Alex Hammond: ‘Ten up!
Sky Sports News HQ's racing guru Alex Hammond looks forward to the start of Flat action on turf at Doncaster this weekend.
What did you make of Arrogate's last-to-first victory in the Dubai World Cup? Does he deserve to be labelled the best horse in the World?
Wow! Wow! Wow! What a horse. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, yet he still emerged as the superstar we know he is. I told you last week that his trainer Bob Baffert had labelled him "the dirt version of Frankel in the States". Well now he's the dirt version of Frankel outside the States!
On his first trip away from his native shores and racing without lasix (the anti-bleeding drug allowed in certain part of the USA) he was awesome. He got barged at the start and had seemingly plenty to do, but do it he did, to win in an impressive time too.
In overcoming the adversities he faced in the race that is now the second most valuable in the world (behind the Pegasus World Cup that he also won at the end of January), his reputation was enhanced.
If things had gone like clockwork then I'm not sure we would have learned anything new about the colt, but he took it all in his impressive stride to show he is versatile as well as talented. So, to answer the second question, yes, he does deserve to be labelled the best horse in the world; certainly on dirt.
I read this week a comment by Nick Smith from Ascot racecourse saying the performance reminded him of Arazi's devestating victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile back in 1991. I couldn't have put it better myself, Arrogate's runaway win was most reminiscent of Arazi's knife-through-butter surge to win that race at Churchill Downs.
Jack Hobbs bounced back to winning form in style in the Sheema Classic, do you think he can win Group Ones in the UK this season?
He can certainly win Group Ones in Europe and the Arc is the race that immediately springs to mind as he's most likely to get the ease in the ground that is important to him. He's now 10/1 with Sky Bet for the Chantilly race in October. He's in great hands with John Gosden and it's good to see him remain in training as a five-year-old after a pelvis injury interupted his four-year-old season.
Races like the Hardwicke and King George have been mooted as possible targets this summer and if he gets soft(ish) ground will be of interest. He's by a stallion I've always loved in Halling and his offspring always improve with age, so we should see the best of him this season.
The Flat turf season gets under way in England on Saturday. Are you looking forward to it and what do you fancy in the Lincoln?
Every year I go through the same emotions; I mourn the end of the jumps season (if it ever does actually end, but you get the point), wondering how the upcoming Flat season can possibly match what has been. The earth then tilts and I find myself engrossed in a summer of the finest racing, watching (and backing) the royally-bred bluebloods.
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It's always difficult to consign the Cheltenham Festival to the record books so soon and switch hats, but I soon get into the swing of it.
I'm in limbo at the moment though as there is still Aintree to look forward to, but by the middle of April I'll be giving it my complete attention!
As for the Lincoln, it looks as difficult to predict as ever, but there are some very interesting entries.
Roger Charlton is a trainer I like to have on my side and his Yuften is a good place to start. He ran well on his reappearance earlier this month having been gelded over the winter.
That run over seven furlongs at Wolverhampton should have brought him on and a reproduction of his win in a valuable Ascot handicap last autumn on only his second start for Charlton would see him go close.
Top Notch Tonto is an old favourite and has come in for support, which is understandable as he has a touch of class and Brian Ellison sounds keen over his chances.
Have you any long-range fancies for the 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket?
Given the way my ante-post portfolio worked out at Cheltenham, I'll be giving it another couple of weeks before nailing my colours to the mast!
However, there are a few horses I'm looking forward to seeing back on the track and they include the William Haggas trained Rivet.
Last season's Racing Post Trophy winner could reappear on Good Friday at Newcastle where Haggas could take an untried route to the 2000 Guineas in one-mile conditions Stakes at this brand new meeting.
A trip up the A1 for what should be no more than a racecourse gallop could be just the job for the colt who hails from a strong stable.
He's currently 16/1 with Sky Bet for the first colts' classic which could look like each way value come May 6.
Churchill could be hard to beat in the mile division this season, but Rivet should progress as he steps up in trip.
As for the fillies, Rhododendron is 9/2 favourite with Sky Bet for the 1000 Guineas and Aidan O'Brien's Fillies' Mile winner could end the season as a multiple classic scorer like her older stablemate Minding who also won the Fillies' Mile as a juvenile.
We'll leave the Aintree questions for next week but what else are you looking forward to this weekend before attention turns to the Grand National?
I'm looking forward to decent jumping cards at Ascot and Fairyhouse on Sunday! Dan Skelton has Value At Risk entered for Ascot's big novice chase and I hope he runs having missed the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Cheltenham after knocking a back leg.
At Fairyhouse there are three Grade Two races with some interesting entries too. All that should keep us ticking along nicely until Aintree's Grand National meeting kicks off next Thursday… but more on that next week.
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