LOOKING back at the list of previous winners of tomorrow’s Coral Eclipse, proves a genuine star three-year-old will beat his older rivals in the valuable 10-furlong prize.
The likes of Giant’s Causeway, Hawk Wing, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn are testament to that over the last 20 years.
It also has to be conceded that genuine star older performers have the ability to concede 10lbs to the younger generation.
The likes of dual winner Halling, Pilsudski, Daylami, Falbrav and So You Think prove that too.
My issue with this year’s contest is that I don’t believe there is yet a proven star performer among either generation.
For that reason, I think the market has it right favouring the three-year-olds in receipt of such a healthy weight concession.
When it comes to solving any Group One prize in Europe, and virtually anywhere in the world to be fair, the most obvious starting point is Aidan O’Brien.
The Ballydoyle maestro is attempting to land his sixth Coral Eclipse and looks to have a leading chance with Investec Derby runner-up CLIFFS OF MOHER.
Workmanlike rather than impressive on his seasonal reappearance in the Dee Stakes at Chester, the son of Galileo stormed down the outside of Cracksman and Eminent at Epsom only to be mugged in the dying strides by stablemate Wings Of Desire.
O’Brien has conceded since that he didn’t quite see out that 12-furlong trip and the drop back to 10 furlongs looks ideal on paper.
Don’t forget he saddled both Hawk Wing and Oratorio to land the prize on the back of defeat at Epsom.
The fact Ryan Moore opted to ride him in the Derby suggests he is at the very top of the Ballydoyle three-year-old middle-distance colt pecking order and he should prove very hard to beat.
That was only his fourth racecourse start at Epsom and there is every reason to believe he will improve again for his experience there at 2/1 with sponsors Coral.
If he is to be beaten tomorrow afternoon, it will more than likely be the Richard Hannon-trained BARNEY ROY who steps up in distance from a mile for the first time.
There is enough stamina on the dam’s side to suggest this trip should be well within this talented colt’s range and he rates a big danger to all.
Although narrowly beaten when stumbling at a crucial stage in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, he gained his revenge over the O’Brien-trained Churchill in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
However, there was something deeply unsatisfactory about that performance as the favourite ran no sort of race.
Another worry is the St James’s Palace Stakes was Barney Roy’s third hard race in relatively quick succession and he hasn’t had long to recover from those exertions.
Champion Jockey-elect Silvestre de Sousa has been booked to ride the other leading three-year-old contender Eminent, who looked to have the world at his feet when lowering the track record in the Craven Stakes back in April.
Since then, he has finished behind Barney Roy in the 2000 Guineas and Cliffs Of Moher in the Derby.
Connections felt the mile at Newmarket didn’t test him enough and the extra half mile of the Derby stretched him too far.
They may be right and he could bounce back over this intermediate trip, but at just 7/2, I prefer to leave him out of the reckoning.
Dual Group One-winner Decorated Knight ran well at Ascot and looks sure to run his usual solid race.
However, for the final position I’m going to side with ULYSSES, who finished one place behind him that day.
Like O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute is also looking for his sixth win in the race and in Ulysses he has a colt who produced his best performance on a racecourse to date over this very track and distance back in April.
He seems to be improving with every start and is just the type of older horse that his trainer excels with.
Whether he is good enough to trouble the best of the three-year-olds remains to be seen.
Bill Esdaile's 1-2-3
- Cliffs Of Moher
- Barney Roy