The nation will be glued to televisions at 3 o’clock on Saturday for England’s Quarter-Final with Sweden, but before that sporting fans have a treat of a race to look forward to in the shape of the Coral-Eclipse.
The 10-furlong Group 1 stands out but it also heads a card with something for everyone in racing terms, and we do have a feature that is worthy of pulling your eyes away from the World Cup pre-match analysis.
You’ll be watching the football on the TV anyway so why not go along to Sandown – buy tickets here – to watch the Coral-Eclipse live and take in the England v Sweden on the big screens?
This has often been a clash of generations, but three-year olds dominate the betting this year, with Saxon Warrior the big story of the race. The 2,000 Guineas winner was seen as a disappointment in the Derby, when sent off 4/7 favourite and beaten into fourth after being blocked in the straight for a run and appearing not to handle Epsom or the 12 furlongs.
He was tried in the Irish Derby and started as the favourite, but he did not have the turn of foot he showed at Newmarket and that is likely to be his last run at the distance. It was presumed he would have a summer break since – and head for the Juddmonte International at York – but after impressing at Ballydoyle a chance is been taken to run him here.
Few should doubt Aidan O’Brien’s genius, but this is a bold and unique ask. Aidan O’Brien has had 15 previous Guineas winners and never asked any of them to race twice in 8 days (thanks to the Guardian’s Chris Cook for this stat). Although Minding took the Oaks after being beaten in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
There is precedent for such a win, however. Professional Punter Mike Spence has found out that since 2004, 10 winners from 213 runners in Group 1’s have won within less than 10 days, and this would show a profit to level stakes. The last three horses to win Group 1’s within 10 days of their last run were Lancaster Bomber (this season’s Tattersalls Gold Cup), Legatissimo & Together Forever with two of the three being Aidan O’Brien trained.
Should we see the real Saxon Warrior, he would be a bet at 7/2, but it could be that his age group have caught up to him and Masar could well achieve the Eclipse – Derby double. Charlie Appleby’s colt was devastatingly impressive when smashing the Craven field by 10 lengths and then ran an excellent race to finish third in the Guineas.
Masar’s Derby win came in what was an epic contest, and he was a deserving winner, having travelled powerfully into the race but crucially stayed on best. Roaring Lion was a length and a half back in third but can expect to get closer dropped down to his ideal trip, over which he was so impressive in the Dante, although Masar doesn’t lack for the speed needed.
Happily got the better of Masar when taking the Prix Jean-Luc Lagadere at Chantilly last season but she hasn’t won since, finishing a fairly beaten third in both Guineas before then finishing a close up fourth in the Prix Diane last time. That form appears strong on paper and it could be that stepping up in trip is the way to get improvement out of her now. On the juvenile form of last year she could be overpriced to threaten the front pair.
If that is true for her, it’s definitely true for Cliffs Of Moher, beaten fair and square into fourth in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes at Royal Ascot, before then finishing third in the Hardwicke Stakes. But he is not the horse connections has hoped he’d be when he was second in the Derby last year on this season’s evidence.
Hawkbill won this in 2016 and was deeply impressive when beating Poet’s Word (winner of the Prince Of Wales’s at Royal Ascot this year) in style when taking the Sheema Classic. He was a disappointment in the Coronation Cup and well beaten at Royal Ascot, so is hard to weigh up.
An interesting older contender is Forest Ranger, who ran a succession of good races as a three-year-old. He has improved as a four-year-old, however, taking the Earl Of Sefton Stakes in good style from Deauville and then beating War Decree at Chester in the Huxley. That is a level of form which doesn’t have him too far off the best here and it would not be a surprise to see him take a real hand.
Raymond Tusk had a hard task to give 5lbs to Loxley at Newbury last time out but is likely to struggle against better opposition here.
UPDATE ON 7 JULY:
Originally the tip was Masar but in the light of him being withdrawn overnight Will’s tip is:
Coral-Eclipse – 2.10 Sandown – 2 pts win Roaring Lion (13/8 general)