Richard Forristal: The Gurkha can Eclipse Sandown rivals
O'Brien's French Guineas victor has quality to take feature
Published 02/07/2016 | 02:30
Five years after his fifth Coral Eclipse Stakes success, Aidan O'Brien will strive to plunder the most valuable race ever held at Sandown with The Gurkha.
The £525,000 Group One is a decent renewal of the famous 10-furlong feature, with the potential to be even better still.
Apart from The Gurkha, its less precocious stablemate Bravery and Hawkbill also represent the Classic generation. Hawkbill is stepping up in class after winning the Tercentenary Stakes at Ascot.
That was the Godolphin colt's fifth win on the spin. This will be tougher, but you couldn't say that he doesn't still have the scope to progress, as he only does enough.
Time Test is another on the up. Roger Charlton's Dubawi four-year-old has long promised to figure at this level, but his two previous forays were undermined by conditions that were similarly slow to today's.
In last year's Juddmonte International, he was well held by Arabian Queen and Golden Horn, and Pat Smullen will be reunited with Time Test here for a first time since then.
With Ryan Moore on The Gurkha, there is the potential for a straight duel between two of the sport's finest riders.
However, Charlton's hand has been forced by the wet weather, and the jury is out on how good Time Test is anyway. On a line through Western Hymn, which he struggled to beat at Sandown last time, My Dream Boat is a more potent danger to The Gurkha.
Clive Cox's charge has improved beyond all recognition. He loves to get his toe in, and put Western Hymn firmly in its place for a second time in three starts when thwarting Found at Royal Ascot.
My Dream Boat hasn't got the credit he deserves for his Prince Of Wales's win. If you ignore his below-par Chantilly run, he has been on a steep upward curve, so he should go close again.
That all said, The Gurkha is the one with X-factor appeal. On his second start in heavy ground at Navan in April, he made all en route to sluicing up, and then pulverised the French 2,000 Guineas field under a similarly aggressive Ryan Moore steer.
In the St James's Palace Stakes, hold-up tactics were deployed to his detriment, as Frankie Dettori abandoned the waiting game that he had played at the Curragh to again get the best out of Galileo Gold. The Gurkha flashed home for second with real purpose.
Had he been ridden handier, he might have won, but it would certainly have been closer. Although The Gurkha's pedigree doesn't scream 10 furlongs, he looks likely to stay, and Galileo is a strong stamina influence.
Moreover, he will relish the ground. His odds of 10/11 are a lot shorter than they were last week, but, notwithstanding that, they aren't necessarily off-putting.
Colm O'Donoghue, who rides Bravery, has fallen in for two cracking spares. In the Listed fillies' race, he is on Martyn Meade's decisive Newmarket winner Wilamina, an unexposed type that represents value at 4/1.
He then rides Charlton's Quest For More in the stayers' race. Pallasator might be hard to beat here, but he is unreliable.
Quest For More, last year's Northumberland Plate hero, was just denied in a similar York event on its return, which confirmed that he is still improving. He will be sharper now, so odds of up to 9/2 appeal as more than fair.