Alex Hammond's Racing Blog
Last Updated: 30/10/19 3:59pm
Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond is excited about the Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy being run at Newcastle on Friday.
The Vertem Futurity is switched to Newcastle on Friday. What do you make of the move - and more importantly who do you expect to win?
I think it's a really positive move for racing on many levels. The fact the Group One can be saved is marvellous news as it's been a fantastic guide to some of the best races the following season with subsequent 2000 Guineas winners Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia lifting the prize in 2017 and 2018 the most recent examples of that.
It's also thrown up winners of the Derby and St Leger in the past and I don't see its switch to the excellent Tapeta surface being a negative in that regard, the response from racing professionals has been very positive.
The switch to Newcastle means the prize fund remains at £200,000 which is a huge draw to owners and trainers and will ensure a top quality contest. I think it also paves the way for top level races to be staged on an artificial surface in the UK in the future.
Top level races are run on surfaces other than turf worldwide and with a track as well regarded as Newcastle at British racing's disposal, there's no reason that can't be the case in years to come. I love the atmosphere of racing under floodlights, it's a real spectacle and the north east crowd will be buzzing on Friday night.
So, who wins it? That's not so easy, but Aidan O'Brien's first string (whatever that will be) is sure to have outstanding claims. He looked to have the original race sewn up numerically and I doubt that will change massively in the rescheduled race.
However, when the entries were revealed on Monday it was less O'Brien top heavy with a few more trainers potentially pitching their juvenile colts into the race. If O'Brien runs Mogul (pictured) you feel the Galileo colt will be strongly fancied as his form is strong and he has a divine pedigree.
He's a full brother to Japan, Secret Gesture and Sir Isaac Newton and is a half-brother to an all-weather winner to boot. I'm interested to see that Ralph Beckett has added Kingman colt Kinross to the field.
He was impressive in winning on his debut at Newmarket at the beginning of October and has the option of the rescheduled Horris Hill, which was lost from Newbury's abandoned card at the weekend, but this prize could now be a tempting alternative.
Let's wait and see what's declared to run. You will be able to see the race live on Sky Sports Racing on a superb weekend of racing.
It's the Breeders' Cup this weekend - what are the best chances of a European victory?
Speaking of that superb weekend!
The Breeders' Cup has been described as the Ryder Cup of racing and it has a real feel of USA v the rest of the world. The European challenge is as strong as ever at Santa Anita. Sadly, Magical doesn't run as she has a slight temperature spike and Aidan O'Brien's wonder mare has now been retired.
There's still plenty to look forward to though and on Friday I like A'Ali in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. His win in the Norfolk at Royal Ascot got him a bye into the race and conditions will suit Simon Crisford's colt well.
Arizona's second place finish in the Dewhurst to Pinatubo puts him bang in contention for the Juvenile Turf, where the mile on this sharp track won't be an issue and he's more effective on faster ground than he experienced on a couple of his later starts too.
The Filly And Mare Turf has provided Europe with plenty of winners over the years and I hope 2019 will enhance the record. Ouija Board, Midday, Islington and Banks Hill are just a few that have beaten the American's on their home turf in the past.
Richard Hannon's Billesdon Brook is a classic winner and last year's 1000 Guineas heroine added another Group One to her tally in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket last time out. She clearly a class act, but will she stay the 10 furlongs? I think she will and she has a great chance.
John Gosden's Fanny Logan definitely stays and is improving. They give Britain a strong hand in the race.
Circus Maximus has a favourite's chance in the Mile. Fast ground is a bit of an unknown and I don't think he's received the credit he deserves this season given he's won two Group One races. Maybe he can crown his campaign with a win on this international stage?
Charlie Appleby's Old Persian is a serious rival to Bricks And Mortar in the Breeders' Cup Turf, despite Chad Brown's Arlington Million winner looking invincible of late. He's unproven at the mile and a half trip though and that's where the European's have the edge.
Mount Everest has the pedigree (Galileo/Six Perfections) if he can take the step up to the highest level, but Aidan O'Brien wouldn't pitch him in here without just cause, he may have to play second fiddle, though.
Cracking jumping action at Ascot and Wetherby on Saturday - what else catches your eye?
Quick change of code. There is some excellent jumping at both tracks, but focusing on Ascot first and Speredek should run well in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase. Nigel Hawke's eight-year-old has to go right handed and has some smart form at the Berkshire venue including a second place to Un De Sceaux in Grade One company.
His running style could help set it up for a horse that beat him over this course and distance 11 months ago though. Caid du Lin represents in-form trainer Richard Newland and he also has had the benefit of a run this season with a decent second placed effort at Chepstow recently. He's 6/1 with Sky Bet.
There's a fascinating runner in the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase. Vinndication looks to have been crying out for a step up to three miles and Kim Bailey's second season chaser looks to have much more to offer on what will be his first start in handicap company. He's two from two at this track and his trainer is flying at the moment. He's a 7/1 shot with Sky Bet.
Switching attention to Wetherby then and I can't wait to see La Bague Au Roi run in the Charlie Hall Chase. Sky Bet have her at 9/2 at the time of writing and that could be cracking value.
Warren Greatrex's mare is a force of nature and has won on her seasonal reappearance every season so far. She won the Grade One Kauto Star Novices' Chase last Christmas and it's to Kempton connections are heading again this season with a crack at the King George her first major target.
The track at Wetherby should suit well and it's a great place for them to start her off.