Improving Dar Re Mi to light up Eclipse
IF you are interested in the history of racing, it's well worth looking up the horse named Eclipse, which made his debut as a five-year-old on May 3, 1769. I've checked with the bloke who runs the internet and apparently, he was named after a solar eclipse which occurred in April 1764.
The great chestnut won all his 18 races (most of them easily) and this is quite amazing when you consider that he had to walk the length and breadth of Britain to get to each racecourse (long before we had motor-driven horseboxes), clocking up some 1,400 miles in the process.
The race they named after this legend takes place at Sandown today (3.10) and the list of previous Coral-Eclipse winners includes some true superstars like Mill Reef, Sadler's Wells, Nashwan and Sea The Stars.
Today's field of six is the smallest since 2002 and while there are no obvious superstars in the line-up this year, it's still quite enjoyable to get stuck into this from a betting point of view, with Twice Over heading the early markets around 2/1.
For sure, the Henry Cecil-trained five-year-old has claims based on his Breeders' Cup form but I can't take 2/1 about a horse that finished seventh in this race last year, even though he has improved since then. He tends to race too freely at times and that was partly to blame for his dismal performance in the Dubai World Cup (finished 10th) back in March.
He did well to come from the rear when second in the Prince of Wales' stakes at Royal Ascot, and it's easy to envisage him fighting out the finish based on that run.
But his price is simply too short in a race where a strong case could be made for pretty much all of the field, bar Sri Putra. Instead, I prefer to take my chances on the John Gosden-trained mare Dar Re Mi, which gets a 3lb sex allowance that could prove decisive in the final two furlongs.
I've watched the '09 Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe many times over, where Dar Re Mi ran a fine race in fifth and she has even improved somewhat since then. Indeed, one of her best performances came last time out when winning in the Dubai Sheema Classic (her first race of the season) so we can expect more to come as the summer progresses.
There's an argument put forward that the mare is better suited to a mile and a half, but she's won at this distance before and I don't think it's as big an issue as some would have you believe.
She's smart, reliable and consistent -- all of which makes her price of 11/4 more than acceptable today. Aidan O'Brien has finally hit form so Viscount Nelson is respected, especially with a few pounds knocked off for his age -- but the Giant's Causeway colt is yet to take a major race and I think he'll struggle once again at this level.
For two weeks straight, our big-priced selection has been placed and although this proved profitable, it's been a little frustrating as their prices were juicy enough at 20/1 and 14/1.
Once again, we attempt to hit the bookie where it hurts today and Greyfriarschorista is worth a punt each-way in the Coral Challenge Stakes (2.35 Sandown), priced around 15/2.
The Mark Johnston-trained three-year-old has been successfully plying his trade on the all-weather this season but proved that he's no one-trick pony when coming third in a good-quality handicap at Ascot recently. He's shaping up to be one of those Johnston sorts that will keep on improving and at 9st, he's treated fairly in the weights today.