Alex Hammond: Play it Cooler

  • By: Alex Hammond
  • Last Updated: August 21 2014, 21:20 BST

Alex Hammond previews the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival and she has several fancies for her favourite Flat meeting.

Alex Hammond: Loves Ebor week!
Alex Hammond: Loves Ebor week!

My favourite Flat meeting takes place this week, the Ebor festival at York. I’m sure I’ve told this tale before, but many years ago I went to this meeting rather than picking up my A-Level results and sent my Dad to the school instead!

I think the day at the races was more beneficial (and memorable) and a more useful education. There are still three great days of racing to look forward to on the Knavesmire this week.

On Friday the highlight is the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes. Some of the best sprinters around line up for this five-furlong contest including the magnificent Sole Power who is looking to bag his second win in this sprint for his enthusiastic connections.

How things have changed since that day in 2010 when he won at 100/1! He won the King’s Stand under Friday’s jockey Richard Hughes at Royal Ascot last time and looks better than ever.

The weather forecast is changeable but it doesn’t look like they will get buckets of rain at York, so he should get his preferred fastish ground and if that’s the case will take plenty of beating.

Hot Streak is one of six three year olds in the race - his trainer Kevin Ryan saddles another of them in Astaire. It appears Hot Streak is at his best with some give in the ground and if it does rain significantly he is one to have on side.

Aidan O’Brien had a great start to the meeting with the performance of Australia in the Juddmonte International and he saddles Cougar Mountain who comes here having only run twice in his life. His latest start came in the July Cup no less where he ran a blinder to finish fifth, three lengths behind Slade Power and the return to a faster surface if he gets it should see some improvement.

He drops to five furlongs for the first time but seems versatile regards to trip.

Take Cover has emerged as one of this season’s sprinting talents and he gave trainer David Griffiths his first group winner when taking the King George Stakes at Goodwood last time out. He’s seven years old, but lightly raced for his age and he is unbeaten at York. He has to come into calculations.

I’m sticking with Sole Power, but aside from Eddie Lynam’s horse it looks pretty open and Take Cover could run into a place.

The Weatherby’s Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup looks fascinating with the rejuvenated Godolphi- owned Cavalryman the likely market leader having won his last two outings and Estimate bidding to put a disappointing run in the Goodwood Cup won by Cavalryman behind her on this more conventional track.

I like the Irish raider Pale Mimosa though who represents Dermot Weld. It looks like she has been trained with an Autumn campaign in mind. She does prefer Autumn ground, but safe good to firm ground seems to be okay for her too as Weld walked the track before allowing her to run at Leopardstown last time out when it was described as such.

She had the option of running in the Ebor but comes here instead and could be targeted at the Melbourne Cup in November. There could be more to come from her and she’s a lovely mare.

Saturday is the final day of the meeting and we can look forward to the race that the meeting is named after, the Ebor Handicap, the most valuable flat handicap in Europe.

The Sir Mark Prescott-trained Pallasator has been all the rage for this mile and three quarter handicap since winning at Ascot last time out which means he now carries a 4lb penalty on Saturday.

He has since been bought into by Qatar Racing and the fact he is trained by the master at laying one out for a big handicap has got the bookies running scared.

This big horse has been given time to mature and is definitely with the right trainer for that and if his Irish St Leger entry is anything to go by he is obviously expected to do better still.

The only negative is his price, which in a race like the Ebor seems short enough even given his credentials. He takes a bit of knowing and his new owners have kept Luke Morris on board.

If you’re on already well done. If not, I’d just be watching now. Havana Cooler is another of the protagonists. I have to admit to not having a great deal of luck when following Luca Cumani’s horses, but this horse has an obvious chance if he gets in.

The maximum field size is 20 and this horse is number 26 on the list. He was just beaten by Van Percy at Glorious Goodwood with Andrew Balding’s Van Percy now penalised to the tune of 4lb for that win and that gives Havana Cooler the edge for me.

Let’s hope he gets in as Cumani has made a good start to the week with the win of Postponed in the Great Voltigeur and his horses are in good form.

Mighty Yar (24 on the list), and at a bigger price, Retirement Plan (22 on the list), give Lady Cecil a fair chance of winning this handicap.

The latter finished behind Pallasator on his penultimate run over 1m 4f but stepped up when tried over 2 miles in the Shergar Cup last time when winning. He has a 4lb penalty to carry which aids his chances of getting a run on Saturday. He shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the drop in trip. Mighty Yar stumbled leaving the stalls last time and was only beaten half a length.

It would be great to see Peter Niven saddle the winner, he is responsible for Clever Cookie who will be ridden by Graham Lee. Clever Cookie has won three times on the flat and each time Lee was the man doing the steering and this horse would be a popular winner.

Lee wasn’t riding when the horse was beaten here last time out in the John Smith’s Cup, but he still ran well and was staying on at the finish. The step back up in trip could see a bit more improvement.

Another trainer who would be a popular winner of this is adopted Yorkshireman Richard Fahey. His Angel Gabrial was unlucky in the Chester Cup when beaten half a length into second and has since beaten his conqueror that day, Suegioo, in the Northumberland Plate.

Connections had a crack at Group company with him last time in the Goodwood Cup, but he should be more at home back in handicap company and he is blessed with that turn of foot that will make him dangerous.

The Marco Botti-trained De Rigeur beat Pallasator at Haydock on his last start in the Old Newton Cup (1m 4f). He was raised for that win and could still have something in hand of the handicapper.

He wouldn’t want the ground too quick though.

Bold Sniper looks to have the assistance of Ryan Moore. Sir Michael Stoute trains the gelding for the Queen. Bold Sniper was third in the John Smith’s Cup having been sent off favourite and this is his first try beyond a mile and a half.

Wadi Al Hattawi is guaranteed a run as he is 20 on the list. Saeed bin Suroor’s charge wasn’t beaten too far in 7th in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot having not had the clearest of passages. He usually wears some form of headgear.

Despite my comments about my luck following Cumani-trained horses I’m going with Havana Cooler who looks like a big prize isn’t far from his grasp; let’s hope for a change of luck! If for any reason he misses the cut I’ll be on Clever Cookie.

Selections with Sky Bet:

Friday

Sole Power in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at 3/1

Pale Mimosa in the Lonsdale Cup at 3/1

Saturday

Havana Cooler in the Ebor Handicap at 10/1