back in October when being prepared for the Melbourne Cup. Roger Charlton's six year old won this race last year in the easiest of manners, before being shipped Down Under, but unfortunately he bled in his prep race and their Cup dreams were over. He's been given plenty of time to get over that and he won the Northumberland Plate last year after a similar layoff. He has the small matter of an 8lb higher handicap mark to overcome, but I hope he has the improvement in him to do that. He's a more appealing 10/1 with Sky Bet to win Saturday's feature handicap.

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