Al Kazeem to back up Ascot form with victory in Eclipse
BACK in the 18th century, if a horse was beaten by more than 240 yards (just over a furlong), it was officially recorded as finishing 'nowhere'.
How accurate the race records of the period actually are remains open to question but the outstanding horse Eclipse, which won every one of his 18 races from 1769-70, is said to have left many horses trailing far behind in his wake.
A popular phrase at the time among racegoers (which still survives today) was 'Eclipse first – and the rest nowhere'.
I read somewhere that Eclipse was so talented, he never once ended up in a tight finish and jockey John Oakley had no use for his whip whatsoever.
Looking at the field of seven for the race named after the great horse, I highly doubt we'll have a runaway winner today with just 1lb separating Al Kazeem and Mukhadram at 126 and 125 respectively (3.50 Sandown).
There was only a neck in it at the finish line when the former beat the latter last time in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, with another one of today's runners, The Fugue, back in third, so a closely fought battle is expected again this afternoon.
I must admit, I had been a bit concerned about Al Kazeem earlier this term and wondered if he would bounce back from a stress fracture that kept him away from racing for a year but he's proved his worth with a trio of Group wins since his return.
Mukhadram is a straightforward sort and Paul Hanagan gave him a simple front-running ride at Ascot which, at one stage, looked likely to pay off.
But the response from Al Kazeem was impressive as he pushed forward strongly in the late stages of the race to assert his authority and took the lead to win.
While Mukhadram is sure to make this competitive, I have a fear that he lacks that extra gear and his honest running style leaves him open to be picked off by others with a good turn off foot.
The more I watch the re-runs of Royal Ascot, the more I'm convinced that the placings will remain the same and as such, I'm quite happy to take the 15/8 on offer about Al Kazeem.
As for The Fugue, she was held off the pace for far too long at Ascot and a different type of ride here by William Buick could see her make the frame.
She seems to be maturing nicely and is one to keep on side over the summer, especially if she goes back racing against her own sex.
On jockey bookings, Declaration Of War is the pick of the O'Brien pair but you'd have to wonder if his stamina will hold out over this distance if Mukhadram goes off ahead early as expected.
Michael Stoute's Opinion heads the weights for the Bet365 Old Newton Cup Handicap (3.30 Haydock) but a price of 7/2 seems a bit short considering he's up 8lb for winning the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes.
At 20/1 and higher, Communicator is capable of causing an upset from the Andrew Balding yard.
While his latest two starts were disappointing, the handicapper has now dropped his mark back down to 94 – a figure off which he was a close second to Art Scholar in the November Handicap at Doncaster.
2.05 Sandown: Mince
2.55 Haydock: Albasharah
3.15 Sandown: Nargys
3.30 Haydock: Communicator (e/w)
3.50 Sandown: Al Kazeem