Racing Expert & Columnist
Alex Hammond Blog
Last Updated: 22/05/19 10:11am
Sky Sports Racing host Alex Hammond looks ahead to a potentially informative card at Sandown on Thursday evening, with Matterhorn of definite interest.
With the Derby Trials done and dusted, how do you see the Blue Riband shaping up with less than two weeks to go?
Well, I was lucky enough to be at Chester for the May Festival and was blown away by the performance of Sir Dragonet in the Chester Vase; but then again, I think his connections were too!
It's quite telling that Aidan O'Brien trains a raft of colts that hold an entry for the Derby, including many that aren't going to be good enough to run there, but still have a berth in the Classic in the weeks and months beforehand.
This boy was one of the few that didn't have an entry and they are now left with the dilemma of whether to fork out £85,000 to put him in the race at this late stage (not quite pocket change for the Coolmore gang, but not as significant as it is for others).
He won almost £57,000 at Chester, so that softens the blow, and whilst his powerful owners are incredibly wealthy, it's still a commercial operation and that has to be taken into consideration.
O'Brien said at Epsom's Breakfast With The Stars morning this week, that the Derby is the "Holy Grail" for 'the lads' and it seems they will be reaching into the coffers to stick this improving colt into the race.
That's great news and I'll be thrilled if he takes on the challenge. He's Sky Bet's 100/30 favourite and deservedly so, but I don't think I'll be chancing him at that price, certainly if the ground comes up quick at Epsom.
There are a couple at bigger odds I'm keen on at this stage. Madhmoon is a colt I've always liked and at 14/1 he offers each-way value. The 2000 Guineas has in the past been considered one of the best Derby trials (fourth in the Guineas, first in the Derby as the old saying goes) and this boy did well to finish fourth at Newmarket despite racing up the middle of the track.
I can see why the Andrew Balding team are getting excited about Bangkok after he won Sandown's Classic Trial and the step up to a mile and a half should hold no fears for this son of Derby winner Australia. He's 9/1 with Sky Bet and is also tempting.
I was at Doncaster when he beat Telecaster and the latter could also make his mark if supplemented for the race. I'd love to see Hughie Morrison's colt at Epsom after he took Too Darn Hot's unbeaten record off him in winning the Dante.
Whilst the £85,000 may be more of a consideration for Telecaster's owners, it's money in the bag as he picked up over £93,000 for his York win. It's shaping up to be a real cracker and I can't wait.
Too Darn Hot couldn't keep hold of his unbeaten record then, but is now a surprise possible for Saturday's Irish 2000 Guineas. Will we see last year's leading juvenile back on top?
I hope so and I think it's a sporting move if connections do send him to the Curragh this weekend just nine days after his belated reappearance in the Dante.
Trainer John Gosden has said he's a colt that likes to be kept busy and he's entitled to come on for his York run after meeting the setback with his splint bone before the 2000 Guineas.
Frankie Dettori said straight away after his defeat that he's an out-and-out miler and this race could fit in nicely before the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in the middle of next month.
His pedigree suggests he will stay further, so it will be interesting to see what route they take later in the season. I often think that when an unbeaten record falls, it takes the pressure off and allows connections to be a bit bolder in their approach to campaigning these top-class horses, so let's hope that's the case with this chap.
He's Sky Bet's 6/4 second-favourite this weekend, behind 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia who is even money favourite.
Sandown host one of the most prestigious evening meetings of the season on Thursday, what do you fancy there?
The feature race is the Group Three Brigadier Gerard and there are a couple of fascinating runners.
The most interesting I think is Matterhorn, the leading all-weather performer this winter. The runaway Easter Classic winner didn't get the rub of the green in the Huxley Stakes at Chester, finishing second to Forest Ranger, and Mark Johnston's colt should have much more to offer having only started his racing career in October.
Sir Michael Stoute can do little wrong at present mind you and he has Regal Reality in this mile and a quarter contest. He finished a decent third to Beat The Bank at Sandown on his reappearance over a mile and the step up in trip should suit. He's another potential improver.
The horse I'm most looking forward to seeing though is Sagaro Stakes winner Dee Ex Beein the Henry II Stakes.
Mark Johnston's colt showed that he's an exciting prospect in the stayers' division with his impressive Ascot victory at the beginning of this month and he should continue his progression in this two mile Group Three.
He's 10/1 with Sky Bet for the Ascot Gold Cup at the Royal meeting and whilst he'll have some smart horses to beat there, including Stradivarius, he has plenty of potential in this sphere.