Alex Hammond previews this weekend's jump and flat racing
Alex Hammond is backing Rival D'Estruval to run well at Ayr as she previews this weekend's racing.
Last Updated: 18/04/13 5:47pm
It's the time of year I always struggle with as I have to release my vice like grip on the jumping and get into flat mode. I think after this week at Newmarket I'm just about there!
So, on to this weekend, starting with the action up at Ayr.
History could be made if Auroras Encore wins the big race as he would become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win both Nationals. Conditions may have gone against him though as trainer Sue Smith said he wouldn't even line up if conditions were testing. At the time of writing it is heavy there with water lying on the track. However, with a windy forecast, that could improve a bit.
He has been raised 11lbs by the handicapper for his Aintree triumph, much to Harvey Smith's disgust. His point is that at 11 years old the horse isn't progressing and he pointed out that plenty of National winners never win another race. So, Auroras Encore carries top weight in this four-mile contest (5lbs higher than when second last year) and to be honest he's not for me as much as I would love to see him make history.
His rider Ryan Mania has had a rollercoaster two weeks with the Aintree win and then getting buried 24 hours later at Hexham. He has handled all the media attention with maturity and I hope this win sees his career take off. One thing is for sure, Sue and Harvey don't suffer fools and with their endorsement he should hopefully start being used by more trainers.
So if not Auroras Encore then who? A total of 26 horses have been declared for the race which is sure to be a real slog. I tipped the Pauline Robson-trained Rival D'Estruval to win the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and I'm convinced he would have won had he not hit the deck two from home. He runs off the same mark on Saturday and Timmy Murphy rides for father-in-law Ray Anderson Green (last year's winning combination with Merigo). Heavy ground holds no fears for him and he has an obvious chance.
Always Right has been a good servant for owner/trainer John Wade and was third in this race a couple of years ago. Although he handles soft ground I'm not sure he wants it this testing. Alan King's horses are running well and he is represented by Godsmejudge. This horse handles most ground and ran well to be third in the NH Chase at Cheltenham. He's incredibly consistent and there are few negatives, he should run well.
Big Occasion has been well supported in the run up to the race for David Pipe. He has stamina in abundance and won the Midlands National last time out. He has been raised 6lbs for that win and can go well again under amateur Mikey Ennis who was in the saddle at Uttoxeter for the biggest win of his career - it would be some result for the rider if he could win this race too as he hails from Scotland.
Pipe also saddles Problema Tic, Tom Scudamore rides. Our Mick has plenty of weight to carry given conditions (11stone 9). His jockey Jason Maguire doesn't feel he will have a problem getting the trip and he has run some good racing in defeat this term. He looks well capable of winning a big prize, but can make jumping errors.
Neptune Equester has won on heavy ground but I get the feeling Brian Ellison's horse prefers better ground. Nuts n Bolts is trained by Lucinda Russell and he loves it round this track. He's a lightly-raced horse who has a good strike rate and he ran well enough at Cheltenham but he is unproven at the trip.
I like Rival D'Estruval, Godsmejudge and Big Occasion in a typically open Scottish National. I'm going to stick with the former who crashed out at Cheltenham and hope he can gain compensation here for his enthusiastic connections.
This week we have seen some interesting performances at Newmarket.
Hot Snap looks the one to beat in the 1000 Guineas after her defeat of Moyglare winner Sky Lantern. I spoke to Richard Hannon Jnr at Windsor on Monday and he was very keen on Sky Lantern's chances at Newmarket and they will be disappointed she was beaten in decisive fashion.
However, Richard Hughes said she will come on for the run. Sadly for the rest, so will Hot Snap. It's great to see her trainer Sir Henry Cecil start the season on such a good note. It amazing that this filly was his first runner of the campaign and although nothing can replace Frankel, she is exciting. The only disappointing thing is she is now 4/1 for the 1000 Guineas and was much, much bigger at the beginning of the week!
Richard Fahey has much to look forward to this season not least Garswood who is now 20/1 for the 2000 Guineas after his impressive win in the Free Handicap. With Mayson now at stud this horse should be the flag bearer for the Musley Bank handler and if he doesn't stay the mile at Newmarket there are plenty of other options including the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot over seven.
Toronado won the Craven Stakes for Richard Hannon to maintain his unbeaten record. He was impressive making all the running in this small field and is a leading contender for the Guineas. Regardless of performances this week, Dawn Approach is the horse to beat in the colts classic and he is Sky Bet's 5/4 favourite and continues to shorten without having stepped foot on a racecourse this season.
On Saturday at Newbury there are more colts hoping to force their way into the 2000 Guineas picture in the Greenham Stakes. Only five colts have been declared for the seven-furlong contest with Olympic Glory and Moohaajim dominating for Richard Hannon and Marco Botti respectively.
I'd be worried about ground too soft for Marco Botti's colt as he has a fast-ground action. He could be vulnerable on this ground if it is too soft and although he has run ok on it in the past it wouldn't bring out the best in him. Olympic Glory will relish any cut in the ground, he has won on ground ranging from good to heavy. On the likely good to soft ground I'm going with the Hannon horse who just kept getting better and better last season. His only defeat came in the Coventry when beaten by Dawn Approach and is another string to the Hannon Guineas bow.
The fillies also go on trial for the 1000 Guineas in the Dubai Duty Free (Fred Darling). Cheveley Park winner Rosdhu Queen reappears in this for William Haggas. At a recent press day at his stables this filly looked magnificent. Her coat was forward and she has obviously been kept well rugged up and under lights this winter. I'd be worried about her ability to stay a mile and wouldn't be backing her for the Guineas regardless of what she does here.
Both Maureen and The Gold Cheongsam were well behind in the Cheveley Park. There were definite excuses for the latter who met trouble in running and she wears the visor for the first time on Saturday. She wore blinkers at the Breeders' Cup where she ran well enough to be fifth in the Juvenile Fillies' Turf. I think she could be worth a chance in this. Maureen is only small and it remains to be seen if she has trained on. She has apparently been working well though and although Sky Lantern was beaten in the Nell Gwyn, she ran well so the Hannon's have a guide to how this filly is going.
There is also a tricky handicap, the Spring Cup over a mile.
The Lincoln form needs close scrutiny as winner Levitate takes on some of the beaten horses again. They include second Global Village, third Brae Hill, fourth Justonefortheroad, sixth Chapter Seven and a few also rans.
Educate is Sky Bet's 7/1 favourite though for Ismail Mohammed and Liam Jones. The horse is on a real roll having won his last two starts of 2012 and getting off the mark in the Spring Mile at Doncaster last time out having missed the cut for the Lincoln. He is versatile ground wise. He's 5lbs higher for that win.
Gouray Girl has a handy weight for Brian Ellison and she seems to have been transformed by the fitting of a hood. She hasn't had many chances over a mile and has to prove her stamina, she was staying on last time over seven though. She may still be favourably handicapped now they have found the key to her.
Kieren Fallon takes over on Global Village from Martin Lane, the horse was just pipped in the Lincoln. Fallon feels if the horse had started his run a couple of strides sooner he would have won at Doncaster and he must be a major player once again.
Border Legend is another horse with a low weight. Roger Charlton trains and Hayley Turner takes the ride for The Queen. He is lightly raced and his trainer has always liked him. He has to take on the hardened handicappers in this but has potential to improve this term.
Captain Bertie bids to bounce back after his disappointing effort in the Lincoln. He was strongly fancied for that race and Charlie Hills had been singing his praises before the Doncaster handicap. However, he could only finish 16th of the 22 runners. He has been dropped a pound for that run and may be dangerous to write off just yet. Ryan Moore takes over on Saturday. He won this race last year and I'm hoping he bounces back and wins again.
Leaving the Guineas aside I think Telescope is the horse I like for the Derby at the moment. It seems a long way away but it's only around six weeks from now. Sir Michael Stoute trains the horse for Highclere and apparently he has done well from two to three. Sky Bet have him as an 11/2 shot at the moment and he will no doubt be shorter after his trial (maybe the Dante at York in May).
Rival D'Estruval in the Scottish National @ 6/1 with Sky Bet
Olympic Glory in the Greenham Stakes
The Gold Cheongsam in the Dubai Duty Free (Fred Darling)
Captain Bertie in the Spring Cup @ 14/1 with Sky Bet
Hot Snap in the 1000 Guineas @ 4/1 with Sky Bet
Telescope in the Derby @ 11/2 with Sky Bet