Alex Hammond blog and tips ahead of Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York

Alex Hammond looks ahead to York next week
Alex Hammond looks ahead to York next week

King Of Comedy is fancied to down Crystal Ocean at York next week - check out Alex Hammond's latest blog including Shergar Cup reflections.

Hayley Turner and the Rest of the World team were the headline-makers at the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup – what were your highlights?

It’s funny because the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup continues to come in for plenty of criticism from racing purists, but I don’t understand why.

You only have to look at some of the response it gets on social media to gauge what a section of racing fans think of the star-studded event.

The six race card is ultra-competitive with all 10 runners in each race incredibly closely matched. As a result there are some great punting opportunities and there shouldn't be any complaints about the standard of riding.

Ascot’s executives work incredibly hard to assemble a world-class squad of jockeys, but despite that, Luke Harvey and myself agreed when we were chatting on Sky Sports Racing beforehand that the Rest of the World team may struggle against the riders with a huge amount of experience of the Berkshire track and the British style of racing.

How wrong we were! Not only were we made to eat our words, but the Rest of the World were comfortable winners of the whole event thanks to wins from Aussie Mark Zahra, Hong Kong’s rising star Vincent Ho and placed efforts from Japanese rider Yuga Kawada.

It was the first time I've worked on the broadcast of this fun and entertaining event and my highlights were numerous. The overall atmosphere (despite the windy weather which claimed the post-race concert) was buzzing and it was hard not to get swept up in it all.

Hayley Turner is without doubt the flag-bearer for the Shergar Cup and her infectious enthusiasm is marvellous to see. She (once again) made history by becoming the first rider to win back-to-back Silver Saddles thanks to her two winners.

Her whole family were there to witness it and that was another reflection of the feel that Ascot have achieved, with families enjoying a day out together.

You won’t be surprised to know the win of Indianapolis in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Challenge was up there as my favourite moment of the day. The horse is trained in Lincolnshire by James Given and was given a beautifully-timed ride by Mark Zahra, but for once it wasn’t all about the trainer and jockey.

There was an unusual sight in the winners' enclosure as owners Alex and Olwyn Owen were joined by Tizzy the golden retriever, who is assistance dog to Olwyn who lives with MS.

Olwyn uses a wheelchair as she is unable to walk and by all accounts Tizzy, who is from the charity Dogs For Good (https://www.dogsforgood.org/), helps her in many daily chores, including putting washing in and out of the machine, fetching the telephone and collecting the mail. It made the victory even more emotional.

For traditionalists, I’m sure the razzmatazz of the day isn’t their cup of tea, but everything in life is about embracing change and this event has it spot on in my opinion.

Indianapolis swoops late at Ascot
Indianapolis swoops late at Ascot

How impressed were you with Siskin’s win in the Phoenix Stakes?

Siskin is a gorgeous colt and came through a tough test with merit to maintain his unbeaten record in Friday’s Group One.

It was well documented by his trainer Ger Lyons that the rain that had fallen at the Curragh was a huge disadvantage to the turn of foot this colt has got and as a result he had to dig deep to beat Monarch Of Egypt, whom he had dispatched easily on his previous start in the Railway Stakes.

It was good to see the tenacity he showed though and that will have taught him plenty.

It's still early days with regards next season, which is what I said about Godolphin’s star juvenile, Pinatubo, in a previous blog and there could still be something to come out of the woodwork before the season is out.

I wouldn’t be rushing to back anything for the Guineas just yet, but if I were his trainer I’d be thrilled to have a colt of this magnitude in my care, where really anything is possible and I’d be dreaming of classic success in a quiet moment. He’s 8/1 second-favourite with Sky Bet for next year’s 2000 Guineas.

Any early fancies for next week’s Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival?

It’s still early days, but horses I’m looking forward to seeing (win hopefully) are Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks, King Of Comedy in the Juddmonte International and Battaash in the Nunthorpe, although it might not be as simple as that.

Enable shouldn’t have any problems landing the odds, but it’s not about that with her. Racegoers will flock to the Knavesmire to see her have her final outing on British soil and hopefully it will be a special day.

Crystal Ocean is favourite for the Juddmonte International, but has a tough task with John Gosden’s King Of Comedy a serious obstacle to overcome. He was last seen separating Circus Maximus and Too Darn Hot in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, staying on all the way to the line, so the step up to a mile and a quarter should suit.

He’s held in some regard by his trainer and according to Gosden is going the right way. At 3/1 with Sky Bet, I’d be happy enough to take Crystal Ocean on after his hard race in the King George.

Battaash is an enigmatic horse who has yet to show his best form at York.

However, Charlie Hills’ star sprinter has a chance to redeem himself in the Nunthorpe and he truly seems a reformed character nowadays.

Three year-old Ten Sovereigns has got the hang of sprinting and will be a tough opponent, but the horse I'm most looking forward to seeing take the favourite on is A'Ali.

Two year-olds get a very generous weight allowance off their elders in this race and as Lyric Fantasy and Kingsgate Native have proven, juveniles can beat the older horses in this event.

A’Ali will carry 24lbs less than Ten Sovereigns and 26lbs less than Battaash and that could be enough to see Simon Crisford’s Norfolk Stakes and Prix Robert Papin winner take this Group One. He’s 7/1 with Sky Bet for the five furlong contest.


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