The Group 1 Eclipse run over a mile and a quarter is the feature of Sandown’s impressive card on Saturday (3.35pm live on ITV). The Eclipse betting suggests that there is little to choose between the trio of three-year-olds that lead the market but there are a couple of older horses with decent claims to challenge them.
Ballydoyle’s Derby runner-up, Cliffs Of Moher, is the 7/4 favourite partnered by Ryan Moore. Those connections had the hot 4/6 favourite The Gurkha here last year, who was beaten by Godolphin’s Hawkbill. Cliffs Of Moher was the joint second favourite in the Derby and managed to beat John Gosden’s market-leading Cracksman a neck with the help of a sizeable supporting cast. Cliffs Of Moher was denied victory by the unexpected late challenge from his strong-finishing stablemate, Wings Of Eagles, who was sent off at 40/1 under little-known Padraig Beggy.
In his only other run this term Cliffs Of Moher won the Dee Stakes at Chester over this distance in a manner that had anyone who backed him at 4/5 seriously worried. He was either rather green, a bit lazy or both and had to be pushed along by Moore in running but got the job done, beating Godolphin’s Bay Of Poets a length and a half. This son of Galileo ran on strongly at the finish at Chester and the drop back to the same trip could well play to his strengths but, as his odds suggest, he is far from unbeatable.
Aidan O’Brien also saddles Taj Mahal (66/1), presumably to aid the favourite’s cause by acting as a pacemaker. Beggy takes the ride on this supposed no-hoper but he is rated just 5lb below Cliffs Of Moher and was only beaten a length and a half in the French Derby in June.
Taj Mahal was part of the Ballydoyle pack in the Irish Derby last weekend. He was beaten seven lengths by the stable’s second string, Capri. Wings Of Eagles suffered a career ending injury in running but still took third. Another son of Galileo, Taj Mahal will have to be incredibly tough to produce a top-class performance after such a rapid turnaround. On the positive side Beggy will probably try both to obey instructions and to gain the best result possible for this talented colt.
Martyn Meade’s Eminent (4/1) was only a length behind Cliffs Of Moher in the Epsom Derby despite finding himself short of room when it mattered under Jim Crowley. This huge, handsome son of Frankel handled the undulations of the Rowley Mile well when taking the Craven in a record-breaking time but failed to follow up in the 2,000 Guineas.
Meade thought that the unique test posed by Epsom failed to show his star colt at his best. It is very possible that Sandown could suit Eminent if running right-handed for the first time poses no issues. It may be significant that Eminent posted his best performance in the relatively small Craven field of seven with a strong pace set by Rivet. He has the same number of rivals here and will not have to contend with the issues posed by Ballydoyle’s team tactics in the Derby. Meade’s yard is in good form and it would not be a surprise to see Eminent overcome the favourite.
The other fancied three-year-old is the Richard Hannon-trained Barney Roy (3/1) who is untried beyond a mile. He took the Greenham on his seasonal debut and was only beaten a length by Ballydoyle’s Churchill in the 2,000 Guineas. We last saw this son of Excelebration taking the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating Lancaster Bomber a length with Godolphin’s Thunder Snow a head further back in third. Churchill started as the hot favourite but could only finish fourth, beaten four lengths.
Barney Roy’s pedigree suggests that skipping the Derby was probably a good move but he is out of a Galileo mare so this distance should be within his compass. This likeable, extremely game colt’s tendency to be keen might compromise his chances over an increased trip. Owned by Godolphin, James Doyle has the job of containing his enthusiasm. Doyle was really impressed with his attitude in the Greenham and is convinced that he will get this distance. If Doyle is right he could be very hard to beat.
The three-year-olds shoulder 10lb less than older runners here but that has not led to dominance by the Classic generation. In the past decade there have been only three young winners, they include Golden Horn and Sea The Stars. This bunch do not appear to be in the same class.
Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old Ulysses (7/1), is a course and distance winner. He took the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes here on his seasonal debut at the end of April beating Ballydoyle’s very useful Deauville. He was last seen finishing third, just over a length behind the top class Highland Reel, at Royal Ascot in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes after being slow to start and pulling hard under Jim Crowley. That form puts him right into the mix.
The five-year-old Decorated Knight (8/1) finished second, a short head in front of Ulysses at Royal Ascot for Roger Charlton under Andrea Atzeni. Yet another son of Galileo, Decorated Knight is a proven fast ground performer and he seems to be improving with age. This term he has taken the Group 1 Tattersalls Group Cup at the Curragh, beating Somehow over a length on unsuitable ‘yielding’ ground. In March Decorated Knight took the Group 1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan, beating Charlie Appleby’s Folkswood.
Charlton is not a name many punters choose to follow but his stable is in good form and Decorated Knight looks an attractive each-way prospect at his current price. Olivier Peslier has been booked to partner him and they should be in the money.
Our Preview’s Eclipse Betting Tip
The three market-leading younger horses all have claims but they are ungenerously priced and seem mediocre compared with the likes of Golden Horn and Sea The Stars.
- Ulysses is an obvious contender but he might wreck his chances by being over keen again. Our preference has to be for DECORATED KNIGHT who has been outstandingly consistent this season and has already scored at this level for the in-form Roger Charlton, back him each-way, best priced at 8/1 with Paddy Power or their sister company Betfair.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.