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Coral Eclipse preview

Coral Eclipse preview
by Chris Day, @chrisday100


The Coral Eclipse Stakes, run over 10 furlongs at Sandown in early July is undeniably one of the Premier Group 1 races in the calendar and this year’s renewal, the 40th in total, promises to be as good as any to have gone before.

My personal favourite was Muis Morris driving Mtoto down the outside to beat Steve Cauthen on that year’s Derby winner, Slip Anchor in 1987 but Giants Causeway’s never say die effort to deny Kalanisi in 2000 will take come beating from the point of view of class and guts in a thoroughbred race horse.

Anyway, on to Saturday’s renewal and, at this stage, the potential ground conditions are as big a conundrum as finding the winner itself. As usual, this is the first opportunity at Grade 1 level for the classic generation to take on their elders at middle distances and the 11lb they receive from their elders, 8lb from fillies, is a generous incentive for trainers to pitch their best 3 year olds into battle, which fortunately Richard Hannon and Roger Varian have taken up with a Guineas winner and Derby second respectively.

Hannon runs Night Of Thunder, who finished like a train, if a little erratically to win the first colts’ classic at Newmarket, in doing so beating subsequent Irish Guineas and St James Palace winner, Kingsman, who reversed form in no uncertain terms at Ascot, and Derby winner, Australia. In anyone’s book that form is top class and most Guineas winners stay well, a requirement for a stiff mile in the May of their 3 year old career. If anything I think Fallon’s style suits him better but Hughes is no negative and he’ll be right there in the last 100 yards when his 3 year old allowance could prove crucial.

Similar comments apply to Varian’s Kingston Hill, who won over a mile on soft ground as a 2 year old in the Racing Post Trophy and was clear 2nd best to Australia at Epsom on ground he’d have found lively enough. He has no stamina doubts and is another who must run really well with the stiff uphill finish also likely to suit. If Australia is as good as they say, his Derby run was huge and, as they were keen to take on the winner again in Ireland if the ground had ridden softer, you have to think they believe he’s a top class 3 year old.

Favourite for the race is Gosden’s star filly, The Fugue, who was stunningly impressive in The Prince Of Wales at Ascot and probably ought to have more Group 1s to her name, having been an unlucky in running second to Magician in The Breeders’ Cup Turf and then going on to fill the same place in The Hong Kong Vase. There is a suspicion that Treve didn’t run up to her best at Ascot but the form as it stands entitles her to be favourite and she is a thorough stayer having won last year’s Yorkshire Oaks impressively. The one blot on her copybook is that she finished 7th of 7 in last year’s edition but possibly wasn’t in the same form as this season and must be right there.

Verrazano follows a path of previous O’Brien winners of this race, starting off in The Lockinge then running well over a mile at Ascot and his American form and grinding style mean Ryan Moore should be the ideal partner for him on Saturday.

Of the others, War Command stayed on well in The St James Palace but may be a few lbs below the best, True Story looked great at Newmarket but recent displays at York and Epsom have cast doubts over his ability at this level and Mukhadram seems to regularly run well in the grade without quite having enough at the business end.

The one who may have some juice in his price from a betting point is Trading Leather, who followed his Irish Derby success with a second in The King George and International at York in his 3 year old season. First time up this season, in The Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, he was heavily backed into 4-6 but pulled hard and possibly didn’t get the best of rides and the market may have over reacted by offering him at 20-1, tempting for us each way thieves. Simply put, he’s just behind the best of these, but could easily reach a place in a race which should suit his grinding never say die style.

Summary

I couldn’t really be dogmatic about my choice of winner here but, if pushed, would take Night of Thunder on quick ground and Kingston Hill on good or slower although there could easily be four horses within half a length running towards the line, and courage could be the deciding factor.

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