Micky Hammond first came to prominence as a jump jockey with the shrewd Reg Akehurst back in the 1980’s and much of the old master’s skills have stayed with him during a 30-year training career, initially in the south, but for the longest period based at Middleham in North Yorkshire. Patience has been the watchword for Hammond who has often taken other trainers’ cast-offs and brought them back to winning ways. For the most part big-race success has eluded him but in the latest season, the almost constant heavy ground played firmly into the hands of stable star Cornerstone Lad.
Against all expectations this modest stayer on the Flat progressed into a true Graded performer over jumps, beating former Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air with a battling front-running display in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and then almost defying a 6lb penalty when a close third to Ballyandy and Pentland Hills in the Unibet Trial at Haydock. The Champion Hurdle itself proved a step too far and perhaps in view of his high rating, a switch to chasing might suit this brilliant jumper. Otherwise he could revert to the Flat where his mark in the low 70’s gives the clever Hammond something to work with.