Horse Racing
Masar is Eclipse favourite but some looking in other directions

05/07/2018 15:29

The G1 Eclipse Stakes (1990m) is the special attraction of the seven-race simulcast programme from Sandown Park on Saturday (7 July) and Godolphin’s Masar will surely start favourite to become just the fifth horse in the last 50 years to win both the Derby and the Eclipse in the same season.

It would be an extraordinary achievement for a colt who less than four months ago finished an unheralded 10th in a Listed race on the dirt at Meydan. 
But the upward curve for William Buick’s mount has been extreme ever since, climaxing in his smooth victory over that eccentric 2405m at Epsom in the Derby, still Britain’s most celebrated G1 race.
However, many observers are looking elsewhere in search of the winner. For a start they take note that the five colts who competed at Epsom and went on to run in the G1 Irish Derby (2400m) at The Curragh last weekend hardly added sparkle to the form with Epsom fourth Saxon Warrior doing best when third in Ireland. 
They also point out that in this clash of three-year-olds against the older horses, it is the older horses who have won almost twice as often as the Classic generation since it was opened up to all ages back in 1965.

Trainer Charlie Appleby rejects cynicism regarding the validity of the Epsom form of Masar, who has been supplemented into what is likely to be a small but elite field.
He comments: “The Irish Derby was a completely different sort of race as they went no pace. As for Masar no one can call him as lucky at Epsom and you could pick him out as the winner anywhere in the last 500m.”
“Fast ground is expected and that will be ideal. I was also really pleased with the work Masar did (ridden at home as usual by former Hong Kong-based Brett Doyle) at Newmarket last Saturday. He shot clear of his two galloping companions once Brett asked him to extend,” says the trainer.
As for the theory about older horses doing best in this historic G1 at Sandown Park, Appleby has one of his own in the shape of five-year-old chestnut Hawkbill, who is expected to be declared on Thursday.
Not only did Hawkbill win the Eclipse back in 2016 but in March this year he led for most of the way to easily land the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan, one of the world’s most valuable turf contests.

Boiling over, he never looked comfortable before or during the race when third in Royal Ascot’s G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (1993m) last month. Trends analysts will state, however, that horses placed in that G1 have a highly respectable record of winning this one.
Forest Ranger is another interesting older contender. He might not have much in the way of G1 credentials but he does appear to have improved rapidly for a gelding operation and is likely to be ridden prominently, often the right place to be when things get tactical at Sandown.

The almost certain second favourite to Masar will, however, be Roaring Lion, another three-year-old. Dismissed by many on stamina grounds for the Derby, Oisin Murphy’s mount travelled beautifully in last month’s Epsom spectacular and only faded close home, just 2L behind Masar. 
David Redvers, representing owners Qatar Racing, says: “The drop to this trip is really helpful and we’ve just got to hope that it assists us more than the Derby winner. Roaring Lion worked at Newmarket last Saturday and is pleasing his trainer (John Gosden) no end. I think we’re as excited about him as the rest of the country is about our football team!”
The speedballs are in action in the G3 Sprint Stakes (1009m), the opening event. A low gate is considered a major advantage with 10 of the last 12 winners allocated stalls one, two, three or four.