Alex Hammond: Keep the faith with Samcro after Down Royal defeat

Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's racing
Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's racing

Sky Sports News' Alex Hammond is happy to make excuses for Samcro while she reflects on the Breeders' Cup and looks ahead to the weekend.

A night of high drama at the Breeders’ Cup – how impressed were you with Enable and would you keep her in training next year?

It was magnificent to see Enable make history by becoming the first horse to go on to win a race at the Breeders’ Cup having won the Arc. It says much about her resilience and plenty about the skills of her trainer, John Gosden, who insists she hasn’t been at her best after injury woes earlier this year. As for Frankie, it seems life truly begins at 40, proving that age is no barrier to success if you want it enough. As for the second part of the question, I’m imagining that this is hypothetical, if in a parallel universe I was lucky enough to own Enable?! In which case, I would most likely retire her as she is now a commodity of considerable value. If I owned her I would now be concerned about the prospect that she could come to some harm and would be keen to send her packing to the breeding shed. If though, I were as wealthy as her actual owner, I may well be tempted to try and win a third Arc. My opinion as a racing fan is at complete odds with my previous comments. As a racing fan, I want Enable to stay in training, so that we can love her even more than we already do and the prospect of her heading to ParisLongchamp next October sends a shiver down my spine.

Expert Eye’s win in the Mile capped a fine year for Sir Michael Stoute – what have you made of his 2018 comeback?

Well it seems he’s got better and better as the season has progressed and it was lovely to see him reward the faith that his connections have had in him on Saturday night. His win in the Mile was particularly satisfying as the rain that hit Churchill Downs wasn’t ideal for him as a fast ground performer. It looked like he would be a world beater in the early part of his juvenile career, before he finished last in the Dewhurst on his final two year-old start. It doesn’t look like he’s been easy to manage with the stalls causing him an issue earlier on in his career and often running quite freely. I would imagine plenty of work will have gone into him at Stoute’s Freemason Lodge and that work has been paid back with this fabulous win. What a night it was at Churchill Downs for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm operation with these two magnificent home-bred winners.

It wasn’t to be for Roaring Lion in the Classic – but would he receive your vote for horse of the year?

Roaring Lion has been a real superstar for his owners this year, with five wins (four at the highest level), but I’m afraid I wasn’t surprised that he flopped in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was a marvellous horse in Europe on turf, but isn’t bred to handle dirt, which he didn’t and it’s a real shame he goes out on a low because he didn’t deserve to. It shouldn’t cloud your judgement when it comes to overall achievement this season and he showed when winning the QEII on QIPCO British Champions Day that he is as brave as he is talented. However, Enable is the reigning Cartier Horse Of The Year and in my heart, I’d like to see her top the table again, even if she hasn’t quite run up to the level that she showed last season.

Samcro met with a shock defeat at Down Royal – where now for him?

I am never one to write a horse off after one defeat and it’s worth bearing in mind this is the starting point of a long season. It’s also worth remembering that this was the fastest ground he has run on and proper winter ground will suit him much better. I agree he looked sluggish and one paced and maybe something will come to light that explains to his trainer Gordon Elliott why he wasn’t at his brilliant best, but in the meantime I’ll be taking the view that he needed the run and the ground wasn’t ideal. The Morgiana Hurdle was mentioned as his next target and until I’ve seen him run in that race in a couple of weeks at Punchestown, then I’ll keep the faith. He’s now Sky Bet’s 9/2 second favourite to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and maybe that will look like value in a few week’s time. You never want to see a good horse defeated, but it takes a bit of pressure and expectation off and I won’t be surprised to see him bounce back before too long.

Anything catch your eye this weekend?

I’m looking forward to seeing some smart jumpers in action this weekend and the Elite Hurdle could be an informative contest at Wincanton. Nicky Henderson trains two of the protagonists, Verdana Blue and We Have A Dream and Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits adds extra spice to the grade 2. I’m leaning towards We Have A Dream (7/2 with Sky Bet), although if the ground is really quick that will suit Verdana Blue who is the 7/4 favourite.

El Bandit could be an interesting runner if he lines up in the Badger Ales Trophy at the West Country track for Paul Nicholls. He hasn’t been sighted since May 2017, when he won on his chasing debut and he showed plenty of promise before his long layoff. He’s still only seven though and holds some interesting entries. At the likely prices I think the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Bigbadjohn looks each way value if he gets his favoured fast ground; he’s currently 8/1 with Sky Bet.

With regard underfoot conditions at Wincanton, at the time of writing (Wednesday) it was described as firm with rain around midweek, but not much before Saturday. Keep an eye on the forecast if you fancy getting involved.


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