Alex Hammond weekend preview and tips

Sky Sports Racing’s Alex Hammond has put her Cheltenham tickets on hold to focus on this weekend’s quality flat and jumps racing.

It has taken longer than usual to start writing this column for you this week. Not because of writer’s block, but because I just spent 9 minutes and 13 seconds in an ice bath and my fingers refused to be as dexterous as I’d like them to be. I’m still shaking and my toes are numb but otherwise in good condition but I’ll use it as an excuse for typos. The cold is meant to sharpen the senses, so I hope more winners will flow this week! There has to be a benefit, right?

My bathtub countdown timer was being closely monitored, almost as closely as the one that’s been rattling through my head for the last six months to the Cheltenham countdown. Much like the last minute in an ice bath, the festival can’t come soon enough and now we have to wait less than two weeks.

I’ll save my thoughts on Cheltenham until the time gets closer as we’ve got plenty to do in the meantime. I look forward to co-hosting this weekend Come in with Jason Weaver on Friday night ahead of the superb Doncaster and Lingfield races on Saturday where I will be in the Sky Sports Studio Hot Seat. That being said, Kelso and Newbury also have good quality jump races, so let’s try to dig up some winners from those games.

I’ll start with Doncaster where the Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Handicap Pursuit is the function. This 3m2f competition looks exceedingly competitive despite only having eight runners. Sky Bet offers four slots instead of three, which should help us a bit.

I envisioned Does He Know for the Denman Chase but he could only finish third of the seven runners. He gave weight to the horses that landed there and back with a handicap in front of him and up in the trip Donny will pass. He’s 11/4 second favorite.

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It’s pretty hard to remember SPORTY JOHANNES was a Grade 1 winner over obstacles as a beginner. The wheels fell off late but maybe the wind he had before his last start will give him more confidence. I hope we haven’t seen the best of him and I’m waiting for him to recover. He’s certainly at an appealing mark these days and is 9/1 on Sky Bet so maybe one for those four spots.

Newbury’s highlight is the BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase over two and a half miles. We all know the ground is unusually fast for the time of year so it should come as no surprise that there are only seven entries for this race. Sky Bet pays three places instead of two.

Last year’s winner Paint The Dream will find it harder from his higher handicap mark although he loves Newbury and the ground is ideal. Zanza paid the price of winning the Class 2 Denman Chase last time out, and life will be harder with a handicap.

Lord Baddesley is 1lb outside the handicap but will be enjoying the conditions and his trainer Chris Gordon is having a superb season. You can’t write off Sebastapol for Tom Lacey either. I’m not a big fan of this horse as I don’t think he has the determination of some but he will enjoy the conditions even if he steps out of the novice company.

Unusual for a horse trained by Venetia Williams, GEMIRANDE likes a more solid surface and I might risk it on the prices. He’s 11/2 and I’d like to think he can walk to any of these three places.

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Kelso’s charming Borders track takes center stage thanks to a quality map that includes a listed chase alongside the historical one and a Tier 2 hurdle for beginners bet365 morebattle hurdlea race that since its inception in 1984 has produced some good winners, most of them from the north of Trento.

There have been some who have swiped the prize and carried it south, with Nicky Henderson being the most successful attacker from the south thanks to his three winners and one bringing it back across the Irish Sea when Emmet Mullins hit two years with The Shunter was before.

There is an additional incentive of £100,000 for the winner should he succeed at Cheltenham, something Mullins pulled through when The Shunter subsequently went on to win the plate. Emmet is back to smash the prize with bright youngster Mctigue, who gets a 10lb weight allowance for his age.

I think the price will go back to Ireland but Lorna Fowler-trained COL. MUSTARD. I would love to see my old colleague from Racing Channel, Lorna, win this award. Colonel Mustard has been assigned top weight but Lorna has booked a decent 3lb conditioner Kevin Buckley who will help.

The horse is eight years old but is still ridden lightly and his last few starts have been over fences. I think he will appreciate returning to hurdling as it is a sphere where he has previously shown intelligent form. His only other handicap start was last season at the County Hurdle, where he was beaten in third place, three lengths behind State Man and First Street.

He ran 140 there and is now 143 while those two now rate 167 and 152 respectively. A reproduction of it should make him come very close. He is 5/1 joint second favorite at Sky Bet.

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Flat racing fans can look forward to Lingfield, where the Listed TalkSPORT Spring Cup appearances will attract the attention of all weather lovers.

Richard Hannon leads two including Shouldvebeenaring, who defeated Alpha Capture (rejecting again) last time out in Southwell. He also runs a filly named Minnetonka, which I like, but it’s fair to say that after winning her debut, she was a bit of a disappointment, albeit in hot company. She can go on at three, and I hope there’s more to come.

James Tate also leads two with undefeated Iconic Moment, trying to be his duo’s choice. He has to translate the Chelmsford form into Lingfield on his course debut.

Richard Hughes has ridden the winner of this race three times so knows what matters and he’s saddled Candle Of Hope making his all-weather debut here. I think Richard Hannon has the key with his two and two SHOULD BE NOTED looks like the selection; don’t write Minnetonka off, though.

My tickets for Tuesday’s Cheltenham Festival arrived today and I must now wait and hope that Willie Mullins decides to run our syndicate mare Shewearsitwell in Tuesday’s Mares’ Hurdle rather than Thursday’s Pertemps Final as I don’t have tickets for the Thursday still! It’s a decision not to be rushed, but it will be worth the wait.

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