The Coral Eclipse Stakes run over 1m2f, is the first opportunity of the season for the three-year-olds of the classic generation to take on the older horses at the highest level (3.50pm, Sandown, Saturday).
Four out of the last five favourites have won the Eclipse and, this year, John Gosden’s five-year-old The Fugue (2/1) heads the market. The Dansili mare returned to her best form when beating Magician by 1¾ lengths in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and, as the highest rated horse in the race according to the BHA, appears to have an obvious chance.
Night Of Thunder (7/2) failed by 2¼ lengths to confirm his 2,000 Guineas form with Kingman in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot but, along with Kingston Hill, is the top rated three-year-old in the field and has just 4lb to find with The Fugue on official ratings. Of course, he has his stamina to prove over an extra quarter of a mile on a testing track, but his pedigree suggests it should be within his compass and, if so, he looks a serious contender.
By contrast, the other leading three-year-old in the field, Kingston Hill (7/1) drops back in distance after finishing a creditable second, beaten 1¼ lengths, in the Derby at Epsom four weeks ago.
The Mastercraftsman colt won the Racing Post Trophy, over a mile, at Doncaster last October by 4½ lengths, so the distance is less of a worry than the underfoot conditions. He was withdrawn from the Irish Derby at the Curragh last Saturday because of the good to firm going, so his participation and his chance, if he does line up, depends on the prevailing good going remaining unchanged, or worsening, between now and Saturday.
Aidan O’Brien has won the Eclipse fives times, most recently with So You Think in 2011, so his US import Verrazano (11/2) must be worthy of close inspection. Twice a Grade 1 winner in North America as a three-year-old, the More Than Ready colt only failed by three-quarters of a length to withstand the challenge of last year’s Sussex Stakes winner, Toronado, in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and is clearly smart. However, although he’s won four times over 1m1f on fast dirt, he has faded out of contention on both starts over further, which must be a worry.
It’s frankly difficult to get worked up about any of the others. War Command (10/1) has twice finished behind Night Of Thunder this season, True Story (14/1) finished 9¼ lengths behind Kingston Hill in the Derby and Mukhadram (14/1) appears exposed as lacking the class required to win. Similarly, Trading Leather (20/1) has 3¼ lengths to find with The Fugue on their running in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last September and has something to prove after being turned over at odds-on on his reappearance at Newmarket in May, while Tullius (33/1), Somewhat (100/1) and Zambucca (500/1) appear outclassed.
Rain is forecast for the Esher area from dusk on Friday so, working on the assumption that the going at Sandown will remain good, or softer, KINGSTON HILL looks cracking value to return to winning ways. He was the only one to make a race of it with Australia in the Derby, the form of which was franked at the Curragh last Saturday, so our betting tips advice is to back Roger Varian’s charge each-way at a best price of 7/1 with Ladbrokes or Betfred.