Alex Hammond blog: Search For A Song could be value against returning champion Stradivarius

Stradivarius returns at the age of eight in Friday's Yorkshire Cup; Baaeed will bid to remain unbeaten in Saturday's Lockinge Stakes at Newbury; read Alex Hammond's blog every week on Sky Sports Racing

Image: Stradivarius returns at York on Friday in the Yorkshire Cup

Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond is taking on returning star stayer Stradivarius with an Irish contender in Friday's Yorkshire Cup on the Knavesmire.

The saying 'saving the best for last' looks appropriate when it comes to Derby trials this year.

When the news emerged that ante post favourite Luxembourg was going to miss the Epsom Classic with a slight setback, the race was thrown wide open.

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His trainer Aidan O'Brien continued to hold the strongest hand though with winners in most of the trials. However, the bandwagon moved on to York and the Dante was won in sensational style by the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown and a new protagonist sauntered to the top of the market.

Sauntered seems the right word to describe the manner of his victory. This was just his second start on a racecourse, and he showed the same professionalism at York as he did at Nottingham on his debut back in November.

He's an eye-catching horse. To anthropomorphise him for a moment, if he were human, you imagine he'd be a modest, understated, but stunningly handsome chap who isn't aware of the impact he has on others.

Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Richard Kingscote with Dante winner Desert Crown at York
Image: Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Richard Kingscote with Dante winner Desert Crown at York

There is an air of confidence about him, and he certainly turns heads. The bookies were impressed with the win too and in the immediate aftermath of the race Sky Bet went 2/1 about the unbeaten colt for the Cazoo Derby.

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There's a lot to like about him, just not his current price. With that in mind, one of the younger O'Brien clan will be hoping his colt can shine in the big race.

Donnacha O'Brien is responsible for 10/1 shot Piz Badile. He won the Ballysax at Leopardstown on his reappearance and that race last provided us with a Derby winner in 2016 when Harzand won it on the way to English and Irish Derby success.

Image: Baaeed returns in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury

Piz Badile showed real tenacity in winning the Ballysax, having to fight back after he was headed by runner-up Buckaroo, and it was encouraging to see that horse hack up in listed company since.

Desert Crown looks the ultimate professional and it was exciting to see a horse sparkle in a Derby trial, but at the prices I'm happy at this stage to be with Piz Badile. Let's forget about the Derby for now.

Brilliant Baaeed returns at Newbury

One of the established stars and one of the highest rated racehorses in the world returns to action at Newbury on Saturday. I'm getting a bit over-excited about the prospect of seeing Baaeed back on track.

The William Haggas-trained colt is unbeaten in all six of his starts and signed off last season with a sensational win on Champions Day at Ascot where he beat Palace Pier in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

When you consider he didn't set foot on a racecourse until June last year, his progress was breath-taking, and it looks like there could be even more improvement to come at the age of four.

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He's 4/9 favourite to win the Lockinge on Saturday and already is 10/11 to win the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. His pedigree would suggest that he will stay further than the mile trip he has raced over exclusively so far.

He has entries in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Coral Eclipse at Sandown over a mile and a quarter and it appears that he has the world at his feet at this stage of his career.

It would have been an easy option to pack him off to stud after his three-year-old season, but Shadwell Estate Company have taken the sporting option and we are lucky to see him race on in 2022.

London Gold Cup could throw up Group contender

Sticking with Newbury on Saturday and the BetVictor London Gold Cup is always an informative handicap, usually won by a future Group performer.

Roger Charlton has used this as a springboard in the past for some future stars including Headman and Time Test.

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I'm curious to see how La Pulga fares for Roger and son Harry. To all intents and purposes, it looks as if this gelding has something to prove, but at the prices, and given Sky Bet are paying 5 places, he could be one to keep on side.

He's the 20/1 outsider at the time of writing.

Taking on Stradivarius at York

Now, don't shoot me down in flames, but I'm opposing Stradivarius in Friday's Paddy Power Yorkshire Cup at York. He's a wonderful horse and what he has achieved over his long career has been remarkable, but can he keep it up at the magnificent age of eight?

His is a credit to the team at Clarehaven Stables as he has always looked quite the character and keeping a lid on him as a full horse [not castrated] takes some doing.

So, I'm taking him on in a race he has won twice before with Irish raider Search For A Song. She's no spring chicken herself at the age of six and it's fantastic to see her owners, Moyglare Stud Farm, letting her race on for another season.

Frankie Dettori performs his famous flying dismount from Stradivarius after winning the Doncaster Cup
Image: Frankie Dettori performs his famous flying dismount from Stradivarius after winning the Doncaster Cup

She's already a dual Group One winner so has nothing to prove. She was beaten by her younger brother Kyprios on return in the Vintage Crop Stakes and hopefully that run will have put her spot on for this assignment.

Incidentally, Kyprios runs on Friday evening in the Saval Beg at Leopardstown and will be a short price to win that.

Kyprios is 6/1 second favourite for the Ascot Gold Cup and he looks like a progressive and exciting stayer for Aidan O'Brien.

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