Alex Hammond: Spring watch
Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's racing and feels Arab Spring could be worth following in Haydock feature.
A hectic week is over after the Goodwood and Galway Festivals – what were your highlights from the respective meetings?
I really enjoyed the week as the tips seemed to be lucky and we saw some fabulous performances. I think the standout for me at Goodwood was the win of Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup. I was really looking forward to seeing him run and he didn't disappoint. He joins a rare and elite band of multiple winners of this race and must be a lovely horse to train because he seems incredibly genuine, a real grinder, and he still appears to be improving. If I could afford to buy a ready-made racehorse, this is the type of horse I would love to own. They become like old friends rather than flash in the pans and I'm a sentimental fool when it comes to horses, so he topped the bill for me.
I have a similar affection for staying chasers as I do stayers on the flat and my highlight at Galway was the performance of Alelchi Inois in the At The Races Chase on the final day of the 7 day marathon. The Willie Mullins trained eight year-old had already run well in the week when runner up in the Galway Plate and to come out a few days later and pulverise the opposition was impressive. Trainer Willie Mullins suggested afterwards that he could be a Grand National horse next year, but whether or not he ends up at Aintree, he is a wonderfully consistent horse with plenty of ability; another horse I'd love to own.
Dancing Star twinkled in the Stewards' Cup – do you think she can make a splash at the top level later in the season?
It's fair to say her win in the Stewards' Cup was also one of my highlights and to do it in the manner she did was particularly pleasing. There is an element of bias as I backed her, but there's more to it than that. She is from a family many racing fans have affection for, being a relative of the great mare Lochsong and it seems that she has more than her share of similarities.
She is the first filly to win this race since Lochsong back in 1992 and it just goes to show how times have changed as Lochsong won it off a mark of 82 and Dancing Star won off 20lbs higher.
Fortunately she doesn't appear to be as headstrong and looks much more straightforward. She has bags of speed, but is more three dimensional as she stays six furlongs well. The world is her oyster at the moment and I have no doubt she can make her presence felt at the highest level this season and hopefully next. She's currently 16/1 for the Qipco Champions Sprint on Champions Day at Ascot and deserves her step up into that kind of company.
It was another routine success for Minding in the Nassau Stakes, but do you think she'll be a force to be reckoned with if she's unleashed against the boys?
It's time now to run her against the boys. She is a six time Group One winner, hugely valuable as a broodmare prospect already and there is little else for her to prove against her own sex. I'd like to see her run over a mile and a quarter in the Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and/or Champion Stakes.
Of course, the Arc, over another two furlongs, is also a possibility, but I think her best chance of beating the boys is over 10 furlongs. Having said that, wouldn't it be great to see another top notch filly winning the Arc?
The good news is we could see her stay in training at four and the possibilities are endless. She seems equally at home over a mile, mile and a quarter and a mile and a half and is still progressing. The 'lads' (Coolmore) will decide where she ends up, but I'm sure the lure of superstardom is strong and I don't think they have anything to lose with any of the options.
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Shergar Cup this weekend at Ascot – any particular horses or jockeys you are looking forward to seeing in action?
The Shergar Cup is a day that still divides opinion. I'll be honest, it's taken a while, but has now grown on me and there's no doubt the public love it. It's a real novelty to see jockeys from all over the world taking each other on and like the Ryder Cup, it really captures the imagination and fuels partisan team spirit.
The competition pits four teams of three jockeys against each other over six races with a team from GB & Ireland versus jockeys representing Europe, the Rest of the World and The Girls. Of course, Hayley Turner has been enticed out of retirement to ride on the Girls team by the organisers and her effervescence and love of the fixture shines through.
There is the added bonus of one of the best known jockeys in the world Frankie Dettori captaining the Europe team and with his 3000th winner in his sights his cup will runneth over if he can reach the significant milestone at a track that has been so monumental throughout his career.
Frankie's best chance looks to be on Ruwasi in the Challenge, but he has been drawn a couple of other mounts with little sqeaks. Trainers can't book their preferred jockey at Ascot, they are all drawn, so both trainers and jockeys have to make the best of the situation.
There are some jockeys that are less familiar to British racing fans and I'm looking forward to seeing how the likes of Japanese rider Kenichi Ikezoe and South African Gavin Lerena fare on their debuts at this meeting.
Of course, British champion Silvestre de Sousa is there to guide them as team captain. Frankie also has a couple of newcomers on his team, leading French riders Pierre-Charles Boudot and Thierry Jarnet..
Perhaps though this could be an opportunity for leading apprentice Josephine Gordon to get her name in lights and she looks to have one or two decent rides with chances; notably on Beach Bar in the Mile and White Shaheen in the Classic. Hayley has little chances, but nothing obvious and it will be interesting to see if she rides on after this event.
His chance is obvious, but he doesn't greatly appeal at the price but with just seven seven runners each way options are limited.
Scottish comes into this off the back of a Listed win at Newbury over Saturday's trip of a mile and a quarter and with trainer Charlie Appleby's horses in consistently good form. That was his second start for Appleby having joined from Andrew Balding, having been bought as a horse to run in Australia this winter. He ran a very promising race in the Brigadier Gerard on debut for new owners Godolphin finishing third behind Time Test and backed that up with his win last time out stripping fitter for his reappearance.
Everything looks in place for a first Group Three win for the four year-old who has still only nine starts to his name and he should have more to offer.
Foundation is his closest market rival, but he has something to prove this season and ran disappointingly when sent off favourite for the French Derby, trailing in last. He will be fitted with the blinkers for the first time on Saturday, but they will need to sharpen him up considerably. It's interesting to see though that he has also been gelded since his last start and that could be the making of him, we'll see.
Sir Michael Stoute's Arab Spring is having his first run since May 2015. He has twice won after a break though and his long layoff may not be detrimental. He could be the fly in the ointment here as he has plenty of ability and is the type of older horse Stoute thrives with. Stoute's horses are flying this month, he is operating at a 40% strike rate, and at 7/2 with Sky Bet looks a much more interesting betting proposition.