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Alex Hammond: Back Bounce!

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Alex Hammond looks ahead to the upcoming action.

Sky Sport’s Racing’s Alex Hammond is working live from Chester on Saturday and she casts her eye over all the weekend’s major races in this week’s blog.

Last week I told you about my potential ante-post blunder after I charged in to back Mac Swiney for the Cazoo Derby before his heavy defeat in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown.

I felt like a complete nimrod for going in full tilt, trying to grab a bit of value. Oh, how quickly things can change in racing! Since we last spoke, Mac Swiney has put up a tough as teak and classy performance to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas and is now shorter than the price I’d backed him at. Happy days.

He suffered from a snotty nose after the Derrinstown and as suspected in the immediate aftermath, didn’t give his running. As it stands, the ground at Epsom shouldn’t be too dissimilar to conditions he enjoys, so whilst I’m yearning for some sunny weather, I’m happy to wait another week and a half for it to emerge.

So, from drifting out to 20/1 he’s now 6/1 with Sky Bet and deservedly so. Bolshoi Ballet is favourite at 15/8, but that seems mighty short in a race that looks more open than that.

The Derby is next weekend though and we have a busy bank holiday to get stuck into before then. I’m off to Chester on Saturday for Sky Sports Racing and then Windsor for what should be (weather permitting) a popular Monday evening fixture.

Chester has attracted good entries in all seven races, so there should be some competitive fields to get stuck in to.

Carlos Felix ran well on his first run for Philip Kirby at the Chester Cup meeting and will run off the same mark if he lines up here again in the Mental Health UK Handicap at 3.50pm. He hasn’t hit the heights his whopping €700,000 price tag suggests he should have, but he showed promise on his return to the flat having not taken to hurdling, and that may have given him some confidence.

Haydock stage a couple of group races on Saturday and even after a drying week the ground will be far from spring like.

The Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes is run over the specialist trip of seven furlongs and Safe Voyage is back for more having won the last running of this group 3 in 2019.

His record at this track is exemplary with four wins and one close second, all coming over seven furlongs. So therefore, he’s Sky Bet’s 3/1 favourite and providing the ground stays on the soft side he’ll be a tough nut to crack, even at the age of 8.

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Haydock is a happy hunting ground for his trainer John Quinn, who saddled two nice winners there last weekend, including the winner of the feature Temple Stakes. Safe Voyage had a tough task on his reappearance when he was understandably outclassed in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes and this is much more his bag.

The Williams Haggas trained filly With Thanks is an intriguing opponent. She’s lightly raced, improving and conditions will also suit her. River Nymph is stepping up in class having won the Victoria Cup at Ascot last time out.

There are cases to be made for other runners too, including Bounce The Blues. I was keen on her at Doncaster on her reappearance, but she ran below my expectations, and then had absolutely no luck over this seven furlongs at Lingfield in a Group 3 last time out.

I’m hoping compensation awaits en-route to Royal Ascot for the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. It’s a devilishly difficult race, but I’m tentatively going for Andrew Balding’s four-year-old at the prices, with the other filly, With Thanks her main danger. She’s 7/1 with Sky Bet.

John Quinn will be hoping for more success at the venue with El Astronaute in the Listed Betway Achilles Stakes. He’s very well named because he comes out of the stalls like a rocket, and he used that quality to help him win at Chester on his seasonal debut.

He beat King’s Lynn that day and at no point did the runner-up truly threaten him, so off level weights he should confirm those placings. He’s the most incredibly consistent horse and should run well again.

So, let’s hope we enjoy a late summer (after the Derby) and it hangs around for a while. I could do with a few more Mac Swiney’s having ordered a campervan this week. If he wins the Derby that might just buy me a set of the fancy alloys I like so much! Have a wonderful weekend.

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