Kingston Can Eclipse Rivals Up The Sandown Hill
Traditionally billed as the race in which the Classic generation takes on their elders for the first time in the season, Saturday’s Eclipse Stakes (3.50) has once again attracted an exciting mix of age groups.
One of those representing the 3yos is Richard Hannon’s Night Of Thunder (3/1), who has yet to finish out of the top two in five career outings, including of course his famous 40/1 victory in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket (1m, good to firm). This colt then showed that success to be no fluke when beaten just over 2l into second behind Kingman in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (1m, good).
The question for punters is whether Night Of Thunder will be suited by the extra two furlongs, and the fact he is by Dubawi – whose progeny’s strike-rate increase over middle-distances – overs more than hope.
One with fewer doubts surrounding the tip is The Fugue, currently the 15/8 favourite having won the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot 17 days ago (1mf, good to firm), where Mukhadram (12/1) – beaten into third in the 2013 Eclipse – was over 4l back in fourth.
John Gosden’s 5yo mare recorded a career best on her seasonal return that day, beating the talented, Treve, almost 3l in the process, although the worry is she could ‘bounce’ with this second run of the season coming fairly quickly – something that happened 12 months ago when last in the Eclipse having finished third at Ascot on her seasonal return.
There is also the questionable record of females in the race, which stands at 0-9 since 1997 – none of whom were placed. While that sample is small, it hardly adds confidence at 15/8.
It wouldn’t be a Group 1 without Aidan O’Brien throwing down a challenge, and he is represented by Verrazano (11/2), who will bid to give the trainer a sixth winner in the Eclipse. Verrazano has now been placed on both occasions for O’Brien in two British Group 1’s (1m), having been a dual Grade 1 winner in America, though he still has it prove over 1m2f, especially over a stiff track like Sandown. The jury remains out.
O’Brien also has another with it to prove up in trip virtue of War Command (6/1), who stayed on well into fourth in the St James’s Palace at Ascot (1m, good) where Verrazano was second. It’s interesting O’Brien has decided to go up in trip with War Command, and Saturday will reveal all.
Kingston Hill (7/1) meanwhile, has less to prove in trip, having improved upon his eighth placing in the 2,000 behind Night Of Thunder (beaten 5l), to finish runner-up in the Epsom Derby behind Australia.
It’s quite possible this step back to 1m2f could be his optimum trip, and winners of this race have indeed emerged from the Epsom Derby.
Talking of the Epsom Derby, Godolphin’s True Story (14/1) was beaten over 10l in seventh, but was held just 1l by a subsequent French Derby winner in a Group 2 at York (1m2f, good to soft). Godolphin have won three Eclipses, and the booking of Kieren Fallon makes him in interesting outsider.
The same comments apply to Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather (20/1), who won last year’s Irish Derby, before a second in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York (1m2f, good to firm). He was beaten fairly by The Fugue (3l) in the Champion Stakes last autumn, but could make the frame at big odds.
With doubts surrounding The Fugue, who also has a worrying inside draw from stall 1, this could be the race in which Kingston Hill gets back to winning ways.
Here are the trends covering the last 18 Eclipse winners…
All 18 winners were drawn away from the troublesome inside rail (stall 1).
17 won a Group 1 – the exception was rank outsider Compton Admiral.
16 arrived via the Royal meeting or Epsom – six of the last 11 were held in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
14 made the top two during their last two outings.
12 won a Group race that season – Aidan O’Brien trained three of the six exceptions.
Winning form over this trip wasn’t essential, while each of the 3yo winners ran in the 2,000 Guineas.
Trainers Aidan O’Brien (5), Sir Michael Stoute (3) and Godolphin (3) accounted for 11 of the last 18 winners – three of O’Brien’s were 3yo’s.