Alex Hammond Blog

Jumby features among Alex Hammond’s fancied runners this weekend as she looks ahead to the quality card at Doncaster, plus much more.

There was a flash of brightness in the gloom of 2020 on Champions Day at Ascot last Saturday where Hollie Doyle and partner Tom Marquand lit up the day with their four winners combined and a Group 1 apiece – the first career win at the highest level for Hollie.

It was a privilege to cover the day for Sky Sports Racing and so wonderful to see our ambassador, Hollie, get a well-deserved victory at the highest level and once again make it onto the national news. Her joy was infectious and although I know Tom drove the pair home, they would have been forgiven for floating back up the M4.

The pair will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come and I can envisage them battling between themselves to become champion jockey in the future. Maybe I should request a bet from Sky Bet for the duo to both be champion jockey individually within the next 10 years?

Speaking of talented riders and I was covering the racing from Windsor on Monday when apprentice jockey Saffie Osborne suffered what can only be described as a horror fall.


It was the sort of fall that really shakes you up to witness and it really “knocked my duck off” (**as we say where I come from – see below!) for the rest of the day.

To hear that she had “only” broken her arm, ribs and suffered a punctured lung, was a huge relief, as the X-rated fall looked like it would result in a worse outcome than that. She’s young (18), has shown so much promise as a rider and will bounce back from this. She had ridden her 9th career winner earlier that day and I know the plan originally had been to stop when she reached 10 winners to protect her 7lb claim for next season. She has all the time in the world now to mend and get back in her own time. She’s only 18 and the sky is the limit for her going forward. Get well soon Saffie!

Saffie Osborne – taken to hospital after fall

Onto this weekend’s racing then and I’m off up to Doncaster on Saturday to bring you the Vertem Futurity, the final Group 1 of the British Flat season.

Whilst the race was run away from Doncaster, on the all-weather at Newcastle, last season it’s worth remembering it produced the following season’s 2000 Guineas winner in Kameko. So, we may be crossing over into the National Hunt season, but don’t avert your gaze from the Flat scene just yet.

Wembley deserves his position at the top of the market (11/4 favourite with Sky Bet) after his staying-on 2nd in the Dewhurst two weeks ago. There is plenty to recommend him, not least his trainer. You won’t need me to tell you that Aidan O’Brien has a good record in the race (4 wins in the last 9 years) as he has a great record in most top level Flat races.

However, Andrew Balding has also won it twice in the last 6 years and Roger Varian won it with Kingston Hill 7 years ago and has supplemented one for this year’s renewal.

The most remarkable record is that of jockey Andrea Atzeni who has made a habit of winning this Group 1; in fact he won it four years in a row between 2013 and 2016.

Joseph O’Brien rode the winners in 2011 and 2012 and saddles one this time round. So, familiar names that top the roll of honour, who will take it in 2020?

BARADAR is the horse that has been supplemented for the race by trainer Roger Varian and whilst he doesn’t yet have the classiest form on offer, he will love the ground and is regarded sufficiently to have been added to the field at great expense.

He has a smart pedigree, being a half-brother to last Saturday’s QEII runner-up Roseman. He may offer a bit of each way value at 16/1 with Sky Bet.

Will Andrew Balding enhance his record in the race with King Vega?

He comes into the race a twice-raced maiden having finished runner-up in his two starts including the Group 3 Solario Stakes behind Etonian at Sandown in August.

Charlie Appleby has a couple entered – One Ruler and La Barrosa. The former won the Autumn Stakes over a mile on soft ground last time out (Van Gogh and Megallan in behind) and the latter is two from two so far.

His maiden win on debut has worked out very well and he followed that up with an odds on win in the Somerville Tattersalls Stakes over 7 furlongs on good ground.

If John Gosden’s horses were in better form I’d fancy Megallan to get closer to One Ruler on Saturday, but they aren’t scaling the impressive heights we normally expect from the master trainer at the moment.

Joseph O’Brien and Tom Marquand are a force to be reckoned with having teamed up to win the St Leger with Galileo Chrome. State Of Rest has a bit to find to win, but he lost a front shoe when third in the Champagne Stakes behind Chindit at Doncaster and if we are making a fuss about Palace Pier running below par in the QEII for the same reason, they we also have to take that into account for this chap.

I think on all known form Wembley is the one they all have to beat, but I have backed Baradar each-way at the current prices.

Baradar (purple and white silks)

Also on Saturday I’m hoping that Jumby lines up at Doncaster in the Listed race over 6 furlongs.

I was really taken by Eve Johnson Houghton’s juvenile when he won on debut over 7 furlongs at Ascot and that race is working out particularly well. He’s since run over 7 furlongs and a mile and it’s interesting he’s dropping to 6 for the first time.

He doesn’t seem short of speed and he remains an exciting prospect. He’s 7/1 with Sky Bet for that race at the time of writing, but has other options on Saturday, including in nurseries at Doncaster and Newbury and the Horris Hill at Newbury. He’s sure to run where the best chance lies, so keep an eye out for him.

Conditions look ideal for Came From The Dark in the 5 furlong handicap at Doncaster (2.20) on Saturday. He will enjoy dropping back to 5 furlongs and won’t mind how much rain falls on Town Moor. Trainer Ed Walker has been in great form recently and hopefully top weight won’t be enough to anchor him. He’s 5/1 to win away from his beloved Haydock.

Cheltenham stage their first meeting of the season on Friday and Saturday and there are some lovely horses entered. Most notably Allmankind is making his reappearance in Saturday’s opening race, the Masterson Holdings Hurdle and Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase winner Copperhead is entered in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle on the same day.

So there should be something for everyone this weekend whether you prefer flat or jumping, let’s hope the weather is kinder than it was this time last year. Stay safe and catch you next week.

**For those from Sheffield/Peak District you won’t need an explanation, but as most of the Sky Sports Racing Gallery didn’t have a clue what I was talking about when I said “knocked my duck off” on air on Monday it means this – something that has affected your mood in a negative way/when something upsets your equilibrium/upsets the apple cart. There you go.

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