Alex Hammond: Barney Army!

Barney Roy (right) on his way to winning the St James's Palace Stakes

Sky Sports presenter Alex Hammond looks ahead to the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, which begins at York on Wednesday.

Who is your idea of the winner of a fascinating renewal of the Juddmonte International?

Every season this is one of the Flat races I look forward to the most and the 2017 renewal is no exception, with a stellar field declared for the 1m2f Group One.

I'm a huge fan of Barney Roy and am not about to jump ship now. Richard Hannon highlighted this horse as one to follow at the start of the season when he had only run once, winning a Haydock maiden as a two year-old. The trainer was bullish about his colt then and how right he was.

He has only been beaten twice this term; firstly to Churchill in the 2000 Guineas and agonisingly when touched off a nose by Ulysses in the Coral-Eclipse.

The Sandown race was his first try at Wednesday's trip and he was a touch 'on it' which didn't help his cause. With that experience under his belt and a bit more time, he will hopefully settle in the feature race on day one.

Churchill has to put a below-par effort in the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot behind him and he steps up from a mile for the first time.

Ulysses, My Dream Boat and Decorated Knight have to give weight to their younger rivals while the filly Shutter Speed gets both a fillies' and a three-year-old weight allowance, but does need to improve.

Ulysses is a horse I love (apart from when he beat Barney Roy at Sandown) and I think he could be the main danger to Barney Roy, who is Sky Bet's 5/2 favourite and my selection for what's a mouthwatering contest.

The Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes is no less intriguing but does the field contain this season's Leger winner?

Cracksman is Sky Bet's 5/6 favourite for Wednesday' Group Two, which is traditionally an informative trial for the final Classic of the season at Doncaster next month. However, if he wins the York race we won't have seen the Leger winner as his wasn't amongst trainer John Gosden's list of entries.

I've always thought he was a raw, unfurnished colt that would come into his own as a four year-old and maybe that's the thinking behind his omission from Gosden's Doncaster team. It was said last month that this race could be the end point of his season, so I'd like to see him go into winter quarters with a win to go with his Derby and Irish Derby placed efforts.

His main danger looks to be Sir Michael Stoute's Mirage Dancer, who looks to be crying out for this step up to a mile and a half. Like the favourite, he doesn't hold a St Leger entry but is an exciting horse for next season.

Like Us on Facebook

So, to answer the question, I don't think we will see the Leger winner emerge from this year's renewal, but it looks a cracker nonetheless.

Enable looks hard to oppose in the Yorkshire Oaks but who should we double (or treble) her up with on Thursday?

What a fillip it is to have Enable at York this week and I agree, it should take a plague of locusts or some other such phenomenon to get her beaten. Given she won the Oaks in a biblical thunderstorm, that may not even be enough to stop her!

Recent Pretty Polly winner Nezwaah is a gorgeous filly in her own right, but I can't see her being able to give John Gosden's dual Oaks and King George winner weight, which she has to do as an older filly.

So Enable to win and I'll double her up with Ronald R in the Clipper Logistics Handicap.

He ran an absolute blinder in the Britannia at Royal Ascot, only beaten half a length into second. He was slightly disappointing in a small-field Listed race at Newmarket last month, but I think a return to this competitive handicap should suit and trainer Michael Bell continues to go well with his runners. Ryan Moore is booked to ride and that's another bonus.

I don't think there will be enough rain before Thursday but if there is, I'd chuck More Mischiefinto my accumulator. Jedd O'Keeffe's mare is very talented, but has shown her best with some ease underfoot. She is declared to run in the Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes where Mori is sure to be a short price to win for Sir Michael Stoute and Moore. That should ensure that More Mischief will offer some value in a competitive race and if the rain does come, she could take some stopping.

Are you in camp Battaash or team Lady Aurelia – or neither – for the Nunthorpe Stakes?

I have no hesitation in answering this question – it's Lady Aurelia all the way for me.

We have seen plenty of fighting talk ahead of Saturday night's big clash in Las Vegas where Floyd Mayweather takes on MMA star Conor McGregor, well Lady Aurelia's trainer Wesley Ward has been talking up his flying filly ahead of the big clash with Charlie Hills' improving speedball Battaash in box office fashion.

I'm coming across plenty of folk who have a view on both big sporting head-to-heads, but I won't be swayed on my Nunthorpe opinion. Lady Aurelia is Sky Bet's 6/4 favourite, just ahead of Battaash at 7/4, and the fact she isn't odds on is tempting enough for me.

Incidentally, it's Mayweather to win by knockout for me early Sunday morning. Maybe a short-priced double?

The Ebor is straightforward isn't it? So a quick word on the winner and anything else that takes your fancy in Saturday's valuable handicap.

A quick word? On the Ebor? I'll try! First point here is that Sky Bet are playing five places in Europe's richest handicap, so it's worth trying to find some each-way value and I'm going to start off with a big priced outsider.

I may be biased, but my good friends Jedd and Andrea O'Keeffe do incredibly well with their team of horses on the edge of Middleham moor. Plenty of the horses they are running this season seem to prefer a bit of dig in the ground, so if there is rain before Saturday and the ground is good or softer, then I'll be backing 33/1 shot Lord Yeats to finish in the first five for his hard-working team.

This one won a decent 12 furlong Listed race at Newmarket in July and then ran a bit below par at Glorious Goodwood over the same trip. As his name suggests, he is a son of superstar stayer Yeats, so a step up to 1m6f should be right up his street and he can bounce back.

Ivan Grozny has to be on any shortlist too. The Willie Mullins-trained seven year-old hasn't been seen on the Flat for over a year, but that appearance was a winning one over the Ebor trip.

He has been plying his trade over timber of late which has seen mixed results, most recently when brought down at the first flight in the Galway Hurdle. Like Lord Yeats he probably wouldn't want the ground too quick but if it does stay dry, he's worth considering especially with Jim Crowley booked to ride.

Scarlet Dragon is another to add to my growing shortlist. Eve Johnson Houghton is bearing down on her best seasonal total and she has booked talented apprentice Hollie Doyle for the ride. This horse steps up to a mile and three quarters for the first time, which should suit on paper and drying ground won't be an issue for a horse available to back at around 16/1.

I could go on, but the final horse I'm giving a mention to (I promise) is Battersea. He ran well to be fourth in the race last year off a 2lb higher mark. He hasn't been seen since May, but could go well after his break and looks good value at 20/1.

Read More at Sky Sports Racing

Leave us a comment!

Share this story:


Subscribe to our Newsletter today to receive Free Horse Racing Tips.

Simply fill out the form below and wait for the Free Tips to land in your inbox.

You May Also Like