Alex Hammond looks back on the Good Friday action from Lingfield and gives her thoughts on the upcoming Investec Derby trials.
What were your main take-outs following an eventful Good Friday AW Championships at Lingfield?
All Weather Finals Day felt like a real end of season celebration and those involved with its creation will have felt very satisfied with how this day has grown over the six years since its inception. This winter season we have been treated to the sight of some high quality horses running on the all-weather, in what seemed previously like a bit of a filler between the end of the turf and the start of the next flat season. As for Finals Day itself, my personal highlight was the awesome performance of Kachy in the Sprint. It’s not often a horse takes your breath away, but when we were watching the race live from the track, us hardened racing professionals were blown away by the speed in which he hit top gear and was soon three lengths clear of the field. No track records were broken this time, but that’s because tactically his trainer Tom Dascombe and jockey Richard Kingscote decided to burn the rest off from the front and having run so hard early he had every reason to be unable to sustain such a furious pace. He just pulverised them.
I’m excited to see what they do with him now as he should be able to carry what he has achieved forward to the turf season. He had a wind operation in early September and that seems to have given him the extra couple of per cent required to be brilliant, rather than just very good. One thing seems certain, British racegoers will be getting the benefit of owner Dave Lowe being reluctant to send his star sprinter abroad and Sky Sports Racing Viewers will be able to see him strutting his stuff at Royal Ascot in either the Kings Stand Stakes over 5 furlongs or the Diamond Jubilee over 6 furlongs. He is currently 12/1 with Sky Bet for both races.
The other equine performance that was visually impressive was Matterhorn’s win in the Easter Classic. Wissahickon looked almost unbeatable after a quality all-weather campaign that saw him win three races, including the Winter Derby, but Frankie Dettori never looked as comfortable on John Gosden’s colt for whatever reason and the odds-on favourite had to settle for second behind the Mark Johnston-trained winner. Matterhorn took the honours for leading all-weather performer too and he has certainly made his mark having not seen a racecourse until October and now carries a rating of 115. All in all a brilliant day and there was a fizzing atmosphere at the racecourse too.
We’re getting into the Derby trials season and Friday’s Sandown card could throw up a clue – how do you see the ante post market for Epsom at this stage?
It’s still pretty early to be making a final judgement on the Epsom Classic with many trials still to be run, but I hope Sandown’s card on Friday might shed some light on the race. I was lucky enough to visit Andrew Balding’s magnificent Park House Stables in Kingsclere on Tuesday to film a feature which will soon be aired on Sky Sports Racing and we got to have a close look at many of the blue bloods he has in his care. Bangkok was one that took the eye and the King Power Racing owned colt is currently a massive 33/1 with Sky Bet for the Derby, but that will change significantly should he win the Classic Trial at Sandown. He’s 13/8 favourite to do so and you can see why. He was very impressive when winning his maiden at Doncaster, putting his winless juvenile season behind him and he seems like a real beast this year now he’s had time to mature. The form has been franked in the best possible way too, as runner-up Telecaster cruised home to win at Windsor recently to leave his trainer Hughie Morrison with classic aspirations for his lovely looking colt and the fourth has also won. I felt that the Balding’s are buzzing about this son of Australia and he’s one of many exciting prospects that they are looking forward to this season.
It’s the jumps season finale at on Saturday and we could be in for a cracker. Who have been your personal 2018/19 stars?
There have been so many wonderful stories this jumps season, but if I have to narrow it down then here are my personal heroes.
Tiger Roll – what a legend, in the truest sense of the word. He’s so versatile and engaging and I hope we see him bidding for stratospheric status with another Grand National bid next April. He’s 6/1 with Sky Bet to win it for a third time.
Paisley Park – not only is he a blooming’ good racehorse, but his relationship with his owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth, is touching and shows that animals have empathy for other species and almost a sixth sense. It’s hard to put into words how he reacts when his owner is feeding him polos and greeting him after a race, but suffice to say it brought a tear to my eye at Cheltenham when this wonderful animal ended his season with a win in the Stayers Hurdle. He’s 3/1 favourite to win it in 2020.
Lostintranslation - another horse I’m looking forward to seeing next season is the Colin Tizzard trained chaser. Regular followers of this blog will
know I’ve already backed him to win the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup (he’s now 16/1 with Sky Bet) and that decision looked justified when he beat RSA Chase winner Topofthegame when stepped up to 3 miles 1 furlong in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree. He was only ever going to come into his own over 3 miles plus and that performance, coupled with his runner-up finish to Defi Du Seuil in the JLT over an inadequate 2m4f marked him out as an exciting prospect for next season. I hope he can build on that and fulfil the expectations of his trainer.
The season isn’t quite over yet though and I hope Altior (another star of the season) can break the record set by Big Bucks’ and equalled by himself, of 18 consecutive wins over jumps, in Sandown’s Celebration Chase on Saturday. For any horse to win 19 races in a row is astonishing, but for a national hunt horse it’s even more of an achievement and he’s a credit to trainer Nicky Henderson and all his staff at his Seven Barrows yard.
The big race on Saturday is the Bet365 Gold Cup and I’m sweet on 8/1 second favourite Talkischeap providing there isn’t too much rain at Sandown. Alan King’s young chaser made his handicap debut at Kempton back in February, but was below par that day and if he gets his preferred ground, should be capable of bagging a decent prize off his current rating. He’s come in for plenty of support this week, so has ante post favourite Step Back, but he has to bounce back from a moderate effort in the Grand National where he pulled up having jumped markedly right-handed through the race. Talkischeap is the fresher horse of the two protagonists and for that reason I’m giving him the nod.