IT’S a shame that Australia chose an exercise canter in a farce of an Irish derby over a tilt at the Coral Eclipse Stakes this Saturday. The shorter trip may have seen him to even greater effect. But the race is still building up to be a tasty morsel. Here is a rundown of the 12 still left in, nine of whom have some sort of chance.
HILLSTAR: His excellent third to Novellist in last year’s King George remains this four-year-old’s best performance. A mile-and-a-half appears his best trip but this stiff 1m 2f may play to his stamina strengths and at around 20/1 he is decent each-way value.
KINGSTON HILL: The Derby runner-up would be an intriguing runner if he turns up and would add a degree of lustre to the race in the battle between the three-year-old generation and older horses. He was pulled out of the Irish Derby at the last minute due to quick ground so his participation will be ground dependent.
MUKHADRAM: Third last year, is wonderfully tough and consistent but a perennial bridesmaid at Group One level. He should run his race but may find one or two too good.
NIGHT OF THUNDER: The 2,000 Guineas winner was a solid second to Kingman at Ascot where he was forced to make the running. Connections seem bullish about his chance and are expecting a big run.
SOMEWHAT: Decent on his day but not a Group One horse.
THE FUGUE: A brilliant performance at Royal Ascot and a fairly warm order to follow up. But is 7/4 too short for a filly who can throw in the odd stinker and who was stone last in this race last year?
TRADING LEATHER: Is held by The Fugue on Irish Champion Stakes form last year but the stiff Sandown hill could play to his strengths. Odds of 20/1 seem far too big and he is good each-way value if he turns up.
TRUE STORY: Purists were salivating over this colt’s Newmarket win in April. Myself included. He ran respectably although below expectations in both the Dante and Epsom Derby although a fast-run 1m 2f on quick ground looks ideal.
TULLIUS: A loyal servant to connections but his only attempt at this trip was in a class 2 handicap in 2011. One to pass over.
VERRAZANO: A solid second to Toronado at Ascot although his only attempt at 10 furlongs ended in defeat at Saratoga in the USA. The big plus is that Aidan O’Brien is firing on all cylinders and cannot be ignored.
WAR COMMAND: Talented but you feel Aidan O’Brien has not unlocked the secret to him. He ran okay at Ascot behind Kingman and suggested that 1m 2f could be ideal. Even so, 6/1 looks skinny.
ZAMBUCCA: No chance.
VERDICT: Three-year-olds don’t have a great record in the Coral Eclipse Stakes but KINGSTON HILL looks good enough to break the trend. An each-way saver on TRADING LEATHER is also recommended if he runs.