Favourites in the Eclipse Stakes have a decent record but The Gurkha may not be the good thing at Sandown that his price of evens suggests (3.45pm Saturday live on Channel 4). He was beaten by Galileo Gold at Royal Ascot last time and achieved his stunning victory at Deauville in questionable circumstances.
Half the field had already run their race in the stalls, waiting for this son of Galileo to be re-shod, before he trounced them in the Poulains. That win was over a straight mile on better ground than he will encounter here too. There is no reason to think that the extra two furlongs will trouble him but slowish ground is not going to aid his cause. Aidan O’Brien has always emphasised that ‘he has a lot of speed’ and that could be blunted. The Gurkha is unappealing at his current price.
Roger Charlton’s Time Test (9/2) is at his best on decent ground too but the decision to supplement Countermeasure (200/1) as a pacemaker for him suggests a degree of confidence. Time Test was pulled out of Ascot as he does not do mud and consequently comes into this fresher than most. He won his only start this time, beating Western Hymn a neck over course and distance in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at the end of May. He was giving Western Hymn 5lb and did not get the clearest of runs but had his preferred quick ground.
This four-year-old son of Dubawi won three of his four UK starts last year for Khalid Abdullah. He took the Group 2 Joel Stakes run over a mile at Newmarket and the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. His only home defeat came in the Group 1 Juddmonte International on good to soft, beaten nearly five lengths. We can forgive him his flop in the Breeders’ Cup mile as it was a steadily run affair (won by Tepin) and he needs a strong pace to run at. Countermeasure should ensure that the race is run to suit but Time Test is not going to enjoy the surface.
One colt that will love testing conditions and a truly run race is the Clive Cox-trained My Dream Boat (4/1). This four-year-old son of Lord Shanakill was the surprise winner of the Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot. He was held up by the resurgent Adam Kirby and stayed on strongly when it mattered, getting the better of Found by a neck, despite hanging left. Western Hymn was three lengths further back. That win earned him over £400K. It was not a bad result for the Rooneys who paid just £40K for him as a two-year-old.
Ascot was My Dream Boat’s second attempt in Group 1 company. He was well beaten by the Japanese wonder horse A Shin Hikari (who failed to fire in the Prince of Wales) at Chantilly on heavy in May. My Dream Boat has form over course and distance, taking the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes on his seasonal debut. He beat Western Hymn by about a length on good to soft, giving him 3lb.
My Dream Boat gained a mark of 122 after his Ascot win, putting him 1lb above the field on official ratings. If he has come out of that race undamaged he has a good chance of revisiting the winner’s enclosure. Cox says he is happy with the signals the colt is giving him but admits that he would prefer it if this race came a week later.
Another interesting Royal Ascot winner is Godolphin’s Hawkbill (8/1). He seemed to relish the soft ground and beat the more fancied Prize Money by over a length in the Group 3 Tercentary Stakes. It was his first foray into Group company. His jockey William Buick (pictured) said that there was more to come from him. Hawkbill pricked his ears after crossing the line suggesting that there was plenty of fuel left in the tank.
John Ferguson paid US$350K for this son of Kitten’s Joy as a yearling at Keenlands. Hawkbill was not an instant success as a juvenile but he won his maiden at the third attempt on the all-weather at Lingfield and has not been beaten in his five starts since. Trainer Charlie Appleby is very happy with the way he has come out of Royal Ascot and thinks that, as ‘a forward going horse’ Sandown should suit him. Hawkbill is rated 110 but, as a three-year-old, will carry 11lb less than the older horses in the line up. He had to be supplemented to take his place here but £30K is small change to Godolphin. This is a significant step up but Hawkbill looks progressive and has to be interesting each-way.
John Gosden has won two of the past three renewals of this race but Western Hymn (16/1) has something to find if he is to reverse the form with My Dream Boat and Time Test. This five-year-old son of High Chaparral thrives on the uphill finish here but nearly died of colic last year, needing what Gosden describes as ‘a nasty operation’.
Frankie Dettori thought that Western Hymn needed his first run this term when finishing second to My Dream Boat in April. Western Hymn was a beaten favourite again at Chester in a Group 3 next time in early May. Cannock Chase got the better of him by a length. Dettori thought that the course did not suit him.
The ground was a bit too quick for him in the Brigadier Gerard when he was narrowly beaten by Time Test. Most recently he was beaten nearly four lengths into third in the Prince of Wales, outpaced by My Dream Boat and Found. Dettori is likely to ride him fairly prominently, knowing that he lacks the tactical speed of some of his rivals. He will give his followers a run for their money but a minor placing looks the most probable outcome.
Ballydoyle second strings are always worth a look but Bravery (50/1) will need more than his sire Galileo’s courage to score in this company. This three-year-old’s five outings this season have gained him a rating of 102.
Bravery was beaten about nine lengths in the Irish 2,000 Guineas by Awtaad and by a length further in the French Derby. Bravery was dropped into more mundane company last time but was a beaten favourite, finding Dermot Weld’s Ashraf too good for him in mid June. Colm O’Donoghue takes the ride.
The Gurkha looks a worthy favourite if you trust official ratings and consider his weight for age allowance but he is far from unbeatable and arguably ungenerously priced. My Dream Boat is an obvious threat but his trainer’s comments suggest that this race may come too quickly for him. Time Test is the freshest horse in the line-up but the ground is against him. Our preference is for the progressive HAWKBILL who looked far from exhausted after his Ascot win. He should enjoy conditions.