The Insider: Sandown Verr-dict
Our antepost fiend The Insider is convinced Aidan O'Brien can claim another victory in Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
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The betting market for Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse revolves around The Fugue – and rightly so.
Barring just a couple of complete no-shows, John Gosden’s filly has been a model of consistency at the highest level throughout her career and took full advantage of her optimum conditions to beat Magician and a below-par (injured) Treve in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
She stays a mile and a half well enough, but four of her six wins have come over the trip of this weekend’s feature and it’s no surprise to see she is entered in top 10-furlong races such as the Juddmonte International at York and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown later in the season.
However, one of the aforementioned no-shows came in the Eclipse 12 months ago and that shouldn’t be ignored when considering her as a betting proposition around the 7/4 mark this Saturday.
Granted, The Fugue reportedly had a troubled time of things last spring but she had put in a pleasing reappearance run when third to Al Kazeem in the Prince Of Wales’s and it was very disappointing the Eclipse yielded such a lifeless effort.
It’s highly unlikely the nature of the course at Sandown had anything to do with it, as she has won going right-handed before, including at venues with a stiff uphill finish.
But I’m willing to take on the The Fugue at the prices and will have to sit back and applaud if she manages to join Pebbles and Kooyonga as the only females to have lifted this prize in over 50 years.
Before assessing the chance of some interesting runners stepping up in distance, it’s well worth considering proven 10-furlong performer and previous course scorer Mukhadram.
Connections admit that switching to more patient tactics "didn’t work on the face of it" when he struggled to land a blow from off the pace behind The Fugue at Ascot, but his peak form from last season, including a solid third to Al Kazeem in this race, affords him respect.
Finishing second in the Dubai World Cup back in March suggested Mukhadram was all set for a big 2014 and it’s far too soon to be writing him off after an ‘experimental’ run last time.
Paul Hanagan will no doubt adopt a more prominent position this weekend but he won’t need to do all the donkey work with Mark Johnston’s Somewhat having been confirmed as a “pacemaker for True Story” by the trainer’s son, Charlie.
He is a tempting proposition at 14/1 and may have been the pick had VERRAZANO not been available at 11/2 in a place (5/1 general).
After arriving in Ballydoyle from Todd Pletcher’s yard with a tall reputation, Aidan O’Brien left nobody in any doubt that ‘The Big V’ would not be fully revved up for his UK debut in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
And so it proved - just like the yard’s Declaration Of War in 2013, Verrazano shaped like his Lockinge outing was badly needed and would bring him on.
What he produced when finishing three-quarters-of-a-length second to Toronado at Royal Ascot last month proved the point and it was a hugely encouraging effort looking ahead to the rest of the season.
He’s a real top-notch grinder and battled all the way to the line in Berkshire, only really being undone by Toronado’s turn of foot just over a furlong out.
Having claimed high-class victories over nine furlongs on Monmouth Park’s dirt surface last summer, Verrazano looks certain to take another step forward now presented with a greater test of stamina, while he could still be a work in progress regarding race-fitness.
He appeals more than stable companion War Command and the Richard Hannon-trained Night Of Thunder.
Night Of Thunder is a fascinating runner as one gets the impression not many horses will be able to boast a defeat of Kingman or Australia on their CV come the end of the season.
Well this colt beat both of them with a phenomenal burst of speed, and arguably a pinch of good fortune, as a 40/1 chance in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
His subsequent St James’s Palace second to Kingman was by no means a disgrace, if perhaps a truer reflection of the pair’s respective capabilities.
But tackling another two furlongs is an altogether different challenge and may partly be the result of the Hannon camp looking to avoid future clashes with Kingman, as well as their own top-class milers Toronado and Olympic Glory.
There is enough in the pedigree of Night Of Thunder to suggest 10 furlongs won’t be much of an issue, as his dam is by Galileo, but I’m not willing to take 3/1 in order to find out, after all it was his raw speed that saw him shoot to the front in the dying strides of the Guineas.
One three-year-old who could yet prove to be over-priced is Godolphin’s True Story.
He was a very smart juvenile and laid down an early Classic marker when romping to a seven-length victory in the Feilden Stakes at the Craven meeting.
The lively terrain at HQ played to his strengths and he could bounce back to form if disappointing efforts in the Dante at York (soft ground) and Derby at Epsom (trip) since can be excused.
I wouldn’t be keen on putting anyone off backing Saeed bin Suroor’s charge each-way, but for win purposes I’ll be sticking with the older horses and 11/2 for Verrazano to see off The Fugue represents excellent value.