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Gurkha all the rage

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Time Test, here with jockey Ryan Moore, is due to be partnered by Pat Smullen in the Coral Eclipse. Photo: Edward Whitaker

Time Test, here with jockey Ryan Moore, is due to be partnered by Pat Smullen in the Coral Eclipse. Photo: Edward Whitaker

Time Test, here with jockey Ryan Moore, is due to be partnered by Pat Smullen in the Coral Eclipse. Photo: Edward Whitaker

While Sandown have been trying to avoid floods of rain, bookmakers have been taking in floods of money as support continues to come for the Aidan O'Brien-trained The Gurkha ahead of Saturday's Coral Eclipse.

Declarations for Saturday's Group One contest are made today, but since being cut from 5/1 into 7/2 co-favourite for the race with BoyleSports on Sunday, The Gurkha was just 1/1 with the same firm yesterday evening.

At the Curragh on Sunday, O'Brien had indicated that his French 2,000 Guineas winner may well take his place in the line-up and since then he has been the only horse heavily supported for the 10-furlong contest.

My Dream Boat and Time Test were the other 7/2 co-favourites at that stage and Time Test is now out to 4/1 with soft ground at the track proving a concern for his connections.

O'Brien admitted on Sunday that "soft ground isn't ideal" for The Gurkha, who has only raced four times in his career, but his maiden victory did come on soft to heavy ground at Navan which gives the trainer some hope that he'll manage conditions at Sandown and the ground now looks likely to be much better than first anticipated.

After escaping a lot of the rain that was expected to hit the track on Tuesday evening, clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, is hopeful that they are over the worst of the weather.

"We only caught 3mm last night, which in itself is much better than we might have been fearing, and the amounts now showing on the forecast are unlikely to be hugely impactful on conditions," said Cooper.

"It's actually been predominantly dry since last Friday and we're now Good to Soft on the Round Course, but I think we could be looking at being 'Good, Good to Soft in places' or something like that by Saturday, if the new forecasts we're seeing prove accurate."

That will be a welcome update for Time Test who doesn't want soft ground, according to his trainer Roger Charlton, and Pat Smullen will be bidding to continue his fine season when partnering the progressive four-year-old.

Charlie Appleby's Hawkbill was supplemented to the race at a cost of £30,000 and is unbeaten in five since opening his account for Godolphin and despite the Eclipse being a first shot at Group One level, Appleby has said that his three-year-old "won't be out of place in the line-up." The trainer has no ground concerns for the Royal Ascot winner and added: "We're very happy with the way he has come out of Royal Ascot and the more racing experience he gets the more he's maturing.

"In time stepping up in trip will see more improvement but he'll like conditions as he's proven on soft ground and is a forward going horse so the track will suit as well."


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