The Eclipse Stakes (3.50pm, Sandown, Saturday) normally provides the first major opportunity of the season for the three-year-olds of the Classic generation to take on the older horses. This year’s renewal has attracted seven runners, including just the one three-year-old, but the result is still far from a forgone conclusion.
Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien has won this Group 1 race five times, most recently with So You Think in 2011 and, this year, saddles a strong duo in Declaration Of War and Mars.
Declaration Of War (best at 4/1 with Bet365, BetVictor, Coral), the winner of the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot, appears to be the stable first string on jockey bookings. The War Front colt proved his running in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in May all wrong when beating the fourth in that race, Aljamaaheer, in the Queen Anne Stakes. Although he won over a mile and a quarter on heavy going at the Curragh last September he lacks winning form over that trip at the highest level. He clearly commands respect but may be vulnerable.
Mars (11/2 Skybet, Betfred, Paddy Power) has the invaluable services of Ryan Moore in the plate. Mars was sixth in the Derby and finished much closer to Dawn Approach in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot than he had in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on his reappearance in May. He runs as though a mile and a quarter should suit him ideally, but has just a Dundalk maiden win, over seven furlongs, to his name and may be best watched on this occasion.
Four of the entries, Al Kazeem, Mukhadram, The Fugue and Miblish, contested the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. Al Kazeem (15/8 favourite Paddy Power, Coral) beat Mukhadram (8/1 Paddy Power) by a neck on that occasion, with The Fugue (9/2 Paddy Power, Stan James) 3¾ lengths behind in third and Miblish (125/1 Stan James, Coral) 1½ lengths further behind in fifth.
It is difficult to see Miblish, who also finished behind Mukhadram in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes over course and distance in May, reversing the form, but it’s possible to make a case for all of the other three.
Al Kazeem is unbeaten in three starts so far this season, having won the Gordon Richards Stakes over course and distance in April and the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May prior to his Royal Ascot success. His seems to have put his previous problems firmly behind him and is clearly a force to be reckoned with at this level. He needed every yard of a mile and a quarter to wear down Mukhadram at Ascot but, frankly, always looked like getting there and is a worthy favourite.
Mukhadram put up a career-best performance at Ascot under an enterprising ride from Paul Hanagan, only succumbing to Al Kazeem near the finish, and a repeat performance may see him go close once again. However, the uphill climb from the turn into the straight at Sandown doesn’t favour his front-running style and it’s unlikely that Al Kazeem’s regular jockey, James Doyle, will allow him quite so much rope this time around.
The Fugue was making her seasonal debut at Ascot and can reasonably be expected to improve for the run, her first since last November. Two of her three career wins have come at a mile and a quarter, but she was also placed in the Oaks, the Ribblesdale Stakes and the Yorkshire Oaks, all over a mile and a half, as a three-year-old, so the Eclipse course should suit her admirably. However, even in receipt of the fillies’ allowance, she still meets Al Kazeem and Mukhadram on 7lb and 6lb unfavourable terms and may struggle to reverse the Ascot form.
Pastorius (12/1 Ladbrokes), trained in Germany by Mario Hofer, is an interesting contender. The son of Soldier Hollow stayed on well to win the Group 1 Prix Ganay, over 1m 2½f, at Longchamp on his reappearance in April. He was subsequently well beaten in the International Cup at Kranji in May but apparently suffered from the humidity in Singapore. Olivier Peslier, who has ridden him on both occasions this season, expects him to leave that latter form well behind and, if he does, he doesn’t have much to find to be a leading player.
Eclipse Stakes Betting Tips Verdict
Al Kazeem (15/8 Paddy Power, Coral) seems sure to be a tough nut to crack once again but, with several potential dangers in the field, doesn’t represent much value at his current odds. PASTORIUS (best at 12/1 Ladbrokes, Update: Now best price of 10/1 with Betfred, Ladbrokes, BetVictor, SkyBet) needs to be forgiven a poor run last time but, as a triple Group 1 winner in France and Germany shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s worth noting that he was beaten just a length by previous Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream in the Grosser Preis Von Baden, over a mile and a half, last September and he looks the one to side with at attractive odds each-way.