Eclipse trip set to revitalise weary 'Warrior'
The Coral Eclipse is the race that allows the Classic generation to take on their elders, and that usually makes for some great storylines as the old take on the young. Youth or experience? The champion or the pretender?
And while we have a bit of that in 2018 with four-year-olds Cliffs Of Moher and Forest Ranger lining up alongside five-year-old Hawkbill, the real story here is with the three-year-olds.
We had hoped to see Guineas winner Saxon Warrior taking on Derby winner Masar which would have been a cracker - but unfortunately, Masar was ruled out of the race yesterday evening due to heat in his leg. That leaves John Gosden's Roaring Lion at the top of the market around 11/8 at the time of writing, with Saxon Warrior behind at 2/1.
While successful betting is supposed to be about coldly looking at facts and form and then coming to an informed decision, we are human and it's hard not to become emotionally involved if you've followed a horse for some time.
That's the situation I'm in with Saxon Warrior, so I'm careful not to let the heart rule the head here. As mentioned last week, I backed him in the Racing Post Trophy and later won a decent amount on Aidan O'Brien's charge in the Guineas.
I also backed him in the Derby but had flagged Masar as the danger horse, stating here that the mile-and-a-half "may well bring out the best in him".
I was correct on that front, but being correct doesn't pay the bills if you don't have a bet on it, and I lost quite a few bob having stuck with Saxon Warrior. And last week, I suggested enjoying the Irish Derby without a bet due to the short price of Saxon Warrior, and that there was a chance that a mile-and-a-half was not his ideal distance, despite his breeding.
I'm obviously glad I did that, and was expecting to see Saxon Warrior next in the Juddmonte International - so this somewhat surprise entry here is intriguing, and makes for a great race despite Masar's absence.
If a lack of stamina was the problem, this could really give him a shot in the arm, but we won't know that until shortly after 2.10 this afternoon.
Of course Roaring Lion also has a massive chance and is favourite for a reason. He finished one spot ahead of Saxon Warrior in the Derby which is very strong form, although he was only fifth to Saxon Warrior in the Guineas over a mile.
He has some excuses for that, and possibly would have finished closer had he been with the main group. But he was also beaten by Saxon Warrior in the one-mile Racing Post Trophy which is significant, albeit by just a neck.
In fairness, he has winning form around today's distance from the Dante - although that is a lower class at Group Two. All considered, it's tricky to compare the two here as they've never met each other at this distance. We know Roaring Lion will be happy at a mile-and-a-quarter but we are unsure about Saxon Warrior, and it's hard to know if his English and Irish Derby flops were purely about the trip.
Considering how good he was in the Guineas, it's unlikely that Saxon Warrior has simply lost all his potential, and a drop down in trip might be exactly what the doctor ordered. It's difficult to separate both horses and there are reasons to back, or avoid, each of them too - but at the prices, Saxon Warrior is worth one more chance to prove his Guineas win was not a one-hit wonder. He gets the vote today although I admit it is tentative.
A little earlier on the same card, eight-year-old veteran Muthmir looks a decent bet around 100/30 in the opening Group Three Coral Charge (12.20). A Group Two winner at Chantilly last year, he may not be the force of old, but he got back to form with a win in a Listed contest at Haydock last month and is still entitled to a crack at this level.
Speaking of Haydock, I'm keen on Horse Play there in the Group Two Bet365 Fillies' Lancashire Oaks (1.10). Having put in a few mediocre performances late last summer, she looked back to her best recently when winning a Group Two at York, and should appreciate the step back up in trip.
Finally, back at Sandown, a chance is taken on Gavota in the Listed Coral Distaff (1.30). Priced 9/1 yesterday evening, Roger Charlton's filly was placed in a couple of Group races at the end of last season, and won a Listed race in August.
On that form, she's got every chance today although her high odds suggest punters are put off by her latest two races this season in which she failed to make an impact in a Group Three at Newbury, then finished mid-division in a Listed race at Carlisle.
Connections have said she wasn't quite suited to Newbury and admit that she needs to improve to win here - but this is her first race at a mile which may give her a boost.
Expected to go off around 8/1, the Richard Hughes-trained Golden Wolf might have an edge in the Bet365 Old Newton Cup Handicap at Haydock (1.45) with the talented Nicola Currie on board claiming 3lbs. Second on all three starts this term, the gelding is up 1lb to a rating of 90 following his latest effort at Newmarket behind Amazing Red, but I suspect he's still got more to come before the handicapper catches up.
He seems to have been somewhat unlucky, bumping into a few talented sorts this year but today's contest looks quite open and he's got a great chance of a place at the least at the weights.
Likely favourite Atty Persse is also highly respected having won the King George V Stakes Handicap at Ascot last year, but he came last in both the Group races that followed, and hasn't been seen since August.
He's been gelded and should be thereabouts if getting back near his best, but there's quite a bit of guesswork involved here, making his early odds of 4/1 seem short.
12.20 Sandown: Muthmir
1.10 Haydock: Horse Play
1.30 Sandown: Gavota
1.45 Haydock: Golden Wolf (e/w)
2.10 Sandown: Saxon Warrior
3.20 Sandown: Nearly Caught
Do the double
England deserved their win against Colombia, and excitement is building across the water with Gareth Southgate and his men now 9/2 to win the World Cup. But Sweden will be no pushovers today, and have kept a number of clean sheets. This looks closer than the odds suggest and I'm backing Sweden to win or draw at 5/6.
Trained by Hughie Morrison, Nearly Caught won the Esher Stakes Coral Marathon last year and can land that prize once again today at Sandown (3.20). Back down in trip from the Queen Alexandra at Ascot which stretched him too far, he's got the form in the book to win this, having finished first past the post in a German Group Two (later demoted to second) in May. Early odds of 9/4 look fair.