Eclipse Preview: The Fugue On Song

Last updated July 6th, 2013

A select field of seven go to post at Sandown on Saturday (3.50pm) for the Eclipse Stakes. Most of them were in action just two weeks ago, including the 15/8 favourite, Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem. Is it realistic to expect him and many of the other market leaders to put in an equally strong performance so soon?

Al Kazeem’s credentials are impressive. This five-year-old son of Dubawi is the highest rated horse in the race. He has won all of his three starts this season. In his debut this year he won over course and distance on good ground in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes in April. He went on to win the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup over 11 furlongs at the Curragh in May, beating Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot by one and half lengths.

His most recent triumph was in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot (also over a mile and two furlongs) on 19 June.  He caught William Haggas’ front-running Mukhadram close to the line to win by a neck under James Doyle. He is unbeaten since being partnered by Doyle who rode him to win his final start as a four-year-old and has ridden him ever since.  Charlton’s stable jockey is obviously on board for the Eclipse and has to be taken seriously.

The four-year-old Mukhadram (biggest at 8/1 with BetVictor and Paddy Power), a son of Shamardal, looks progressive and has risen 24lb in the handicapper’s estimation this season. He also won over course and distance on his seasonal debut, taking the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at the end of May on good to soft ground. He made all to beat David Lanigan’s Main Sequence by half a length under Paul Hanagan.

He went into the Prince of Wales’s Stakes as a 14/1 outsider on a rating of 111. The handicapper hiked him up to a rating of 125 after he came second, putting him just a pound lower than Al Kazeem. He benefited from a tactical masterpiece of a ride from Paul Hanagan at Ascot. Yes, you have to be good to win from the front but Hanagan’s decision to kick for home more than two furlongs out caught some of his rivals napping.  His price suggests that the bookmakers think the result flattered him.

Third in the Prince of Wales was John Gosden’s four-year-old filly, The Fugue (9/2 Paddy Power, Stan James). She finished just over three lengths behind the winner under William Buick, having been kept towards the rear of the field. It was her first run of the season. This daughter of Dansili has been expensive to follow in top class company. She has been beaten on all four runs when she started as the favourite.

She clearly has ability but the customary hold up tactics have often led to her encountering traffic problems, especially in large fields. It is no coincidence that her best results have been achieved in small ones. She has not run at Sandown before but, provided the ground is no slower than good, she has to be one for the shortlist.

The German invading party, Mario Hofer’s Pastorius (12/1 Ladbrokes), should not be ignored. This son of Soldier Hollow out of a Monsun mare won the German Derby and has only run twice this season. He started with a win at Longchamp in the Group 1 Prix Ganay over a mile and two furlongs under Olivier Peslier. Most recently he was a disappointing 2/1 favourite in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji (Singapore). He finished with only one horse behind him in a field of 13. Connections said that, like the majority of European runners, he did not cope with the heat and extremely humid conditions.  There is little chance of him over-heating at Sandown.

We have only seen him once in the UK, when he finished fourth at 33/1 in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October 2012, nearly eight lengths behind Frankel. He had an official rating of 122 at the end of last season which puts him in contention here.  Jockey Peslier says he is going to ride him for a place! Take that with a pinch of French salt, the horse looks slightly over-priced.

Aidan O’Brien has two chances of adding to his tally of five Eclipse wins.  Declaration Of War was a late addition to the race and is the second favourite at a best-priced 4/1 with Bet365 and BetVictor. In his most recent outing he won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot, beating Roger Varian’s Aljamaaheer by three quarters of a length.  Previously he was a disappointing favourite in the Lockinge, only finishing fifth after being slow to get into his stride.

This four-year-old by War Front does have winning form over longer distances. He took the Group 3 Diamond Stakes (over a mile and two and a half furlongs) at the end of last season.  Some punters may be less than impressed that he is partnered by Joseph O’Brien.

ryan moore
Ryan Moore: The rider of Mars also won the Derby on a stable second-string

Ryan Moore takes the ride on O’Brien’s second-string Mars (11/2 Paddy Power, SkyBet, Betfred). He is the only three-year-old in the race and will consequently carry 11lb less than his more mature rivals. That allowance has helped provide four three-year-old Eclipse winners since the turn of the century. Three of them were trained by O’Brien.

This son of Galileo won his only start as a two-year-old but has yet to score in three attempts (all in Group 1s) this season.  He came sixth in the 2,000 Guineas and was similarly placed in the Derby, having got caught up in a barging match. Most recently he was third in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot on 18 June, nearly three lengths behind Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach, after encountering traffic problems. He will be wearing a hood for the first time in this race which may help his chances. The concern is that this will be his third run in five weeks.

Clive Brittain’s Miblish is the 125/1 (Stan James) outsider of the field.  He has been on the go since February and this will be his sixth start of the season. He scored in a listed race on the all weather at Kempton over a mile and two furlongs in March but has not got closer than third in Group company.  Most recently he came fifth in the Prince of Wales, five lengths behind Al Kazeem. It is difficult to see this son of Teofilo getting placed but, with the prize money stretching to sixth place, he stands a reasonable chance of paying for a few months’ training fees.

Eclipse Betting Tips Advice

Al Kazeem could well win again but this will be the first time that he has been asked to run twice in a fortnight so the biggest odds of 15/8 with Paddy Power does not appeal. The same concern applies to the majority of runners who were busy at Royal Ascot. It is very likely that it will not be the best horse that wins here, but the horse that can cope best with being produced twice in quick succession.  Only the German runner, Pastorius, has had a decent break since his last run but who knows how long it takes to recover fully from a fruitless trip to Singapore?  The trainer is bullish but the horse is reportedly a nervy type.

Last year’s winner, John Gosden’s Nathaniel was a fresh horse – it was his first run of the season.  This will be THE FUGUE‘s second. Yes, she ran two weeks ago, but her running style suggests that she did not have such a hard race as the colts that beat her. She produces her best in small fields and has to be our pick to win at 9/2 with BetVictorPaddy Power or Stan James to make it two Eclipse’s in a row for Gosden.