Angus McNae - Saturday 6th July 2013
It is time to declare war at Sandown!
I am delighted to say that I will be presenting from Sandown on Saturday and am thoroughly looking forward to every race on Coral-Eclipse day.
Steve Mellish will be my expert analyst and the focus of our attention will be the Coral-Eclipse, which this year looks to be a tough puzzle to solve. Here is my take on the competitors.
Two Group One wins in a row at the Curragh and at Royal Ascot make this son of Dubawi a worthy favourite. In terms of ratings he has not quite achieved a mark which would be sufficient to win an average renewal of this race, but it can be argued that he was better than the bare result in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.
The pace in that race was a bit stop-start and Mukhadram nearly stole it from the front, but even with all the stars aligned for that horse he was still run down by Al Kazeem, whose jockey, James Doyle, was the first to react to the pace scenario that occurred. This was a top effort from Al Kazeen and he looks sure to run a big race today.
One doubt about his chance nags away at me though. He has now had two hard races in a row against Group One company on fast ground and none of us know what sort of mark those efforts will have made on his physical condition. In short is he prepared to go through the pain barrier one more time?
It is my belief that he was seen at his best in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes and even at his best he still could not win. The ride he got from Paul Hanagan has received much praise, but as good as it was there were some moderate efforts from the jockeys in behind.
That said there is no reason why this performance cannot be seen as a career best from Mukhadram. Given what Hanagan has said in the press this week there can be little doubt he will try and control the race from the front once again, but surely the other jockeys, this time, will be alive to what is going on. Sandown is a track that can favour front runners and with that in mind Mukhadram, who has won at the Esher track before, has a shot at this big prize but why should he beat Al Kazeem?
Let us face facts. She was given a poor ride in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. William Buick rode her patiently and she was set a hopeless task given how the race was run. That said, a look at the sectional times from the race tell us that she ran the last three furlongs faster than any other horse in the race. This is possibly a function of how much energy she saved early in the race, but it tells us she retains all of her ability.
Whilst she is effective at 12 furlongs I believe Saturday's ten furlongs is her best trip and she will surely be ridden with a bit more pace awareness than at Royal Ascot. A repeat of the entire performance that she produced when she won the Musidora Stakes at York last year would see her go very close here.
Third in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot to Dawn Approach was a good effort, but it was clear that eight furlongs was too sharp for him and the 10 furlongs of the Eclipse will be much more to his liking.
Since his maiden win at Dundalk he has kept top-class company in the Guineas, Derby and St James's Palace and although each time he ran as if there is more to come he has yet to reach a level that tells me he can win a Group One today. He was hampered twice at Royal Ascot, but you would have to live on Mars to believe he should have beaten Dawn Approach.
There is no doubt he is better than he has shown so far and we may well see an improved performance from him, but a winning one is unlikely. He wears a hood for the first time presumably to try to keep him calm in the preliminaries, for he tends to sweat up and get edgy.
He won the Prix Ganay at this trip and ran very well when finishing fourth to Frankel in last year's Champion Stakes. This horse should not be underestimated and I can see him making the frame. He disappointed when he got a wide trip in Singapore last time, but in winning the Ganay he beat Maxios, who went on to win the Group One Prix D'Ispahan, and Dunaden, who has since finished second in the Group One Coronation Cup, and was runner-up in the Group One Grand Prix De St Cloud.
He is tough and versatile and a massive plus is the fact that Olivier Peslier will be on board. This horse is probably not good enough to win but he should not be underestimated.
Big priced outsider who ran the race of his life to be fifth in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. He was also third at Sandown to Mukhadram in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes. He has gradually improved all season, but if he is going to get involved here he needs to take a big step forward.
Declaration Of War:
The impressive Queen Anne winner is an unexpected runner for Ballydoyle. He overcame trouble in-running to win a below par renewal of the Royal Ascot race, settling matters with a sharp turn of foot.
He will have to better that performance to win an Eclipse but his potent turn of foot may prove to be a useful weapon. It has been pointed out that if his trainer entered him in the five-furlong Nunthorpe Stakes then surely the 10-furlong Eclipse is not exactly what the boys at Coolmore had in mind for this horse at the beginning of the season.
I am not sure about that because he holds an entry in the Champion Stakes at Ascot, also, and has won a couple of times in his career over 10 furlongs. He was expected to win the Lockinge, but something went wrong there and overall it is clear that connections think an awful lot of this horse.
He needs to improve to win today, but he could step up to the plate and his change of gear may prove decisive.
There you have it,, my look at all the contenders in the Eclipse, but what conclusions can we draw?
It is my contention that the one horse who could improve again is Declaration Of War. He is highly regarded at home and was a good deal better than the bare result in the Queen Anne. Al Kazeem could easily find another race at the highest level on good to firm going a step to far, Mukhadram will never get the same pace scenario he got last time, while Mars and Miblish are probably not good enough.
Pastorius will give his running from off the pace and could make the frame and The Fugue is dangerous, but I will wait for her to take on her own sex again.
It has to be Declaration Of War for me.
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