Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's major races

Alex Hammond Blog: Saturday racing tips including Northumberland Plate


The Sky Sports Racing presenter provides her views and tips for the weekend's big races including the Irish Derby and Northumberland Plate.

What a week that was!

The dust has finally settled on what was a wonderful Royal Ascot.

There was a real buzz around the meeting and an enthusiastic and sizeable crowd brought the five days alive for the first time since 2019. It’s an honour to be part of the Sky Sports Racing team on a day-to-day basis, but when we all pull together and work on an event like Ascot, that’s when our talented team can really shine. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t flawless and it’s a full-on week, but I think we came away from it satisfied. I hope you agree.

Back to it this weekend then with a trip to the studio for me on Saturday where the Jenningsbet Northumberland Plate takes centre stage, then I’ll be off to Staffordshire on Sunday to join Jim McGrath and “Sir” Bob Cooper for a competitive day of jumping at Uttoxeter (speaking of enthusiastic and sizeable crowds!).

Let’s kick off with the action in the North East though and an ultra-competitive Pitmen’s Derby.

Ever since the rain didn’t arrive for Trueshan for either of his possible engagements at Royal Ascot the question has been, would Alan King send his star stayer to Newcastle for another crack at this two-mile handicap trying to give lumps of weight to his rivals?

Well, we now know the answer to that question. Trueshan will line up on Saturday, which is great news for the Newcastle crowd and for TV viewers too. The bonus this year is that Alan King has decided not to put an apprentice up, which means Classic-winning rider Hollie Doyle (sounds good doesn’t it?) maintains the partnership. No offence to any budding apprentices, but these two are a match made in heaven and like most successful partnerships, they have memorable history. He is 19lbs higher than the second highest rated horse in the field, so must give that and more to his rivals.

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Can Trueshan do it on Saturday?

Back in the day it wasn’t unusual for horses to win this marathon handicap carrying 7 stone something and since 1985 the 9 stone 10lbs that Bold Gait carried in 1995 seems to be the most weight a horse has carried to victory.

So, he has 10 stone 8lbs and that seems a mighty task even for a horse of his calibre. He was only 6th last year when 2lbs lower in the weights and apprentice ridden. However, Hollie’s record on him reads: 1/1/1/2/1/1/1 and you can only hope that makes the difference.

For all the romanticism I’m also a realist and I think it’ll be tough. He’s 6/1 second favourite with Sky Bet behind Rajinsky, the 9/2 fav. Hugo Palmer has booked Harry Davies to take 5lbs off the Chester Cup third’s back. He was fourth past the post (promoted to third) last year off 9lbs lower and is too short for me, despite his good recent form.

Alan King also runs Rainbow Dreamer who could be of interest at 12/1 now he has undergone a breathing operation. I usually prefer a horse on his/her second start after a wind op, but let’s hope it helps his cause as he has a solid record on an artificial surface, albeit he has never won at Newcastle.

Sky Bet are paying 7 places rather than four, so let’s look outside the box. I was taken by Spirit Mixer when he won at Chester at the end of May, but things didn’t go to plan for him at Newmarket last time out.

Young Callum Hutchinson takes the ride again and his 5lbs claim is proving very valuable. This horse is bred to be a superstar being by Frankel out of Juddmonte International winner Arabian Queen and there should be more to come. He’s on my shortlist of likely winners but at 8/1 doesn’t scream each way value, I want to keep him on side though. Incidentally, Andrew Balding’s other runner Valley Forge looks like a progressive stayer but has been well found in the market and is 6/1 joint second favourite.

Speaking of talented young apprentice jockeys, few have made such an impression as Benoit de la Sayette. His 5lbs claim is like robbery and Heather Main has been quick to book his services for Island Brave. Now for me, at 18/1 he’s worth taking a chance on to finish in the first seven.

He’s got excellent course form and has dropped to a mark 1lb below his last winning rating and with that 5lbs also taken off looks attractively weighted. He’s an 8-year-old now mind you and won’t be improving, but he appeals as an each way shout to me if he can recapture his best form back up in trip and at a course he likes. So, to clarify, I like SPIRIT MIXER from a win perspective and ISLAND BRAVE to fill one of those seven places.

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Red-hot Doyle to deliver again

Elsewhere on the card, I fancy GLEN SHIEL to provide Hollie Doyle and Archie Watson with a win in the Group 3 Pertemps Network Chipchase Stakes. It’s a fiercely competitive 6-furlong contest, but the old boy loves it at Newcastle and looks to retain all his ability.

In Sense Of Duty, he has a progressive three-year-old filly to take on, but it’s her first experience of this surface and is up against some hardy sprinters here. I’m worried about her but 5/1 about Glen Shiel appeals more than her price of 11/4 favourite.

Will the weight allowance see Tuesday home in front?

Away from our coverage at Sky Sports Racing, there is some high-class racing in Ireland this weekend with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Saturday the centre piece of a two-day card at the Curragh.

There has been much talk this week about Rob Hornby being jocked off Derby third Westover. It seems harsh after his Epsom disappointment and Colin Keane takes over on Saturday. He’s 7/4 second favourite to go two better than his Epsom finishing position.

Cazoo Oaks winner Tuesday has been added to the field and will be Aidan O’Brien’s only runner. As a filly, she will get a 3lbs weight allowance off the colts.

The bookies certainly fear her and she’s Sky Bet’s 11/8 favourite to win on Saturday. Balanchine was the last filly to win an Irish Derby back in 1994 under the recently maligned Frankie Dettori, who is having a quieter weekend than he may have expected with just one ride for Westover’s trainer, Ralph Beckett, at Newmarket on Saturday.

Joseph O’Brien enjoyed Royal Ascot success and he has an intriguing runner in Saturday’s classic.

Hannibal Barca was sold for 500,000 guineas at the end of his two-year-old season. He was highly regarded by former trainer Brian Meehan who must have been gutted to see this colt sold. He won a Group 3 on debut for his new connections and whilst he has a bit to find on the protagonists, he was only 2 lengths behind Luxembourg in the Vertem Futurity in October and there will be further improvement to come on this, his fifth start.

There could be some doubt about him staying a mile and a half, but he’s a three-parts brother to a horse than won over a mile and three quarters, so hopefully he’ll be fine. He’s an 8/1 shot.

Too soon to write off Badile potential

I fancied Piz Badile to win at Epsom, but he was well beaten, and it was reported he didn’t handle the track. I can forgive him that and he can hopefully show further progress over this more conventional mile and a half. He’s 9/1 to win for Donnacha O’Brien.

Lionel won the Cocked Hat at Goodwood last time out but missed the Derby as trainer David Menusier didn’t think he was grown up enough for that assignment. He’s 8/1 and Jamie Spencer takes the ride.

Some of these horses will be Leger candidates with stamina to burn and I think it’s devilishly difficult. For that reason, I’m going to take an each way punt on PIZ BADILE again at 9/1 providing all eight run.

Published at 1600 BST on 23/06/22


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