Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Cliffs' taken to tower over Eclipse rivals

Epsom second can provide cheer for O'Brien after recent setbacks

Spark Plug (left), with Ryan Moore up, on the way to winning The Ambant Gala Stakes at Sandown yesterday. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Spark Plug (left), with Ryan Moore up, on the way to winning The Ambant Gala Stakes at Sandown yesterday. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Johnny Ward

Vicissitude: a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one unwelcome or unpleasant.

Aidan O'Brien knows all about the vagaries of the game. On Saturday, he suffered the disappointment of Ryan Moore's mount Wings Of Eagles failing to win the Irish Derby - yet he snared the Classic anyway with Capri, the gutsy grey.

It emerged on Saturday morning that the Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles had suffered a career-ending injury. O'Brien enjoyed a double on Sunday, but he had to reveal that Minding had an injury so serious that her future was in doubt. All the while, high-class filly Somehow lost her life.

Quite how Aidan deals with all of this, we can only speculate, but he certainly copes with victory like a gentleman and he may enjoy yet another Group One as Cliffs Of Moher is tipped to carry all before him in a deeply compelling Coral Eclipse today under the aforementioned Moore.

"We've been very happy with him since Epsom," said the Ballydoyle handler. "It was a mile and a quarter when he won at Chester and then we went to the mile and a half at Epsom. Maybe the last 50 yards caught him between fitness and maybe getting the trip. We're looking forward to seeing him run over a mile and a quarter (at Sandown)."

It did seem at Epsom as though the mile and a half was probably as long as he wanted, though he still finished second after getting warm and worked up beforehand. Take him to confirm a beating over Eminent, while Barney Roy was left with a relatively easy task in the St James's Palace when Churchill bombed and he seems to have more to do now.

There is not a great deal between Ulysses and Decorated Knight on running behind the teak-tough Highland Reel at Royal Ascot. Indeed, this race will give us some indication as to the value of the three-year-olds.

This is a day to enjoy on the couch and Hamdan Al Maktoum has a strong hand in the Group Three Coral Charge. There was no shame whatever in Muthmir finishing fourth to Lady Aurelia at Royal Ascot and, while he has a penalty to contend with, he is value at around 6/1.

In the mile handicap, a chance is given to the well-named Hors De Combat, which has a little to find after finishing a bit better than midfield in the Royal Hunt Cup. He is the type to run well again, with Olivier Peslier a fascinating booking by Denis Coakley.

The Listed event for fillies could provide Richard Hughes with a pattern-class winner. However, Standing Rock is given preference for John Gosden and Ryan Moore. While she looked in a little difficulty towards the final quarter of her Newbury bow, she found a great deal for pressure - quite typical of a Fastnet Rock - and likely there is more to come, even if she has to leave a mark of 82 miles behind.

The action at Haydock enjoys televised coverage too, commencing with the Bet365 Handicap. Josephine Gordon has had a superb campaign and her mount, Look My Way, is interesting at around 14/1. Like Cliffs Of Moher, this one is by Pour Moi, and he only has a length to find with Dominating on Sandown running. Likely he will run well in defeat but he is worth a chance each-way, for all that Humble Hero looks dangerously handicapped.

The pivot heat at Haydock is the Group Two Lancashire Oaks. The doughty Ajman Princess is tipped for Roger Varian, who enhanced a superb Irish record when taking Fairyhouse's big race midweek.

Andrea Atzeni's charge was touched off at Royal Ascot in the Ribblesdale last year and on that form she has strong claims. Perhaps the bet of the day is in the subsequent handicap, Shraaoh bidding to prove he is better than his pleasing Epsom return. Unlike on that occasion (5/4f), he is an each-way price for Michael Stoute, and, as Aidan O'Brien knows, things do not always go to plan.

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