IT’S simmering nicely into a typically fitting renewal but the 2017 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown has a really open feel to it this year. The clash of the age groups should reveal plenty about the strength – or lack of it – of this season’s crop of three-year-olds. The jury is still out on that especially after the recent Royal Ascot flop of dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill and the premature retirement of Epsom Derby victor Wings Of Eagles.
Cliffs of Moher, Barney Roy and Eminent will fly the flag for the Classic generation. Cliffs of Moher looked all over the Derby winner until he was mugged by his stablemate in the shadow of the post. A return to a stiff 1m 2f may well suit and the vibes from Coolmore are that he was not the finished article at Epsom and will improve for the run.
The same could be said for Eminent, who was fourth in the Derby after a slightly disappointing run in the 2,000 Guineas. Eminent was a bit unlucky at Epsom and with a clearer passage he would have finished closer.
At Newmarket in the 2,000 Guineas he was just behind Barney Roy, who got the job done in the St James’s Palace Stakes, where he took advantage of a below-par Churchhill. The proximity of the second and third Lancaster Bomber and Thunder Snow, both soundly beaten by Chiurchill in previous races, suggest it was Churchill who ran below par and not Barney Roy showing loads of improvement.
But Richard Hannon hopes he will improve further over 1m 2f. It’s not certain he will but if he does he may well emerge from the race as the season’s best three-year-old colt. Interestingly, Barney Roy is one of five still entered in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly on Sunday so he has an alternative engagement. The mantle of best three-year-old colt is now up for grabs but it really is a guessing game to see which of these will end the season at the top of the tree.
The older generation is represented by DECORATED KNIGHT and Ulysses. Roger Charlton’s Decorated Knight just keeps on improving and the son of Galileo already has two Group One wins under his belt. He travelled a bit keenly behind Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes so it was a terrific run to come second, probably a career best.
Ulysses may have gone too early in the Prince Of Wales’s and engaged the tough-as-teak Highland Reel prematurely. There was only going to be one winner there. A more patient ride could be needed on Saturday. However, I have a nagging doubt as to whether he is a genuine Group One horse.
Other contenders include Permian, who has already had a busy season and who looked more suited by 1m 4f when he won the King Edward VII Stakes and Jack Hobbs, who would appreciate some rain. Then there is Orderofthegarter, who was a solid second to Benbatl at Royal Ascot and who could be seriously overpriced in the Coral-Eclipse betting market.
Selections: Decorated Knight to win 10/1 (with PP, BV and Betfair)
Orderofthegarter each-way 25/1 (Boylesports)
**Prices correct at time of going to press ( 7pm Wednesday)