Alex Hammond: Star appeal

Sky Sports News HQ's Alex Hammond looks ahead to Saturday's Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock in her latest racing blog.

Alex won't be abandoning Dancing Star in the Sprint Cup

Group One action this weekend with the Sprint Cup at Haydock. Who do you fancy in an open-looking renewal?

It looks a cracker doesn't it?

I think given the good form of James Fanshawe's horses The Tin Man will be a popular choice and he is an improving sprinter that looks capable of stepping up to the mark. He disappointed at Royal Ascot when it was thought the ground was too soft for him and he bounced back on quicker ground in a Group Three at Newbury last time out. He handles some cut in the ground and if it stays on the soft side it won't worry me. Like many stables in Newmarket, Fanshawe's horses have been afflicted by the dreaded virus, but this horse has come out of the other side of it and is reported to be back in good form. He must go very close.

He faces some stiff competition though with Karl Burke's three year-old filly Quiet Reflection Sky Bet's ante-post favourite at 7/2. She finished third in the July Cup behind Limato and Suedois and given an easier surface at Haydock on Saturday must have a chance of turning that form around. The fact that the first two home have both had tough races since Newmarket and Quiet Reflection hasn't run since Newmarket must give her an advantage. The memory of her impressive win in the Sandy Lane over this course and distance is difficult to forget and on an easy surface it's hard to see her out of the shake up.

Henry Candy is in an enviable position; he could run Limato if the ground comes up fast and if it's on the easy side of good he has last year's winner Twilight Son to rely on. Predictions are it's more likely to be on the soft side which plays into Twilight Son's hands and back on his favoured surface he is another right in contention for this Group One prize. He was beaten in the July Cup last time out, but he just doesn't act on the good to firm ground that he encountered there.

One horse I'm certainly not discounting in an open race is Andrew Balding's potential star sprinter, Dancing Star, who is 7/1 with Sky Bet. I'll certainly be having a small investment on her after she did us a favour in the Stewards' Cup at Glorious Goodwood and she looked like a three year-old going places. Whilst she is taking the leap from handicaps to a Group One, the Stewards' Cup is no ordinary handicap and she deserves to take her chance at this level before the season is out. She has been supplemented for this race and I think she offers each-way value at that price and apparently Franny Norton has been booked to ride which is a big plus.

Magical Memory is another in with a shout for Charlie Hills and Frankie Dettori, but he was a touch disappointing on his favoured fast ground in the July Cup. So, as you can see, it's a top notch contest and any one of half a dozen horses are in with a serious chance of winning. I think Dancing Star offers a bit of value and I'm certainly not abandoning her now and The Tin Man is another I want to keep on side.

Plenty of other good races to get stuck into on Saturday, including the Old Borough Cup. What are your early thoughts?

The Old Borough Cup is even more competitive than the Sprint Cup! The advantage of that is the possibility of finding a bit of value. Obviously we don't have the benefit of the final declarations or the draw, but a horse I'm looking forward to seeing run is Shakopee for Luca Cumani. Cumani's horses are running well and this horse looked like he would benefit for the step up to a mile and three quarters when runner up in a mile and a half handicap at York last time out. That was only his eighth start and his first try at a mile and a half and as his pedigree is laden with stamina he should relish the further step up in trip. Cumani is always a trainer to follow in these types of races and whilst he has hardly gone unnoticed, I'd be happy enough to back a 6/1 winner.

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"California Chrome is Sky Bet's favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita in early November and he has done nothing wrong, but it could well be worth taking a chance on Arrogate and at the prices he appeals much more."

At double those odds though you could do worse than back Dawn Missile who ran well in the same York contest as Shakopee last time out. He was drawn out wide and then met trouble in running and was staying on as well as anything all too late and was dropped a pound in the handicap for his trouble. At 12/1 with Sky Bet he's definitely one I'll be backing to run into a place.

An untimely setback for Caravaggio heading into the autumn, how do you size up the juvenile picture without him in it?

Well, it's always disappointing to see a horse of his calibre meet with a setback, but it's not necessarily a bad thing for the long term. What his absence will mean in the short term is that the picture is muddied slightly. He's still 3/1 favourite with Sky Bet for the 2000 Guineas with impressive Gimcrack winner Blue Point 10/1 for next year's colts classic. The Charlie Appleby trained, Godolphin owned Blue Point would have been taking on Caravaggio in the Middle Park, so in the absence of Aidan O'Brien's colt he's the clear favourite for the Newmarket contest in late September and is a worthy market leader, although he's pretty short at 7/4 with Sky Bet.

I'm not sure I'd be backing either Caravaggio or Blue Point for the Guineas at this stage as they both show so much speed they may not stay a mile next year. Aidan O'Brien maybe without Caravaggio for now, but he isn't short of talent and another of his juveniles, Intelligence Cross, could be value in the Middle Park after his easy win at the Curragh on Sunday. He had come up against Mehmas on his previous two outings at Newmarket and Goodwood and the Curragh win at the weekend should have been a timely boost to his confidence. At 13/2 he seems overpriced to me.

"Another O'Brien juvenile to watch is Churchill who should be capable of flying the Coolmore flag for the rest of this season. He has been odds-on for each of his wins and this son of Galileo can make his presence felt before the season is out."

Another O'Brien juvenile to watch is Churchill who should be capable of flying the Coolmore flag for the rest of this season. He won a small field Futurity Stakes at the Curragh last time out and is stepping up the grades after his win in the Chesham at Royal Ascot, then came a Group Three win at Leopardstown followed by that recent Group Two victory. He has been sent off odds-on favourite for each of his wins which speaks volumes of the regard he is held in and this son of Galileo can make his presence felt before the season is out.

Andrew Balding also has an exciting prospect in the shape of Solario winner South Seas and this one will definitely stay classic distances, in fact he looks like he'll stay a mile this campaign and the Dewhurst or Racing Post Trophy are options for him.

Did David Wachman's announcement that he's retiring come as a surprise?

Yes, it did come as a surprise. David Wachman has had more success than many trainers who are still battling on in tough times, but there's no doubt it's a way of life and not a job. I don't know the ins and outs of his situation, but a tally of just six winners in Ireland this season is pretty grim for someone used to saddling high profile horses and big race winners. Four Group/Grade One wins last year was always going to be a hard act to follow and it's easy to be dispirited when you are trying to keep your owners happy and I'm sure he'll still be a big player in the racing world given his connections.

For anyone that has been involved in the training of racehorses, it's a marvellous life and one that takes you all over the world, but it can be equally hard and when your horses aren't running well it's soul destroying. There are easier ways to make a living, but it's a rewarding profession and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. He was a talented trainer and I'm sure he'll be much missed.

Did you see Arrogate win the Travers Stakes in a record time by 12 lengths? Does the 4/1 with Sky Bet for the Breeders' Cup Classic appeal?

Wow, it was some performance wasn't it? He looks like a monster and is in the right hands with Bob Baffert doing the training. He clocked a time faster than any other winner in the 147 year history of the race and as he has been produced slowly there's no saying there isn't more to come. He didn't race as a juvenile as he was backward and suffered from sore shins; a common problem for an immature two-year-old.

He was described as a freak by Steve Asmussen who saddled the third in the Travers and the colt looks like the hot new kid on the block in the States. California Chrome is Sky Bet's favourite for the Classic at Santa Anita in early November and he has done nothing wrong, but it could well be worth taking a chance on Arrogate and at the prices he appeals much more (he was introduced at 5/1, but was soon cut into 4s).

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