Land of hope
Alex Hammond explains why she's backing Landaman as she previews this weekend's racing.
Last Updated: 09/08/12 1:24pm
This weekend sees the popular Shergar Cup meeting taking centre stage at Ascot racecourse.
The competition is Britain's premier jockeys' competition where top jockeys take each other on as they ride on one of four teams. The teams are as follows:
Great Britain and Ireland: The team will be captained by 6 time champion Kieren Fallon who will be joined by Johnny Murtagh and James Doyle.
Europe: Frankie Dettori heads the European team and his team mates are Andreas Suborics and Cristian Demuro, the younger brother of Italian Mirco Demuro
The Rest of the World: Captain Yutaka Take will ride alongside American Aaron Gryder and Hong Kong star Matthew Chadwick.
For the first time this year, there's an all girl's team too - with Hayley Turner at the helm of a team that also includes Chantal Sutherland and Emma Jayne-Wilson.
These teams take each other on in six races and it's an opportunity to see some of the best riders in the world in the same place. The day isn't for everyone and some purists don't like it, but it's great fun and there will be a superb atmosphere and given the Olympic fever that most of the country is experiencing at the moment there should be a real buzz around the Berkshire track.
One thing to bear in mind if you are having a bet there, Mark Johnston usually targets the day thanks to the decent prize money on offer and after his successful week at Glorious Goodwood he looks a trainer to follow.
Away from Ascot there is some decent racing at Haydock with the Group 3 Rose of Lancaster Stakes their feature race.
The mile and a quarter contest has attracted some smart entries with Sir Henry Cecil's Jet Away one of the protagonists. I fancied the horse for the Sky Bet York Stakes but he could only finish fourth there behind Sri Putra after a slow start and meeting trouble in running. This mile and a quarter trip suits and he is the second highest rated in the field.
Hughie Morrison's Sagramor has been well supported for the race (he has the option of a race at Deauville on the same day) and hasn't run since finishing second to Carlton House in the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown back in May. That was his first start in Group company and he looked like a progressive middle distance performer there. It will be interesting to see him back on the track.
Landaman represents the red-hot Mark Johnston. The four-year-old is bounding up the handicap after wins in his last four starts which has seen him rise 21lbs in the ratings. This is his first foray into group company after he doubled up at Glorious Goodwood and he merits his place in this line up.
Questioning is the highest-rated in the field for John Gosden who is farming some of the top races this season. He has a 4lb penalty to carry in this company thanks to his win in the Earl of Sefton Stakes in the spring. His latest Royal Ascot run was his first for two and a half months and he is entitled to come on for it.
Ransom Note was in the process of running a respectable race in the Sky Bet York Stakes, but like Jet Away he also encountered a bit of trouble in running. That was his first run since the Lockinge in May so he may have needed it.
Gabrial faces an easier task that the one he took on at Goodwood. He finished third in the Sussex Stakes behind the mighty Frankel, but he picked up over £34,000 for his trouble so it was worth the 560 mile round trip from Richard Fahey's Malton base. Prior to that run he looked progressive and was only beaten four lengths by Most Improved in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Godolphin have Hunter's Light and Sandagiyr entered with the former looking to hold the best chance. He wasn't far behind Sagramor in the Brigadier Gerard (third) but I think he just falls short in Group company.
Mijhaar has also been supported and money for a Roger Varian-trained horse should always be noted. He was the well beaten favourite in the John Smith's Cup at York last time out in a first time hood. He appeared to clip heels and was lucky to stand up so that run can be discounted. He won his maiden over this course and distance; his only win to date. He has a bit to find, but is progressive and is another who deserves to take his chance at this level. It's a really competitive renewal of the race but I'm going to go with Landaman to take the step up from handicap company. If Jet Away wins I'll be very cross with myself for deserting him, so fingers crossed!
At Newmarket the Sweet Solera is the feature. This Group 3 contest is for two-year-old fillies over seven furlongs and in recent years has been farmed by the Godolphin team.
This year they rely on Certify who has won her only start to date in a six-furlong maiden at this track in July and the form has been franked by the second Pearl Sea who went on to break her maiden at Glorious Goodwood. She should be improve for this extra furlong too.
Mark Johnston has Deauville Listed winner Discernable entered. She showed a good turn of foot there.
Richard Hannon's Sky Lantern comes into this unbeaten after wins in a maiden at Goodwood and a listed race at Naas, both over six furlongs. Her last run was in June and an intended run at Royal Ascot didn't materialise. She's an exciting filly though and could be one for the Guineas next spring and I fancy her chances here.
Mick Channon's Ollie Olga is also unbeaten and has some decent entries for later in the season. Redressthebalance has also won both her starts for Ralph Beckett including in a nursery last time out on firm ground. Reyaadah is already a winner for Charlie Hills and Paul Hanagan will ride for retained owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum. She will also appreciate the step up to seven furlongs and is a threat in this race.
Sir Mark Prescott has his team in good form as he tends to at this time of year and he has the well-bred Savanna La Mar who has already been placed at listed level and looks capable of stepping into group company. There are some potentially very nice fillies in this contest, but I'm going to take a chance that Sky Lantern can end the recent Godolphin domination in this race.
There is some smart racing at the Curragh on Sunday and I'm looking forward to seeing Born to Sea in the Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes. He takes the step out of his own age group after an excellent effort to be second to Camelot in the Irish Derby on his last outing. He is also trying 10 furlongs for the first time and his trainer John Oxx thinks it could be his perfect distance. He could face Famous Name who is the winner of 18 races.
Aidan O'Brien has six entries including Treasure Beach the winner of last year's Irish Derby, but he was set to run at Leopardstown on Thursday.
The Phoenix Stakes is the feature at the Curragh. Coventry Stakes winner Dawn Approach is on target for the six furlong Group 1 providing the ground isn't too testing. Jim Bolger's star juvenile is currently 8/1 favourite with Sky Bet for next year's 2000 Guineas after wins in all four of his starts.
He will be having his first start in the Godolphin ownership although Bolger continues as his trainer this season. Aidan O'Brien has an outstanding record in this contest, winning it 11 times in the past 14 years, there is no stopping that man!
His leading contenders look to be Afonso De Sousa, a wide margin winner of his Maiden at Leopardstown last month and Cristoforo Colombo, who was third in the Coventry. The Coolmore team have forked out E19,000 to add Probably to the field but that one is in the care of David Wachman. He beat Cristoforo Colombo in the Railway Stakes last time out.
There is also a strong British challenge from Mark Johnston's Heavy Metal who won the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last week and Mick Channon sends his recent Molecombe winner Bungle Inthejungle over for his first try beyond five furlongs.However, despite a strong challenge, if Dawn Approach runs he will take all the beating.
The Group 2 Debutante Stakes is another of the big races on Sunday in Ireland. The race has attracted next year's leading 1000 Guineas contender Harasiya for John Oxx so it could be a great weekend for him. She is sure to become prominent in the betting for the fillies' classic if she wins here and after this run she is heading for the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September.
The Phoenix Sprint Stakes will have an added attraction as Starspangledbanner is expected to return to the track almost two years after retiring to stud. However, he suffered from fertility problems there so returned to Aidan O'Brien for whom he won the Golden Jubilee and July Cup. His last start came in the Haydock Sprint Cup in Spetember 2010.
Richard Hughes staked his claim on the Jockeys Championship with a superb four-timer at Bath and three winners at Brighton earlier in the week to draw level with Ryan Moore. Unsurprisingly the bookies were impressed and the popular Irishman is now 4/9 favourite with Sky Bet to win his first title this season. He is giving it his all once again and I feel his desire to win is strongest amongst his rivals and with the backing of the powerful Richard
Hannon stable behind him I hope he can do it this time.
Landaman in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock
Sky Lantern in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket
Born to Sea in the Royal Whip at the Curragh
Dawn Approach in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh
Harasiya in the Debutante Stakes at the Curragh