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Coral-Eclipse expert tips

With the final declarations in since Thursday, the 2016 running of the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing for many years.  Richard has the verdict on the Group One highlight.

15.45 Sandown - THE GURKHA (Evens, bet365)

The market is headed by The Gurkha at a best price of even money. Trained by Aidan O’ Brien, many were questioning whether Ryan Moore gave the horse too much to do last time when he was beaten at Ascot, but connections’ decision to step the horse up from a mile to a mile and two furlongs would indicate that they felt it was the trip that beat him that day. By going down this route, The Gurkha will avoid a potential rematch with his Ascot conqueror Galileo Gold in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, and there is no doubt that the horse is bred to appreciate this new distance. 

The late developing son of Galileo has raced exclusively at one mile during his four race career to date, and with every start has given the impression that this new distance would be no problem. At Ascot he was held up towards the rear with a moderate early gallop, and as Galileo Gold quickened in the straight, The Gurkha was temporarily caught flat-footed. He stayed on well in the closing stages, and was gaining on the winner at the finish, despite having to switch around Awtaad inside the final furlong. He looks potentially top class, and will take a whole lot of beating here.

My Dream Boat, trained by Clive Cox, was victorious at the Royal Meeting, winning the Prince of Wales’ Stakes from the Aidan O’ Brien runner Found. That win was in spite of the horse hanging quite badly left in the closing stages, and he ended up nailing Found on the line, with three lengths back to Western Hymn. The bare form of that Group One doesn’t look as strong as The Gurkha’s race, with the highly touted Japanese raider A Shin Hikari failing to run to expectations. For all that My Dream Boat is tough, he may just lack the class of one or two of these.

My Dream Boat.

Roger Charlton’s runner Time Test is a horse that has been highly regarded for a couple of seasons now, but it is fair to say that to date, his reputation has outshone his evidence on the racecourse. He may change all that tomorrow, but I fancy that his day in the sun may well come later in the season, as he has a definite preference for faster going conditions. Good to soft ground was thought to have flummoxed him in last year’s Juddmonte International Stakes at York, and there is every likelihood that Saturday’s ground will be even worse.

Hawkbill could be a bigger danger, as his impressive win in the Tercentenary Stakes in Royal Ascot proved his liking for trip and ground. He did get a fantastic tactical ride to win that day from William Buick, and Saturday’s race will be the most competitive field he has ever faced. That said, he is on an upward curve, and has done nothing this season to suggest that this level is beyond him.

All things considered, I will be disappointed if The Gurkha is beaten here. He looked absolutely top class when demolishing the field in the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains at Deauville in May on just his third start, and I think a combination of tactics, inexperience and trip got him beaten (albeit by a top class horse) at Royal Ascot. I fully expect him to make amends here, and anything bigger than evens should be snapped up.

15.45 Sandown - THE GURKHA (Evens, bet365)
The Group One Coral Eclipse is one of the flat racing season’s leading middle-distance contests and we have expert horse racing tips on the Group One highlight.

Raced at Sandown Park over 1m2f, the Eclipse frequently sees Europe’s leading thoroughbred horses aged three years and older clash each July in front of a stellar 18,000 capacity crowd.

Coral-Eclipse history

Founded in 1886, the race was established after a famous 18th century horse named Eclipse who won all 18 of his outings throughout 1779 and 1780. The first running of the contest was won by Bendigo and at the time was ranked as Britain’s richest ever horse race with a prize-pool of £10,000. 

Since then, the Eclipse has developed into one of the most highly-regarded races of the campaign and was enhanced further by the sponsorship from bookmaking giant Coral in 1976. Coral’s support has helped attract some of the world’s best racehorses to Sandown each July as the contest’s purse continues to grow year-on-year.

The race has a rich history of winners. The likes of Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadlers Well and Dancing Brave have all graced the Sandown turf on route to cementing legendary careers. It is evidence to the strength that this ten-furlong contest is held across Europe with some of the continent’s leading operations regularly making the trip to Britain in search of engraving their name on the rich list of honours. 

coral-eclipse tips

The Coral Eclipse is traditionally known as the first realistic opportunity for the three-year old classic generation to face their elders. Following the Derby and Oaks meeting at Epsom in June, attention quickly turns to Royal Ascot and Sandown as the leading crop of three-year olds seek their path to further enhancing their breeding value. Standout victors in recent years include Sea The Stars, Giants Causeway and Hawk Wing; all of which produced stunning displays to topple older contenders before moving onto successful careers at stud.

Sandown’s stiff right-handed track ensures that the Coral Eclipse is a unique test for the thoroughbred flat horse. A strong uphill three-and-a-half furlong home straight places emphasis on stamina in the Eclipse with good pace management key to maintaining a strong challenge at the business end of proceedings. The sharp right-handed turn into the straight at the Esher course requires good balance in a horse and frequently acts a corner of misfortune for the least experienced of runners. 

The success of Sea The Stars in 2009 showcased a fantastic race-riding performance under jockey Mick Kinane. The horse was settled in midfield before being produced inside the final three furlongs to utilise his stamina and beat close rival Rip Van Winkle. It was the colt’s third Group One victory and is one in which many racing fans rank as his greatest; with an official race record time supporting such claims.

Sea The Stars wins the Coral-Eclipse.

sandown - the famous Group one

Sandown Park racecourse is situated just a 25-minute train journey from London, making it a hugely popular venue for the casual racegoer. The Coral Eclipse meeting is renowned for being a day of top-class flat racing as well as a fantastic social occasion. Both ladies and gentleman arrive dressed in the finest attire to celebrate an afternoon of Group One thoroughbred action whilst indulging in the finest food and drink that the track has to offer.

Attendees are accustomed to rubbing shoulders with many celebrities as they flock to the track in search of witnessing a great day of British horse racing tradition. Many of the sporting sphere’s biggest profiles also descend upon the Surrey track in early July as the Eclipse headlines horse racing’s calendar. 

It is not only a grand racing occasion but also a fantastic opportunity to showcase a mix of the best summer fashion. With the national exposure that the race attracts, those from the fashion industry seek to use the event as a platform for their work which enhances the overall star-power than Coral Eclipse day possesses. 

It is this fine blend of Europe’s best thoroughbred racing, leading fashion and summer sunshine that makes the Eclipse at Sandown Park one of the outstanding racedays of the flat campaign. The meeting is not only a centrepiece for the racing and breeding industries, but it is an attraction for the wider public as horse racing breaks out into the mainstream media for a celebration of a race that dates back to 1886.

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