Preview G1 Eclipse Stakes from Sandown
It’s the first great clash between the generations and Saturday’s G1 Eclipse Stakes from Sandown – one of the great UK racecourses – looks set to be a thriller on a track where the uphill finish regularly isolates the men from the boys.
Epsom Derby (G1 2405m) runner-up Cliffs Of Moher Galileo (IRE) – Wave (IRE) (Dansili) and fourth-placed Eminent Frankel – You’ll Be Mine (USA) (Kingmambo (USA)) along with Godolphin’s Royal Ascot G1 winner Barney Roy Excelebration (IRE) – Alina (IRE) (Galileo (IRE)) are expected to dominate the betting and all three represent the three-year-old Classic generation. However supporters of older horses will bask in the knowledge that since the race was opened up age wise in 1965, they can boast 34 victories compared to just 18 from the three-year-olds.
Cliffs Of Moher had looked sure to win at Epsom once Ryan Moore had urged him to the front about 200m from the end, only for unfancied stablemate Wings Of Eagles to swoop late and grab Britain’s greatest prize.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien clearly thinks that this shorter distance could make all the difference: “He didn’t really see out the Derby distance and on Saturday we will see whether the Eclipse (1990m) is his ideal trip. We think it is and everything has gone well for him since Epsom.”
Arguably – and trainer Martyn Meade certainly argues it – nothing much went right for Eminent at Epsom, or indeed in Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas (G1 1600m) previously. The son of Frankel has reportedly clocked some remarkable times in fast homework recently whilst several other factors could also work in his favour.
The energetic Silvestre de Sousa – who is not only the leading UK rider so far in 2017 but who also partnered five winners from six rides at the penultimate Sandown meeting – replaces Jim Crowley whilst Meade also seems to have declared a pledge to more positive tactics.
“Eminent has a long stride and I don’t think that holding him back plays to his strengths. So we are likely to have him up there early – serving it up to them,” says his trainer
And positive tactics often pay dividends at Sandown whilst congestion along the far rails – where most of the action tends to take place – can cause trouble for the closers.
Barney Roy moves up in distance from his stylish St James’s Palace Stakes (G1 1594m) win at Royal Ascot and he’ll have plenty of supporters whilst the strongest of the older generation look to be Jack Hobbs, Decorated Knight and Ulysses.
Sustained betting support for Jack Hobbs in Ascot’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (G1 1993m) proved totally misplaced as he finished last. Some blamed the fast ground but others think he was also wrongly positioned in a race that turned into a home stretch sprint. Trainer John Gosden sounds reasonably upbeat: “We hope some rain arrives but he likes Sandown and is in good form.”
There are plenty of other excitements on the six-race simulcast card and, in the G3 Sprint Stakes (1009m), impressive last time course and distance winner Battaash and last time Ayr winner Spring Fling are both likely to be popular.
Trainer Charlie Hills says of Battaash: “I’ve got plenty of runners this week but I’m most looking forward to Battaash. He’s been perfect at home since his victory here last month.”
Meanwhile Ayr winner Spring Fling appears to have dramatically improved since becoming ‘in foal.’ “She doesn’t have long before she’ll need to stop racing but I wouldn’t bet against her going out in style,” says her veteran trainer Henry Candy who also reports positively about last-time Sandown course and distance Greenside in the 1600m 3yo+ Handicap. “He’s a much better horse since being gelded,” insists the trainer.