Alex Hammond blog: Racing League and Shergar Cup a welcome change of pace as team spirit comes to the fore

Week two of the Racing League takes place at Doncaster on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Racing from 5pm; Saturday sees the return of the Shergar Cup at Ascot; watch the Shergar Cup live on Sky Sports Racing on Saturday from 12.15pm

Alex Hammond blog

It's a big few days for team events in the world of racing and Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond looks ahead to the Shergar Cup and latest round in the Racing League.

Most things in life revolve around teams, whether that's among your family, your place of work, or even among our friends and social groups. Our hobbies also consist of teams, particularly if you're an enthusiastic follower of sport.

However, horseracing doesn't historically fit into that structure, albeit trainers, staff and jockeys all work together as a team of sorts.

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There have been team competitions and very successful ones at that. This weekend, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup returns after Covid put paid to the competition last year and it has a welcome familiar feel to it.

Hayley Turner is back for more and there is no greater supporter of Ascot's unique fixture than Britain's ground-breaking female rider.

Who are the Shergar Cup teams?

Great Britain - Cieren Fallon, James Doyle and Adam Kirby

Ireland - David Egan, Tadhg O'Shea and Joe Fanning

Ladies - Hayley Turner, Mickaelle Michel and Nicola Currie

Rest of the World - Sean Levey, Kevin Stott and Andrea Atzeni

There has been much said recently that racing isn't a team sport, but this competition is going strong having first been run in 1999 at Goodwood, before switching to Ascot a year later.

The idea behind the Shergar Cup was to create something akin to the popular Ryder Cup in golf and, for anyone that has attended in the past, or watched on TV, you'll know that it's a fun and engaging day.

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Mickaelle Michel has ridden winners all over the world, becoming a global superstar at just 26-years-old, and is now set to make a 'dream' debut at Ascot in the Shergar Cup on Saturday

It can be a bit of a lottery for punters with horses being allocated jockeys and some that have never ridden at the track before. However, the riders that take part are world-class athletes with experience from around the globe, so it adds to the intrigue and excitement to see unfamiliar faces riding.

The concept is simple. It's a jockey's competition made up of four teams - Great Britain, Ireland, Rest of the World, and The Ladies - who battle it out over six races, with points awarded to the first five home in each race.

The team with the most points wins the overall prize. There's also a prize for the leading rider and Hayley Turner has been the recipient of the "Alastair Haggis Silver Saddle" for the last two runnings.

Early Shergar Cup eye-catchers

So, it promises to be fun and engaging, but which horses are fancied to win? Well, declarations are yet to be made, but I'm hoping to see the following in action.

Race 1 - Mountain Peak (5/1 with Sky Bet). Trainer Ed Walker has strong claims of top and tailing this card and Mountain Peak comes into this in good form having won a competitive five-furlong handicap at this track last month. Previous winners Tis Marvellous and Stone Of Destiny are obvious dangers.

Race 2 - Speedo Boy (8/1 with Sky Bet). Another recent Ascot winner. He has a 4lb rise to overcome if he's to win this competitive staying handicap and whilst it's been a long time between drinks for him, he goes well here and should run well at an each-way price.

Speedo Boy could return to Ascot after winning at the track last month
Image: Speedo Boy could return to Ascot after winning at the track last month

Race 3 - Colony Queen (7/1 with Sky Bet). Trainer John Mackie is in superb form presently and so is this mare who has won her last 3 races since joining her new handler. She has won almost half of the races she has run in and is exceptionally versatile.

Race 4 - Dashing Roger (6/1 with Sky Bet) with the proviso that Anythingtoday (9/1 with Sky Bet) is on my shortlist if he gets into the race. Dashing Roger won't mind if the forecast rain arrives and whilst he's creeping up the handicap, there could be more still to come. Anythingtoday won on his debut for trainer George Boughey and has won off higher marks than this in the past.

Dashing Roger (left), ridden by Harry Bentley, wins at Yarmouth
Image: Dashing Roger (left), ridden by Harry Bentley, wins at Yarmouth

Race 5 - Possible Man (7/1 with Sky Bet). Got his head back in front when teaming up with the excellent David Probert at Nottingham last time out and in good hands to progress further. Sir Michael Stoute's colt tries this trip for the first time.

The other King Power owned runner, Star Calibre (13/2) is one to watch also as a drop back to 12 furlongs should help him settle better after being keen over 2 miles last time out. He's got plenty of potential.

Race 6 - Popmaster (9/2 with Sky Bet). Finally got his head back in front at Doncaster a week ago and if he comes out of that well, this is the plan. That could just be the confidence booster he required to continue to progress. He could cap off a good day for in-form trainer Ed Walker.

Let's hope they give us something to shout about, and I'll see you bright and early at the track on Sky Sports Racing for all the build-up.

Onwards and upwards after Racing League's strong start

The Racing League is another team event that I'm lucky enough to experience first-hand after presenting on-track for week one at Newcastle last week.

Like all new concepts, it has met resistance and I'd be lying if I said I had no reservations about the concept at all. However, last week was huge fun and the vibe at the track was exceptionally enjoyable.

Racing League live on Sky Sports: How to follow

Racing League live on Sky Sports: How to follow

Watch every race of the Racing League live on Sky Sports from Thursday, July 29

Every jockey we spoke to on Sky Sports Racing was enthusiastic about the concept and whilst £50,000 a race is motivating for the riders, it was encouraging to hear them all say that they had spoken with their teammates in the run-up to the meeting and they felt there was a real buzz around the series.

That sort of enthusiasm rubs off and the arrival of Frankie Dettori at Doncaster should add to the razzmatazz.

It deserves a chance after the hard work that has been put in by the organisers and it's been encouraging to get plenty of positive feedback after the inaugural fixture.

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For those of you that haven't yet bought into the concept, then at the very least enjoy six uber-competitive races every meeting, with some smart handicappers taking their chance.

That is reason enough to tune in and I hope to hear from some of you after you have watched one of the Thursday evenings in our company to see what you think.

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