The Eclipse, named after one of the great 18th-century racehorses, is the first opportunity for the Classic generation to take on their elders at the top level. The race’s roll of honour is littered with the of greats of the turf- Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerrard in the 70s, Sadler’s Wells, Dancing Brave and Nashwan the decade after, and more recently names like Daylami, Giant’s Causeway and Sea The Stars flow through it’s history as a reminder of what it takes to compete in such a prestigious event.
Since Giant’s Causeway’s typically pulsating win in 2000 only three three-year-olds have managed to serve it up to their elders, which immediately highlights the challenge ahead of the younger horses, namely Andrew Balding’s Dante winner Bonfire. When comparing Bonfire to Hawk Wing (brilliant on his day), Oratorio and the champion Sea The Stars the immediate reaction is to discount him on grounds of not being in the same class, but this may go down as one of the weaker Eclipse fields in recent years and it’s not easy to ignore any of the line-up.
This year’s renewal has lost some of it’s appeal with the late withdrawal and subsequent retirement of Ballydoyle’s So You Think, a horse who may not have lived up to his giant reputation gained down under but who’s performances in the Northern Hemisphere probably haven’t received the credit they deserve. The loss of the slight odds-on favourite has left Godolphin’s Farhh as the market leader, and he has really split opinion in the racing community after his luckless passage in the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes. Rivalling him as the jolly was John Gosden’s Nathaniel until Gosden himself looked to lower expectations by suggesting the colt was not fully would up and would be seen to better effect in the King George. Twice Over dances at almost every dance when Group One’s over 10 furlongs are concerned, while Cityscape put up a serious visual performance in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan and Monterosso’s last run/win was in the nothing less of a race than the Dubai World Cup. We’ll have a look at the field in a bit more detail…
CITYSCAPE – For a horse who started out over a mile at two and was second to the strong-staying Jukebox Jury in the Royal Lodge, it’s maybe a surprise that it’s taken so long for Cityscape to run over 10 furlongs. As a half brother to Bated Breath out of a mare who won two seven furlong Listed races the pedigree suggests otherwise, however on the Selkirk colt’s only run over further than a mile he won the Dubai Duty Free by four-and-a-half-lengths. However from experience form in Dubai is almost impossible to take literally, and it’s likely that Cityscape still has a couple of lengths to find from somewhere to be involved at the business end judged on his form over a mile.
CITY STYLE – This gelding improved by about a stone in Dubai over the winter, and finished third behind Cityscape in the Duty Free after getting a far worse trip throughout the race. His five-length beating in the Prince Of Wales’ can probably be cut in half after he found trouble, and that performance showed he was capable away from Godolphin’s back yard. In a far from vintage renewal it’s quite surprising to see him as big as 40/1
CRACKERJACK KING – The unknown quantity of the race, the Shamardal colt won the Italian Derby but a month later trailed in second last at Chantilly when travelling to France for the Jockey Club. He otherwise has a perfect record of seven from seven in Italy, a country responsible in recent years for Ramoni, Electrocutionist and Rakti all of whom had the ability to have a major chance in this renewal. Unwise to write off, although a concern that the only time he left Italian shores/encountered soft ground he was beaten a long way. Now trained by Marco Botti who on balance will have needed to find a few lengths improvement if he’s to win.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/9433.jpg” href=””][/frame_right]FARHH – Not sure i’ve got anything left to say about Farhh after pouring my heart out on Twitter, but I believe he would have won the race at Ascot had anything gone right for him. That’s just a personal belief, can’t make any defining statements on why he would’ve won and not saying for sure he would have, but this colt in my opinion is the real deal and has done absolutely nothing wrong in his four races to date. It’s worth remembering that going into Ascot he’d run three races in his life, and has got so much potential it’s frightening. No matter how many lengths he may or may not have lost through interference at the Royal meeting the fact that such an inexperienced horse put his head down and flew right to the line cannot be ignored. Visually and on the clock he could go all the way to the top, and I will be gutted if he doesn’t win what is a below-par Eclipse.
MONTEROSSO – Monterosso did what we’ve seen several Godolphin horses do in recent years and raised his game considerably on World Cup night. The fact he won the World Cup itself suggests it was either a substandard renewal (likely) on the basis of his previous form or that he’s just a better horse over in the desert- in my opinion probably both. The fact he’s 12/1 for this race despite having won the world’s richest event suggests that the layers agree with at least one of those scenarios, and although it can’t really go down as a huge shock if he’s good enough to play a part in the finish, from experience it’s rare for Meydan form to stand the test of time.
NATHANIEL – Nathaniel is a horse who I strongly believe wants a mile and a half (preferably around Ascot), as I think he lacks the tactical pace for a 10 furlong Group One. Again because of the nature of this line up he may well get away with it, but I think that after John Gosden’s comments suggesting he wasn’t fully tuned up I would be surprised/disappointed if he was good enough to win even a weaker G1 over ten this weekend. I believe that the King George that he won should be ignored totally as a race due to A) Rewilding breaking down B) Workforce only wanting to run sideways and C) St Nicholas Abbey receiving a poor ride and not running to form anyway. That left Nathaniel to basically run around to win, and until he’s shown that he’s better than a 121/122 horse I cannot consider him at the prices to win a race like this. Strong opinion that may well look very silly tomorrow afternoon…
SRI PUTRA – An absolute enigma in that he seems to run his best races at the top level and cannot take advantage of easier opportunities in lesser races. Drop to a mile saw him but that right to some extent at Kempton in May, but followed that up with a tame effort in Italy behind Crackerjack King before a typically better performance at Royal Ascot. Yet to win at the top level but was second in this two years ago, and while he may again run a big race compared to his price he is an unlikely winner.
TWICE OVER – Most five-time Group One winners have a higher profile than Twice Over, but the races he’s won in the highest grade tend to have been short on depth. This is another such contest to be fair, and his last run can be ignored considering the ground was atrocious at best so he wouldn’t be without a chance of running better than his 16/1 price suggests. Depends how you view his form in beating Midday in the Juddmonte last year – personally don’t think its particularly good but still may give him a squeak in this if he can reproduce the goods in a race he won two years ago.
BONFIRE – Represents the Classic generation, but comes into the race having been stuffed by Camelot in the Derby. Won the Dante but had a pretty hard race in the process, while connections and some respected judges commented that Epsom on Derby day did not play to the colt’s strengths. While that’s possibly true I get the impression that despite the weight-for-age scale being very much in favour of the three-year-olds he is likely to come up short in his first race against his elders. The three-year-old crop looks weak at the top end (bar Camelot) and I don’t get the impression that this son of Manduro is about to change that idea. Again this is not a strong collection of four-year-olds but he is another that I would be very disappointed if Farhh couldnt beat.
COGITO – Ran a cracker to win what looked a warm listed race here at the end of May on fast ground, and wasn’t beaten that far behind Most Improved in a messy running of the St James’ Palace. Not really the profile of a Group One winner waiting to happen, especially against his elders, and the three-year-old miling crop looks even weaker than the mid-distance performers. A real surprise if he goes close for me, and not sure why he’s a shorter price than City Style.
Conclusion: A disappointing field for a race with such a fine history, but the presence of Farhh and Bonfire in particular still make this a very interesting race to take in. As i’ve said I’d be very disappointed if Farhh got beaten, but the price doesn’t appeal to me and with Nathaniel drifting I don’t particularly fancy laying him either. At bigger prices I wouldn’t mind having City Style running for me the way he performed at Ascot and with him priced at 40/1- I think that him being 10 times Nathaniel’s price despite City Style’s form being maybe only a couple of pounds off him is wrong. Twice Over has shown he is capable of winning sub-standard looking Group Ones and could be thereabouts, but he is getting on in years and isn’t sure to produce his best form, so I personally will be watching Farhh with everything crossed while having a small each-way bet on City Style at the 40s, although further rain will temper any enthusiasm in that wager.