Saturday 3 45 Sandown, Group 1, 1M2F, Good to Soft (As it stands)
Saturday’s Coral Eclipse at Sandown will be the richest renewal of the race ever, with two supplementary entries taking the guaranteed purse to £525,000 in prize money. A small field of seven has been declared, with seemingly a lot to do with the weather over the last week and reports of water-logging at Sandown. The track has reportedly begun to dry up through this week and is around Good to Soft currently, with this expected to be the going come Saturday afternoon.
1. COUNTERMEASURE (R Charlton) 200/1
Purely in the race as a pacemaker for TIME TEST and the price obviously reflects this. He has done the job in many previous top races for the main horses in the Abdullah colours and as the main three horses in the contest are hold up horses, the pacemaking duties are of extra importance.
2. MY DREAM BOAT (C Cox) 4/1
Adam Kirby and Clive Cox team up once again and will be hoping to keep up their rich vein of form for one another. There will be no problem with the ground and is the highest rated in the race after Ascot where he was an impressive winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, coming from wide to beat FOUND by a neck on the line. But, this was a tough race, with A SHIN HIKARI taking them a long at a quick pace early on. It will have taken plenty out of MY DREAM BOAT and this is a relatively quick turnaround. Also, like TIME TEST, as a 4YO he must give away 7lbs to THE GURKHA.
3. TIME TEST (R Charlton) 9/2
The Charlton camp have been praying for as little rain as possible to fall over Sandown. Drier conditions would put TIME TEST in with a fantastic shout in my eyes. The pacemaker entered is a sign of confidence in itself and he is much fresher than the majority of his major rivals, having only run once so far this season. He did not quite live up to his potential as a 3YO, but Charlton is in bullish mood and I believe he is due a big run. As long as there is no deluge of rain before Saturday, I can see Time Test shortening up slightly to become second-favourite as the race edges closer.
4. WESTERN HYMN (J Gosden) 16/1
A consistent type, that never overly impresses, WESTERN HYMN always runs his race but is seemingly never quite good enough amongst the big boys. He has already been behind MY DREAM BOAT twice this year and once behind TIME TEST over course and distance. It is hard to see how this could change, unless there is a distinct lack of pace throughout the race creating an untidy finish. 16/1 may appear generous at a glance, but bear in mind with only seven runners only the top two will get paid out.
5. BRAVERY (AP O’BRIEN) 66/1
The pacemaker for THE GURKHA and has very little hope therefore. It will be interesting to see how the two pacemakers go about their role, but their is little more to discuss in racing terms than this.
6. HAWKBILL (C Appleby) 7/1
Godolphin promised they would be back stronger this summer and so far they have mostly delivered upon this. They had plenty of winners at Ascot, including HAWKBILL. He is the least exposed in the field and has won on his previous five starts, improving each time out. The ground will not prove an issue and he will look to race closely behind the pacemakers and could get first run on his rivals. It is not known how much improvement there is left, but connections have only been positive in recent days.
7. THE GURKHA (AP O’BRIEN) Evens
The red hot favourite and all the rage going into the race on Saturday. THE GURKHA was given an awful ride from Ryan Moore at Ascot and only managed to fully open up in the final stages to finish strongly behind GALILEO GOLD. For these reasons, he should still be relatively fresh and and the 10F will come naturally. He is undoubtedly the one to beat but there are certainly questions that need answering, unlike in comparison to the more proven horses we know about. He gets 7lbs as a 3YO and this concession is a lot to overcome for the others if THE GURKHA is at peak performance. But it is an ‘if’ and for this reason I would lean to others, as Evens is slightly too short with the doubts hanging around. He could well bolt up confirming his class and this would be a spectacle in itself.