ONLY seven go to post, the Derby winner isn’t here, the 2000 Guineas winner isn’t here, yet only two individuals can boast Group 1 success in their CV…. this years Coral Eclipse is a slightly underwhelming affair, I have to say.
But the good thing is: potential superstar The Gurkha lines up in an attempt to make amends for what has to be regarded as a wasted chance when he was beaten in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot roughly a fortnight ago.
The Gurkha went off odds-on in the Group 1 contest, though endured not the best of luck in-running and maybe, only maybe Ryan Moore didn’t have his brightest moment either.
Whatever, it’s the past – the here is now. Aiden O’Brien’s inmate, a son of Galileo (how could it be any different?!) stormed last month to global attention in the Poule D’Essai Poulains – the French 2000 Guineas – where he blew his rivals away with a turn of foot that looked out of this world. Can he do the same today?
Absolutely! This lad is massive talent! Stepping up to 1m 2f should not be a problem at all, if not even bring out further improvement, and the softish ground is no trouble either. As a three year old he receives some handy amount of weight in a race without a clear danger from the brigade of older horses. Right?
Probably. Though the top rated horse is the four year old My Dream Boat. On official ratings The Gurkha has to find two pounds with the winner of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Trained by Clive Cox, My Dream Boat clearly ran to a career best at Royal Ascot, helped by the soft ground that day. He’s a real mud lover, without a shadow of a doubt and will hope Sandown retains as much rain in the turf as possible.
In my view he is clearly the biggest threat to The Gurkha from the older horses, though whether he can give the weight away against a rival most likely to improve another couple of pounds – I find it hard to see.
Widely regarded as the biggest threat in the public opinion is Roger Charlton’s Time Test. What’s in his favour is the relative freshness. He only had one start this season – a successful one, here at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, a Group 3 event. It’s fair to say he may come on for the run and remains with potential to improve a bit for age, now as a four year old.
That says, he’s yet to prove himself on the highest level and probably is better suited to a fast surface. Yes, he does handle cut in the ground, but given a career best is required today, the ground is a worry.
Godolphin’s Hawkbill was a fine winner of the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. He’s unbeaten in his last five starts, so obviously on the up and could still have more to offer. He relishes today’s conditions and his prominent racing style should see him in a good position when it matters most.
We can’t completely rule out Western Hymn. The “senior” in the race, he’s ultra consistent and usually puts his best foot forward here at Sandown. So it would not be a surprise to see him finish in the money. Still, something dramatic would have to happen for him to win.
Verdict: Whenever I side with a hot odds-on favourite, it usually is the kiss of death for the well fancied horse. Nonetheless I can’t look past The Gurkha today and find it surprising to been able to snap up evens odds. He’s more like a 4/6 chance in my book.
1. The Gurkha
3: My Dream Boat