The scene is set for a total Eclipse at Sandown.
The biggest concern fans of top-class racing might have had when seeing the array of equine talent among the entries for the Coral Eclipse this weekend was whether that stellar field might be whittled down to something less thrilling by the time of final declarations.
They need not have worried however, with only Hardwicke runner-up Hillstar a notable defection, and the race looks like being one of the highlights of the summer racing calendar.
The Fugue was brilliant at Royal Ascot, and is a warm favourite to follow up her win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, but she did flop here last year, and that has to be a slight concern, for all that came on the back of a rushed preparation which would have affected her ability to recover quickly from what was her seasonal return in 2013.
She was again disappointing in Dubai this spring, but seems to have had an uninterrupted prep since then, so connections will be more than hopeful she can consign last season’s Eclipse eclipse (see what we did there?!) to history.
There is a feeling that her record-breaking run at Ascot might not be all it appeared, however, and there are better horses than Magician at Sandown, while one she beat there has more to recommend him than the bare result.
Last year’s 3-y-o crop was far from vintage, but the current generation have more to recommend them, and Night of Thunder is a serious contender after winning an excellent 2000 Guineas, for all he was unable to confirm form with Kingman at the Royal Meeting.
The latter looks a genuine superstar, however, and Night of Thunder wasn’t at all discredited in finishing second in the St James’ Palace under an enterprising Richard Hughes ride. He steps up in trip on Saturday, and it remains to be seen whether the extra quarter of a mile will suit.
A cursory glance at his pedigree suggests he will stay given he’s by Dubawi out of a Galileo mare, but such broad strokes can be misleading, and it’s notable that the best performers in his family have been milers, with the star performer in his damline being the champion 2-y-o filly and Irish 1000 Guineas winner Forest Flower.
Galileo is mistakenly assumed to be a provider of stamina, while Dubawi himself was a blatant non-stayer in Motivator’s Derby. The signs are that Night of Thunder’s inherent ability may give him a chance of landing an Eclipse, but there is little in his make-up to suggest that he needs stepping up beyond a mile, and he’s taken on as a result.
On the subject of stamina, it must be doubtful on the evidence to date whether either of Aidan O’Brien’s pair, War Command or Verrazano will get home over 1¼m, with the latter twice failing badly at the trip in the US last year. It’s possible that a falsely run race might help in that regard, but there’s one very good reason why that shouldn’t happen, and his name is Mukhadram.
Mukhadram was only fourth to The Fugue last time, but it’s not hard to forgive that run, with connections surprisingly discarding the forcing tactics which have served him so well, and the addition of a pacemaker for him was a headscratching piece of logic, particularly as he might have been expected to chase that one in a clear second if it was believed he needed a lead. Paul Hanagan elected to sit mid-field instead and was unable to land a blow.
He must have learned the folly of such an approach given how things panned out there, and can be expected to revert to front-running duties again. His performance against Tapeta specialists in the Dubai World Cup left me in no doubt that he’s capable of winning at the highest level on turf, and he is taken to put that Ascot disappointment behind him.
The BetBright Verdict
Win: Mukhadram @ 12/1
Each-way Alternative: We tipped Tullius at 7/1 for the Lincoln which didn’t quite come to pass, but he represents decent value at 33/1 for the Eclipse; not to be sniffed at following his recent triumph in the Bet365 Mile.
The race goes off at 15.50 at Sandown Park tomorrow, Saturday, July 5th at Sandown Park.
You can have a bet on the Eclipse with BetBright by visiting our Sandown betting markets on our main site at https://www.betbright.com/horse_racing