Alex Hammond: July Festival
Sky Sports News presenter Alex Hammond marks your card for the Moet & Chandon July Festival in her latest blog.
What did you make of Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, and what next for the two who fought out the finish?
What a race! I'm now over the fact it didn't go my way and can enjoy the brilliance of the Eclipse as a spectacular horse race. Richard Hannon's Barney Roy was the horse I put up at the beginning of the season as one to follow and what a run he's giving us for our money. I was pleased to see he stayed the mile and a quarter on his first try at the trip and it was unfortunate he got touched off by a whisker by an equally game opponent. I'm pleased to see Barney Roy is to be kept in training as a four year old as he is still looking like a progressive horse and is getting sharper all the time. That battle won't have done him any harm and he should be a wiser horse for it. Connections clearly feel that stamina isn't an issue as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is apparently under consideration for him too. I think the Champion Stakes back at Ascot is the best long term target for him this campaign, with the likes of the Juddmonte International and Irish Champion Stakes also options. He's unlikely to take on Ribchester over a mile as the pair are both owned by Godolphin.
That's the runner up then, how about the winner? Ulysses was a horse I gave a favourable mention to in last week's blog and he had been running as if a big win wasn't far away. He has an impeccable pedigree being by Galileo out of superb race mare Light Shift and this Group One win is very valuable for his future stud career. I guess the King George is the obvious route for Sir Michael Stoute with his winner and he's now 4/1 second favourite behind Highland Reel with Sky Bet for the race at the end of this month. He was a winner over the mile and a half trip last season and whilst he was too keen in the Breeders' Cup Turf last November over 12 furlongs, he is a more settled individual nowadays and he could win at the highest level over the extra couple of furlongs. The Eclipse looked to be a fascinating clash of the generations and it didn't let us down.
Battaash v Lady Aurelia in the Nunthorpe… who wins that sprint battle?
Battaash was impressive in winning the Charge that's for sure, but Lady Aurelia is a freak (in the nicest possible way) and her ante-post price of 4/5 favourite reflects that I'm not alone in thinking that about Wesley Ward's lightning fast three year old. Her King's Stand win was phenomenal and Battaash has to improve a fair lump to trouble her at York next month. He had plenty go his way at Sandown on Saturday and heads to Goodwood for the King George Stakes next for which he's deservedly Sky Bet's 3/1 favourite. He will face his stiffest task to date at York though and I won't be backing him to beat the hot favourite just yet.
Where is your money going in this week's Group Ones at HQ… Give us the winners of the Falmouth and the July Cup?
The July meeting gets under way on Thursday and it's a return to action for Frankie Dettori after his unlucky shoulder injury at Yarmouth almost a month ago. He looks to have a fair chance of making it a happy return on Wings Of Desire in the Princess of Wales's Stakes for John Gosden, although Charlie Appleby's Frontiersman will give him plenty to think about and I like the Sir Michael Stoute's Poet's Word who could be his biggest danger. I'm hoping for compensation with Compas Scoobie in the five-furlong Handicap having backed him when he finished runner up at Newmarket last month. His trainer Roger Varian has his team firing on all cylinders at the moment and is operating at a strike rate of 34 per cent. Ryan Moore rides him for the first time and I hope he can get the best out of the horse who is blinkered for the second time in this competitive race. However, his biggest danger looks to be his improving stablemate Jumira Bridge, the mount of Andrea Atzeni. I highlighted Ronald R as a horse to watch after his gallant second place in the Britannia at Royal Ascot and he has a great chance of going one better in the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes at Newmarket on Thursday. He's not the highest rated in the field, but he's still improving and he'll do for me.
So to Friday's Falmouth Stakes. Aidan O'Brien's Roly Poly will be popular having finished runner up to stablemate Winter in the Irish 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes on her last two starts. Without anything of Winter's calibre in the field she has a good chance of winning a group 1 of her own and her first race since this meeting last year when she was successful in the Cherry Hinton. I'm looking forward to seeing Wuheida back on the track. Charlie Appleby's filly is unbeaten in two starts, but hasn't been seen since winning the Prix Marcel Boussac last October. She looked like a potential Oaks filly as a juvenile, but obviously had issues and she's bred to stay further than Friday's mile trip, but this is an interesting place to start. Sea Of Grace makes this a compelling race. William Haggas has only had her this season and she ran well to finish second in the French 1000 Guineas on her second start for the Newmarket handler. Roly Poly is 2/1 with Sky Bet and as it's such a competitive race I might just take a chance on Wuheida at 7/2 to maintain her unbeaten record.
The July Cup is a race I adore. Caravaggio is an undoubted superstar but at 11/10 with Sky Bet (who are playing four places) I'm happy to take him on again. I said that at Royal Ascot though and look where that got me! I'd find it very hard to desert The Tin Man after he came good for me in the Diamond Jubilee, but I'm worried about whether he can give 6lb to his younger rival. Limato who will be reunited with former pilot Harry Bentley adds spice to the mix, as does Harry Angel for Clive Cox. The race obviously surrounds Caravaggio, but The Tin Man is my pick and the 5/1 available is slightly more enticing than the short price about the favourite. Perhaps the 11/2 for Harry Angel is attractive to each way punters with those four places on offer.
What about the Irish Oaks at the Curragh, can anything stop Enable doing the double?
I can't see it to be honest. She's not a betting proposition at 1/3 favourite, but I can't see her being beaten. She bred to stay really well and won the Oaks at Epsom in difficult conditions as a storm hit the track. She top class and I wouldn't be frightened to back her when or if she takes on the boys at some point this season.
Plenty of other top races around the country on 'Super Saturday' – where does the value lie?
Ah yes, this is the day that jockey's agents will earn their fees as there are so many good races all on one day at the principle meetings at Newmarket, York, Ascot and the Curragh; a logistical nightmare for trainers.
One of the races I enjoy getting stuck into is the John Smith's Cup at York. Master Carpenter likes the Knavesmire as much as I do and is bidding for a second win in the mile and a quarter handicap. He's only a pound higher in the weights than when he won this race in 2015, but he might struggle to win it this year off that mark and the ground doesn't look like being soft enough for him. Victory Bond is another horse that probably won't get his ground, but if there's an unexpected cloud burst I'd be very keen on William Haggas' unexposed four-year-old. David Simcock's Majeed was an eyecatcher in the Wolferton Handicap at Ascot and if the ground remains on the fast side, that will suit him. He was slowly away at the Royal meeting, but stayed on eye-catchingly to finish second and runs off the same handicap mark here. He's 12/1 for Saturday's handicap, which represents attractive each way value. Ballet Concerto is sure to be popular for Sir Michael Stoute, who does well with this type of horse in handicaps. He looked to be a touch outpaced over a mile there and the step back up to 10 furlongs looks likely to suit. Stoute also has another leading contender in Mustashry, who has been well supported despite not running since September. All seven of his starts have come over a mile, but he ran as if the step up in trip would suit here last year. He will enjoy the ground if it remains on the fast side. Sixties Groove is Sky Bet's ante-post favourite at 8/1 after his fifth place in the Duke Of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot. He drops in trip, but that shouldn't be a problem. It's super competitive as ever and a handicap that is huge fun to get stuck in to. I'm backing Majeed each way so long as it doesn't rain much before Saturday.
Oh Goldream, Goldream, Goldream! He ran so much better in the Charge at Sandown last weekend and WILL pop up before long. Will it be in the City Walls Stakes at York on Saturday? Could be! He's 13/2 with Sky Bet to win that one. He has Marsha to beat there though which could be tough for Robert Cowell's talented sprinter.
Have a superb Super Saturday and I hope it's lucky for you.