Sky Sports News' Alex Hammond tackles the hot topics in the world of racing while looking ahead to Saturday's feature action at Ascot and Haydock.
The Solario Stakes at Sandown and the Curragh’s Round Tower Stakes threw up a couple of fine 2000 Guineas prospects within 10 minutes of each other on Saturday – which do you prefer for the first Classic of the 2019 campaign?
Of the pair - Too Darn Hot and Ten Sovereigns - you would have to say that what the former achieved in winning the Solario Stakes was by far superior to a win in an uncompetitive Round Tower Stakes with regards the 2000 Guineas. Both colts were visually impressive and are both exciting classic prospects for 2019, but the John Gosden-trained juvenile showed more in beating a decent field at Sandown. He is a true blue blood, being by top class stallion Dubawi out of top-class race-mare Dar Re Mi, that makes him a full-brother to proven group performers So Mi Dah and Lah Ti Dar (I hope you’re a fan of The Sound Of Music!). As a consequence he is now Sky Bet’s 6/1 favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas and I’m not sure I’d be put off at that price at this stage; I was really impressed. The absent Coventry winner Calyx is next best for the Guineas at 7/1 with Ten Sovereigns an 8/1 shot after his Curragh win on Saturday. Aidan O’Brien’s colt has plenty of untapped potential, but he has to prove he’s as good as Too Darn Hot. Both will have to step up again next time if they head into Group 1 company and that will tell us more about who is the superior at this stage, but for me it’s all about Too Darn Hot in the long run. They could well end up going different routes next season with Too Darn Hot looking like a potential Derby contender, whilst you’d have to wonder if Ten Sovereigns will end up having too much speed.
Is there any value to be had in opposing Harry Angel in this weekend’s 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock?
Cast your mind back to this race last year….the ground was heavy and supposedly all wrong for Harry Angel, there was doubt over his participation, but he stormed to victory, I think that’s when he really captured the public imagination. That was a ‘sit up and notice me’ performance and my word, it was hard to ignore. He then flopped at Ascot on Champions Day before a winter break, he returned with a win at York in May and then picked up an injury in the stalls at Royal Ascot. His record at the Berkshire track is relatively poor though and in his 10 race career he has been beaten five times; all at Ascot. Anyway, this isn’t being held at Ascot and I expect him to replicate his win of 12 months ago. He’s currently 5/4 favourite with Sky Bet and anything better than odds-on looks good to me. If that’s not your sort of price then David Elsworth’s Sir Dancealot (8/1) could be a danger as could James Garfield (13/2 second fav) after his narrow defeat in a Group One in France last time out. Let’s not be foolish enough to write off The Tin Man either, he’s 7s after his good run in the Prix Maurice De Gheest behind Polydream and James Garfield. Trainer Clive Cox says the Godolphin-owned favourite is in a good place and had a racecourse gallop at Kempton recently to sharpen him up after his slight injury setback. I’m a big Harry Angel fan and hope he shows us what he’s made of.
What do you want to see from Enable at Kempton to convince you she’s capable of going back-to-back in the Arc?
Well Enable has to beat Crystal Ocean really really easily given that she will get plenty of weight off the King George runner-up; 8lb in total. He has a 5lb penalty to carry thanks to his win in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and Enable is penalty free as she hasn’t run since her devastating win in last year’s Arc (she also gets a 3lb fillies weight concession to make it up to that 8lb). Of course you have to make the allowance that she hasn’t run since October, but even taking that into account, she needs to win here and it should be a nice starting point for her. It may not end up being the ‘racecourse gallop’ that John Gosden had envisaged for her with Crystal Ocean potentially in opposition, but if she’s beaten, there will be some long faces after this. She is currently 5/1 second favourite with Sky Bet for the Arc at ParisLongchamp on October 7.
What else catches your eye across this weekend’s entries?
Well, regular readers of this blog will know I’ve been a fan of Gilgamesh this season. He’s not the ideal horse to take under your wing as he runs in ultra-competitive seven furlong handicaps, which can be a nightmare. However, George Scott’s four-year-old will be reunited with Jamie Spencer in Ascot’s Cunard Handicap and that is a positive booking. Jamie has ridden the horse four times and won on him on three occasions and I hope it can be a case of friend’s reunited. The jockey is in superb form and his style of riding suits Gilgamesh. He’s Sky Bet’s 6/1 favourite to win on Saturday.
Andrew Balding has Berkshire Royal entered at Ascot in the Lavazza Stakes and he could be one to keep on the right side of still. The stable continues in superb form and this horse has added to that with three wins this season and a few places thrown in too. He is creeping up the handicap as a result, but at 10/1 offers a bit of each-way value in the mile and a half contest. This season’s leading apprentice Jason Watson gets on well with the horse and has been in the saddle for two of his wins.
What are you looking forward to most about next week’s St Leger Festival at Doncaster?
Well, I’ll look into that in more detail in next week’s blog, but I love Doncaster and have had some great days at the Yorkshire track over the years. I guess I’m looking forward most to the world’s oldest classic, the St Leger. It’s shaping up to be a corker and I’m hoping that Southern France can run well as I’ve backed him each-way. He’s currently a 10/1 shot with Sky Bet and whilst his stablemate Kew Gardens (5/4 fav) has the bragging rights having beaten him in the Queen’s Vase, I think this fella can run well. He looks like a Cup horse for next season, but deserves his place in the line-up a week on Saturday and shouldn’t be disgraced.