Cliffs Of Moher can gain compensation in the Eclipse

by JOHN SINCLAIR EPSOM Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher is set to feature next month in the Group One Eclipse Stakes at Sandown where he will be taking on the older horses for the first time in his career. Aidan O’Brien’s runner was beaten by his stablemate Wings Of Eagles by less than a length at Epsom earlier this month but is capable of bouncing back at the Esher track. His appearance in the Eclipse will see Cliffs Of Moher step back down to 1m2f, which is probably his optimum trip.

O’Brien’s colt scored at that distance at Chester in May when he claimed the Dee Stakes in impressive style. Although he is a son of Galileo, who has produced so many Derby winners since he became a stallion, the three-year-old did not see out the final furlong as well as the Epsom winner. The race at Sandown is a huge race in determining how good this horse is. A victory against the likes of Jack Hobbs, Highland Reel and last year’s winner Hawkbill would suggest he is one of the best middle-distance horses in Europe.

Three-year-olds have a good record in the Eclipse. Sea The Stars won this race in 2009 after his success in the Derby, while more recently Golden Horn prevailed in 2015 on the back of his Epsom run. The fact that O’Brien has entered Cliffs Of Moher for the Sandown contest, rather than Wings Of Eagles, clearly indicates where the two horses are on the Irish Champion trainer’s pecking order. Cliffs Of Moher has been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite for the Eclipse in their ante-post market. O’Brien’s horse can be backed at 4/1 in the horse racing betting and that looks good value as he is likely to be a lot shorter on the day of the race.
Decorated Knight Could Prove Biggest Threat to Derby Runner-Up. At the age of five, Decorated Knight has produced some of the best form of his career so far with three wins already recorded in 2017 with his most recent success coming in the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in Ireland last month. Roger Charlton’s horse started 2017 on the all-weather where he claimed the Winter Derby Trial, which is a listed contest, at Lingfield. He then went across to Meydan for the Dubai World Cup Carnival and scored on his opening start in a Group One race over 1m1f. Sadly for connections, he was unable to make it a double at the meeting as he had to settle for sixth place in the Dubai Turf.

At 14/1, the bookmakers look to have underestimated Decorated Knight’s chance at Sandown. He has won at the course before and, as he proved in Ireland last month, the 1m2f distance is perfectly suited to him. If you are looking to take on the favourite in the Eclipse, this horse will give you a good run for your money at the very least.

Cliffs Of Moher to win (4/1)
Decorated Knight each-way (14/1)

One thought on “Cliffs Of Moher can gain compensation in the Eclipse”

  1. Graham Oliver says:

    Hi John, interesting article.

    I would say that at the moment the jury is out on the quality of this year’s Derby. Less than two lengths covered the first four finishers, and that usually denotes a below average race. It’s possible that a really good animal will come out of the race, but which one? Outside the first three both Eminent and Benbatl ran races full of promise. The seventh home, Douglas Macarthur, should come on in leaps and bounds when not used as a pacemaker. He was used and ran in the same sort of way that Dylan Thomas was against Sir Percy. Dylan Thomas subsequently then won the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes when allowed to race off the pace.

    Having said all that , I do agree that Cliffs Of Moher is probably not a bad price for the Eclipse at 4/1. However, if anything should happen to Wings Of Eagles, might he not be re-routed to the Curragh? Coolmore hold the Irish Derby in very high regard, and have always supported it with their best horses. I did not think that Moher was stopping at Epsom, just that he was beaten by a colt with a superior finishing kick. We shall just have to wait and see.

    Although three year olds do have a good Eclipse record, besides the two winners that you mention, plenty of Derby winners have also been beaten at Sandown, notably Motivator, Reference Point, and Benny The Dip. Against that, Derby runners up that have triumphed include Dancing Brave, Hawk Wing, and French Derby second Sadlers Wells. Although he is by Excelebration, Barney Roy is out of a Galileo mare, so he might have a good chance if allowed to run. He is currently available at 10/1.

    My own preference is for the four year old Ullyses, who seems to have come on this year. You might add a typical Sir Michael Stoute improver. Ullyses ran a really good race in his only outing this term to beat Deauville and My Dream Boat quite comfortably over the same Eclipse course and distance. His breeding is immaculate, By Galileo (again!) out of Oaks winner Light Shift, by Kingmambo. At 14/1 I think he represents really good each way value.

    The Eclipse Stakes is one of my favourite races of the year, and it rarely fails to produce a good finish. This years renewal should prove to be no different. I remember my first ever bet in the race, on a horse called Roan Rocket. He was beaten a short head by the Queens horse, a 20/1 chance called Canisbay, ridden by Stan Clayton back in 1965. I have backed a few winners of the race since (and a lot of losers! Ed)

    John, I wish you well with your selections.

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