Alex Hammond: Rhod to riches!
Sky Sports presenter Alex Hammond previews Future Champions Day at Newmarket and reflects on the Arc at Chantilly.
Rhododendron (right) could go well for Aidan O'Brien on Friday
What did you make of the performance of Found in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe giving that a number of the leading market fancies failed to run their races at Chantilly?
You don't get poor winners of a race like the Arc – I was impressed on the day and on reflection I haven't changed that viewpoint. It's not so much that this was a vintage Arc or otherwise, but she is remarkably tough and consistent and an admirable racehorse. She really wanted to win, you could see that by the way she stuck her neck out all the way to the line and the time was a fast one. It's obviously hard to compare it to other Arcs with it being run away from its usual home at Longchamp, but as I said, Group One races like this don't come easy and the win takes her prize money to more than £4.5m. It looks like she could head to Ascot for Champions Day before another tilt at the Breeders' Cup. It's brilliant for racing to see connections aren't wrapping her in cotton wool and packing her off to the paddocks and we should get at least one more opportunity to see her in action.
Do you think that either of the juvenile winners, or anything that finished behind, will be able to make an impression in next season's Classics?
Funnily enough I was chatting to Jason Weaver in the Sky Sports studios about the two juvenile races before we went on air and we both agreed that the Jean-Luc Lagardere (Grand Criterium) may not have been the strongest of renewals. However, I was very impressed with the fillies' race, the Prix Marcel Boussac. Whilst Wuheida improved from her maiden win to take it in style, my eye was drawn to the staying-on runner-up Promise To Be True. Aidan O'Brien holds this daughter of the mighty Galileo in the highest regard and this was a much improved effort after her flop in the Moyglare Stud Stakes on her previous start. She very much looks the type to improve for a winter on her back and I have just availed myself of the 16/1 available with Sky Bet for both for the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks. She has been described as a big baby by O'Brien, making her achievements all the more impressive, and I expect big things next season.
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Should we back Wuheida before Spatial boosts her form in the Dubai Fillies' Mile or do you have your eye on another runner in Friday's Group One?
That could well happen, but as I've said I'm keeping faith that O'Brien will have Promise To Be True on top form for next year's Classics. As for the Fillies' Mile, this race has churned out numerous Future Champions and whoever wins will go into winter quarters with plenty of expectation ahead of next season. I do like the look of Spatial who runs for Sir Michael Stoute and Andrea Atzeni. She was close behind Wuheida on debut and that form having been franked, she's undoubtedly going to be a popular choice here. Charlie Appleby's Sobetsu was behind Spatial on her own debut, but improved to run away with her maiden next time. Both are considered but I'm inclined to go with Ryan Moore's ride, Rhododendron, in an open race. She should appreciate stepping up to a mile for the first time after decent efforts over seven furlongs. The Moyglare that she ran in last time out didn't quite go to plan for O'Brien, but as with most Ballydoyle-trained horses she can get back on track here and at around the 100/30 mark looks a fair price to do so.
"I'm inclined to go with Ryan Moore's ride, Rhododendron, in an open race. She should appreciate stepping up to a mile for the first time after decent efforts over seven furlongs. She can get back on track here."
Alex on Rhododendron
You've been banging Churchill's drum for a while now Alex and we're guessing that's not going to change. Can anything get close to him in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes?
You are right! I backed the 2000 Guineas favourite for Saturday's race at 9/4 back in August but I wouldn't be rushing to get stuck into him at the sort of price he'll be sent off on Saturday. He faces his toughest task to date and will have to bring his A-game to Newmarket to land the odds. That said, after O'Brien's historic 1-2-3 in the Arc on Sunday he seems to be in invincible form and I expect this son of the imperious Galileo to win. Of his six rivals, I have liked what I've seen so far of Andrew Balding's colt, South Seas. He brings an unbeaten record into the race and won the Solario last time out. My one reservation is the likely fast ground as all his form is on soft, which he is bred to appreciate, so that would be a major worry. I'm not sure about Blue Point stepping up to seven furlongs. Appleby said he would be aimed at the Commonwealth Cup next season, so I'm surprised to see him here after being beaten in the Middle Park last month, a race in which he held every chance but failed to reel in the winner. Rivet is another I like and trainer William Haggas will be hoping to see improvement since his win in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster at the Leger meeting. Unlike Blue Point, this trip looks right for him as we've seen and he could chase home Churchill.
An easy question to finish with – name the winner of the Betfred Cesarewitch?
Hang on, let me just consult my crystal ball! One thing I did predict was that St Michel would make the final line-up and after a tense few days for his supporters, the antepost favourite gets a run. He needed a handful of horses to come out and Sir Mark Prescott's charge squeaks in at 33 in this 34-runner field. St Michel does have a horrible draw in stall 32 though and I won't be backing him to win from his wide berth. David Pipe's Starchitect is another who has not been done many favours by a wide draw, but if it can be overcome he'd look to have a solid chance. It looks like they have been protecting his handicap rating as he hasn't run since May and he goes well fresh. It's interesting to see Pipe's other runner, Ennistown, has Moore booked, and Pipe must be ruing his luck with these two in 26 and 29, because otherwise they hold solid prospects. Indeed, I can't get away from the chance of Starchitect who looks frighteningly well handicapped off a mark of just 89 and he gets the vote at the prices from stall 26. He's highly-rated over hurdles and may just get away with the draw given how much he could have in hand. At a bigger price The Cashel Man could be worth backing each way at 16/1. He was second in the Cesarewitch Trial over this course and distance in first-time blinkers and remains on a mark of 89. He has a decent draw and David Simcock has booked William Buick to ride from stall eight. If the blinkers are effective a second time he could improve further and take a hand in the finish but it's Starchitect for me.
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