“A SMALL but select field” is often a euphemism for “disappointing” but the phrase rings deadly true for this weekend’s tantalising Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. The race, sandwiched as it is between the Epsom Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, is always so difficult to win, especially for three year olds. This year Mars is the only representative from the 2013 classic generation and he looks to have a huge task. But something tells me that we haven’t quite seen the best of Aidan O Brien’s Galileo chestnut…
However, the Eclipse is all about the admirable Al Kazeem. The emergence of Roger Charlton’s brilliant five year old has been a breath of fresh air this season. Twice he has brushed aside Camelot with disdain and his partnership with James Doyle has been a feature of the Flat season so far. He deserves to be as short as 6/4 and if he repeats his run in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes he should confirm form with Mukhadram, who was given a brilliant ride by Paul Hanagan and may have been flattered by his proximity to the winner.
Those looking for value in the Coral Eclipse betting should maybe look to other races. This is a contest for the purists: the field is small and the odds are contracted. The “rag” Miblish is the only horse at a double digit price in the Eclipse betting and not even the tactical genius of Richard Hughes should be able to catapult him past the main contenders.
The Fugue was more than three lengths behind Al Kazeem at Ascot and it will be interesting to see how much John Gosden has left to work on. But it is Aidan O Brien’s pair who are the real flies in the ointment. As mentioned above, Mars is a fascinating runner and was a shade unlucky behind Dawn Approach at Ascot. I’ve a feeling 1m 2f could be his optimum trip. However will the weight-for-age concession of 11lb be enough?
His stablemate Declaration of War showed a smart turn of foot to win the Queen Anne over a mile and he has winning form over 1m 2f. But, to me, he looked like an out-and-out miler at Ascot and I’m not convinced this stiff uphill finish, so often the graveyard for Eclipse contenders, will suit him. German raider Pastorius, who won the Prix Ganay in April, completes the field and adds a nice international flavour.
Tactics could play a huge role but, thankfully, the appearance of Mukhadram should ensure a decent pace. For me, I’ll be having a tentative few quid on Mars…. but this really is a race to sit back and enjoy.