All eyes are once again on the weather ahead of Saturday's Coral Eclipse (3.45pm), the most valuable race run in Sandown’s 130-year history.
Aidan O’Brien’s French Guineas winner The Gurkha is as short as evens with Betway for the £525,000 Group One with rain-softened ground unlikely to harm his chances.
Investec Derby disappointment Deauville and stablemate Long Island Sound had originally been expected to fly the flag for Ballydoyle, but the three inches of rain that fell on Esher last week forced O’Brien to shuffle his pack.
The Gurkha’s impressive five-and-a-half length win in France was followed up with a second-placed finish behind Galileo Gold in the St James’s Palace Stakes last month.
Arguably given too much to do by Ryan Moore at Royal Ascot, The Gurkha ran on really well in the closing stages giving the impression he is definitely worth a try at this trip.
His ability to handle soft ground is also a huge plus and it is clear to see why he is such a warm order as he looks the most talented of O’Brien’s three-year-old colts.
In fact, the only thing not to like about him is his price and a strong case can definitely be made for TIME TEST, the horse he usurped as favourite when the rain came.
As a boy I was always told to follow my own path rather than the crowds and for that reason I will be taking the 9/2 available while everybody else backs The Ghurka.
The ground is the worry, but there hasn’t been as much rain as first thought and if the weather improves the going may be no worse than the soft side of good.
Time Test won three of his four races on English soil last season with his only defeat coming in the Juddmonte International at York. That was a muddling affair, won by 50/1 winner Arabian Queen, on good-to-soft.
It’s easy to blame the ground for that defeat and that’s why many have written him off, but a well-fancied Golden Horn and The Grey Gatsby were also beaten that day.
The four-year-old has since shown a liking for Sandown having won the Brigadier Stakes on his seasonal reappearance and I’m willing to give him another shot.
He beat Western Hymn by a neck that day and John Gosden’s charge could be the each-way play for punters looking for a bit more value at around 16/1.
The High Chaparral colt loves it at Sandown and boasts form figures of 111322 at the Esher venue.
Earlier on in the afternoon, Kevin Ryan’s ultra-consistent BRANDO looks the best of the bunch in the super competitive Coral Charge (2.00pm).
He won on his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket in April and has twice finished second since, including in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot last time.
He drops back to five furlongs here, but the ground on the sprint course is much softer than on the round course and that will play to his strengths.
Finally, it was brought to my attention earlier this week that, in this Olympic year, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing have just launched their new syndicates naming them after some of the greatest Olympians of both past and present.
A total of nine Olympians form the new syndicates set to race in 2017, and together their names claim an incredible 22 Olympic gold medals in total.
I was going to encourage you to ‘jump’ at the opportunity or to give it a ‘shot’, but thought better of it.
Brando, 2.00pm Sandown
Time Test ew, 3.45pm Sandown