Alex Hammond says the European challenge looks strong on Breeders' Cup weekend.
Last Updated: 01/11/12 5:23pm
This weekend we can enjoy the best of both worlds with the two-day Breeders' Cup meeting at Santa Anita in California taking place on Friday and Saturday and some classy jumping action too.
Let's kick off with the American racing and here are the horses I fancy on day one.
I believe the European juveniles can go well, none more so than Sky Lantern for Richard Hannon in the Juvenile Fillies' Turf. She comes here with a jockey riding at the top of his form (Richard Hughes) and having looked impressive in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes last time out. She looks like a Guineas filly for next year and I'll be disappointed if she doesn't win.
It would be great to see Fame and Glory revitalised for the fitting of a visor and the switch to dirt in the Marathon. He may be saving a bit for himself nowadays, but this is a race that the Europeans can do well in and I think the six-year-old can get another win on the board.
He travelled well in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day just ducking in, I think the first time visor will help his jockey Jamie Spencer and expect he will run a much better race here; I really fancy him.
There is more European interest in the Filly and Mare Turf and this is another race I think will come back over the Atlantic. John Gosden used to train in California before he switched to the UK and he saddles the 2/1 favourite, The Fugue.
We have followed this horse a few times on the blog this season and this 10-furlong trip will be ideal for the Nassau winner. However, another filly I have watched this season is Nahrain and she can also make her presence felt.
Roger Varian is putting the blinkers on for the first time and with just the four runs under her belt this season she is relatively fresh. Not only that, she came over to the States at the end of September and won at Belmont and at 6/1 she looks an attractive bet.
Saturday is the feature day and once again the European challenge looks strong.
My first selection runs in the Juvenile Turf. Fantastic Moon won for us on the blog in the Solario Stakes at Sandown at the beginning of September and was unlucky in running in the Royal Lodge last time out where he looked set to be placed behind Steeler but for being stopped in his run at a crucial time. Dundonnell is favourite for Roger Charlton to give the Brits a strong hand in the mile Grade 1.
St Nicholas Abbey is my selection in the Turf, the race he won last year at Churchill Downs. He is Sky Bet's 3/1 joint favourite to give Aidan and Joseph O'Brien another famous Breeders' Cup victory and I think he can do it.
The horse has shed loads of ability and it doesn't worry me at all that he hasn't won since the Coronation Cup in June. The trip is perfect for him and he'll do for me. The Mile is a race I'm particularly looking forward to. In any other time Excelebration would be the outstanding miler of his generation. However, a certain Frankel has stood in his way.
His record is exceptional, barring his debut he has won every race he's run in that Frankel hasn't contested. He annihilated the opposition in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last time out but he is up against America's top miler, Wise Dan, who could give him plenty to do here.
The latter has won 11 of his 17 starts, four of them on turf. His journey to California hasn't been ideal though as he was one of the horses trained on the East Coast whose journey was held up by Superstorm Sandy.
Freddy Head is keen on the chances of his Moonlight Cloud and you would have to agree. Although she was beaten by Excelebration in the Jacques le Marois, she was unlucky there and Freddy Head knows exactly what it takes to win with a filly at this meeting. She won at the Arc meeting last time out in the Prix du Moulin and at 5/1 third favourite looks the most attractive bet here.
So to the Classic. Sadly there are no European runners and that leaves last year's runner up Game on Dude as Sky Bet's 7/4 favourite. He ran the perfect trial in the Goodwood Stakes at this track last time out under new jockey Rafael Bejarano who replaced the 'jocked off' Chantal Sutherland.
Although he has excellent claims at his home track he is very short and my preference is for Mucho Macho Man who comes here in the form of his life and at 13/2 looks a fair price.
To the National Hunt racing now and starting at Wetherby where there highlight is the Charlie Hall Chase. I'm not surprised that Silviniaco Conti is Sky Bet's 15/8 favourite as he looks like an exciting prospect this season.
The Paul Nicholls trained six-year-old has been backed all week and although favourites don't have the greatest record in this he could buck that trend in this three-mile, one furlong Grade 2. The fact that Ruby Walsh is heading to Wetherby is confidence enough and despite his short price he should take plenty of beating.
Last year's first two home are also in the line up. Weird Al won this on his first start for Donald McCain and Paul Webber looks like he will send Time for Rupert back to the West Yorkshire track for another crack at the contest; he also had the option of running at Ascot on the same day and declarations are made on Friday.
Weird Al fell in the National on his last start back in April and in the process sustained quite a nasty injury. His season is geared towards another tilt at the National in April and I'd be happy to watch him here. Diamond Harry is another horse that takes careful handling and Nick Williams will be hoping he gets the horse to the starting line this time round. He travelled to Wetherby for this race last year but was found to be lame on the day and had to be withdrawn.
At Ascot attention focuses on the United House Chase, a Grade 3 Handicap Chase over three miles.
If Victor Dartnall runs Ace High he would be interesting off his light weight. He is lightly raced having only run seven times, but he has been very consistent and should be sharper for his first run for a year last month.
His only win came in a three-mile Beginners' Chase at Chepstow just over a year ago and the form looks decent as he beat Duke of Lucca (also entered) and Teaforthree and both horses have franked the form in no uncertain terms since. Everything points towards a decent run here and although the yard struggled for a winner in October they didn't run too many and can't be far off hitting the target.
There is also a Grade 1 at Down Royal, the JNWine.com Champion Chase. Last year's 1-2, Quito de la Roque and Sizing Europe, take each other once again.
Sizing Europe was just collared in this 12 months ago and was kept to trips short of this three miles thereafter. However, as he gets older he won't be getting any faster and it's well worth another try at the trip.
It would be a fitting result were Kauto Stone to win it for Paul Nicholls. This horse is a half brother to recently retired superstar Kauto Star and he won a 2m4f Grade 2 Chase on this card last year.
His season didn't get better than that though and his form petered out, but stepping up to 3 miles could be the making of him and it might be worth following him this term.
Breeders' Cup Friday
Sky Lantern in the Juvenile Fillies Turf @ 5/2 with Sky Bet
Fame and Glory in the Marathon @ 7/2 with Sky Bet
Nahrain in the Filly and Mare Turf @ 6/1 with Sky Bet
Breeders' Cup Saturday
Fantastic Moon in the Juvenile Turf @ 9/1 with Sky Bet
St Nicholas Abbey in the Turf @ 3/1 with Sky Bet
Moonlight Cloud in the Mile @ 5/1 with Sky Bet
Mucho Macho Man in the Classic @ 13/2 with Sky Bet
Silviniaco Conti in the Charlie Hall Chase @ 15/8 with Sky Bet
Ace High in the United House Chase
Kauto Stone in the JNWine.com Champion Chase