Alex Hammond racing blog ahead of Great St Wilfrid Handicap

Check out Alex Hammond's latest blog
Check out Alex Hammond's latest blog

Alex Hammond reflects on the Girls winning the Shergar Cup and Alpha Centauri's latest sensational performance in France.

The Girls team won the Shergar Cup at Ascot on Saturday – what was your highlight of the day?

Well, obviously I was delighted to see the Girls win and also for Hayley Turner to lift the Silver Saddle as leading rider, just pipping one of the world's best in Joao Moreira.

I think it proves that the standard of female jockeys in this country (and further afield) is exceptional and don’t forget, the Shergar Cup trio of Hayley, Josie Gordon and Hollie Doyle represented just a handful of the talented riders around at the moment.

The playing field really seems to be levelling and female riders are getting so many more opportunities to prove themselves. I was asked a year or two ago how long I thought it would take for females to compete on completely level terms with the males and thankfully it seems to be happening more quickly than I had hoped.

There is obviously still a long way to go for the split to be approaching 50/50, if it ever will, but it’s going well and global events like the Shergar Cup can only help the process.

British racing has recently released a 'Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan' of which one element is to promote initiatives to support female jockeys and to support academic analysis to see how female jockeys perform against their male counterparts. All steps in the right direction.

On another note, Andrew Balding had an incredible meeting with three winners and his Berkshire Blue looks like a horse to follow. His win in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Classic was only his fourth career start and he’s one for the notebook as there will be much more to come.

Joao Moreira strikes aboard Berkshire Blue
Joao Moreira strikes aboard Berkshire Blue

Alpha Centauri bossed proceedings in France 24 hours later, but how would you campaign her if she was yours?

Well, the exciting news that emerged this week is that she will stay in training as a four-year-old if all continues to go well with Jessie Harrington’s superstar filly.

So often we see talented Flat horses packed off to stud at the earliest opportunity and who can blame their owners as the risks of keeping such a valuable animal on the track are obvious.

However, she will continue to race, which is superb news.

She has become a miling sensation since the spring when winning the Irish 1000 Guineas at the end of May and adding three more Group 1s to her CV thereafter.

She has improved for the better ground and has such a marvellous laid back attitude. We know that she will be staying close to home for her next outing, back against her own sex, in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown next month.

Where then after that? Well, it seems all roads will lead to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs in early November and we know she handles her overseas travelling well.

She has already proven she is the best in Europe, so the logical step is to head to America to be tested there.

Alpha Centauri is out on her own at Newmarket
Alpha Centauri is out on her own in the miling division

Did the Group One win of Advertise at the Curragh set the pulse racing with his 3yo career in mind?

I’m not sure it set the pulse racing, but when a trainer is so bullish about a horse beforehand, it does make you take notice.

Martyn Meade was certainly confident in the run-up to the Phoenix Stakes and whilst the colt didn’t win doing handsprings, he won nonetheless and there is much to look forward to.

Meade knows how to recognise a smart horse as Eminent was pretty useful as a three-year-old and he feels Advertise would have been more impressive last weekend with a stronger pace at the Curragh.

Advertise will have a chance to prove himself again before his classic campaign next year with the Dewhurst on the agenda now for this son of Showcasing which will most likely be his final run of the year.

He’s now 14/1 with Sky Bet for the 2000 Guineas next spring with his Coventry conqueror Calyx 5/1 for the colt’s Classic.

Advertise (left) wins the July Stakes
Advertise (left) wins the July Stakes

Saturday’s Great St Wilfrid Handicap is a cracking sprint handicap to get stuck into. What are your thoughts on this year’s renewal?

Well, the fairy-tale winner would be Piper’s Note who has run well in this red hot handicap in the past, in fact he was second last year.

He adores Ripon with eight wins from 18 starts and this year has taken advantage of a sliding handicap rating with back to back wins over the same course and distance as Saturday’s six furlong contest.

He’s up 9lb for those brace of wins and is now back on 98, one pound lower than last year’s rating when he was beaten just ¾ length by Mattmu.

The eight-year-old comes here at the top of his game and I’m sure he’ll run a big race again for trainer Ruth Carr. He’s 8/1 second favourite with Sky Bet for this weekend’s race.

For something that could be a bit more value for each way punters, I’ll be looking at Gunmetal, a 16/1 shot. David Barron trains the horse nowadays and has guided him to a couple of wins since leaving Charlie Hills. He was bought by new connections at the Autumn Horses-in-Training Sales for 47,000 guineas last October and has already won more than half that cost back.

He ran in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood last time and is now 1lb lower and this race should be more his level. He has struck up a decent partnership with in form jockey Ben Curtis and I hope he can give us a good run for our money.

The Ebor Festival dominates next week’s schedule with four fabulous days at York – give us one to back ante post to pay for the week…

Well, the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap is worth a whopping £500,000 - £311,250 to the winner - which makes it uber competitive; just wait until next year when it’s worth £1m! One that stands out for me in Britain’s richest handicap is the Charlie Appleby trained Hamada (a 12/1 shot with the sponsors).

If he runs here, he will come here on a roll having notched up a hattrick of wins in a 1m 6f handicap at Newmarket last month for which he was raised 9lbs. That was his first try at the trip he will tackle a week on Saturday and there looked to be loads more to come given the manner of his most recent win. The Melbourne Cup is also an option for this lightly raced 4 year-old and I think 12/1 is a fair price if he lines up. It’s worth noting he is also in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury this weekend and I’d fancy him if he runs in that group 3 instead.

For more on York’s Ebor meeting with up to date selections, check out next week’s blog. In the meantime you can catch my daily selections at @skysportsAlexH on Twitter - here’s to a successful weekend.

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