Sunday 25 February 2018

Weight advantage can help The Fugue to make amends

The Fugue has proven to be as good as ever this term and is equipped to atone for last year's disappointment. Photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse
The Fugue has proven to be as good as ever this term and is equipped to atone for last year's disappointment. Photo: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse

Wayne Bailey

The Coral-Eclipse at Sandown (3.50) is often billed as the race which gives the Classic generation a chance to battle it out against the older horses although, if the truth be told, most of the very talented Flat horses are retired to stud long before they could be accurately be described as old.

As such, no horse over the age of five has won this race since Bendigo in 1886 which, rather interestingly, was ridden by Lester Piggott's great-grandfather Tom Cannon Sr.

That fact hasn't stopped Andrew Balding and Gay Kelleway from entering six-year-olds Tullius and Zambucca but at 33/1 and 200/1 respectively, the market gives them little chance of bucking the trend.

Whatever about the six-year-olds, the five-year-olds actually have a decent record lately with three wins in the last four renewals and despite her relatively short price of 2/1, it's hard to get away from the John Gosden- trained The Fugue.

I've heard a few people argue this week that she's been a difficult horse to follow for punters and it's fair to say she should have an Oaks and at least one Breeders' Cup victory to her name.

But it would be grossly unfair to call her unreliable and most near misses in her career were purely down to bad luck in-running – which can happen to any horse no matter what their level of talent.

While she was disappointing in this race last year, finishing last of the seven runners, she was found to have scoped dirty afterwards which explains the poor showing.

Indeed, she was back to her brilliant best when taking the Yorkshire Oaks afterwards, and she went on to score in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, turning around some earlier form with Al Kazeem in the process.

This term, she proved she's as good as ever when beating a strong field including Treve and Magician in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Ascot (breaking the track record) and, from what we've seen in the past 12 months, there's no reason she can't atone for last year.

Once again, Kingston Hill's (6/1) participation in a big race depends on the weather although Roger Varian emphasised this week how keen he was to run and that he's "sick of looking at weather forecasts".

Frankie Dettori will be on board should the three-year-old be given the go-ahead and he certainly has claims based on his second place to Australia in the Derby. Regular rider Andrea Atzeni was unfortunate to come up against such a good horse at Epsom, and most analysts agree his performance on the day would have won some of the weaker Derby renewals we've seen in recent times.

He'll give the favourite a very good run for her money, but I reckon he'll have to settle for minor honours once again.

The Richard Hannon-trained Night Of Thunder should also prove popular with punters at 7/2. He surprised many of us by winning the 2,000 Guineas at 40/1 and he appeared to want further when Kingman reversed the placings last time out in the St James's Palace Stakes.

Of the Irish-trained horses, Verrazano is one to keep an eye on at 5/1. Aidan O'Brien's colt was considered one of the best three-year-olds in the States at one stage and put in a top-drawer performance when second to Toronado in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.

But all three horses still have 4lbs to make up with The Fugue and that's certainly no easy task at this level.


THE lightly raced Pallasator looks a little overpriced at 12/1 for the Bet365 Old Newton Cup (3.30 Haydock). He ran a nice race in third in Old Borough Cup here in September and he almost certainly would have finished better than fifth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket had Luke Morris not made his move too early. With a different type of ride today, he's entitled to go close.

Today's selections

2.05 Sandown: Ahtoug

2.55 Haydock: Seal Of Approval

3.30 Haydock: Pallasator (e/w)

3.50 Sandown: The Fugue

4.05 Haydock: Muqaawel

Irish Independent

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