David Ord's horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown with the Investec Derby winner taken to strike again.
CLIFFS OF MOHER: 7/4 favourite when fourth in this last season, he has yet to strike at the top level and had two attempts within three days at Royal Ascot. His runs in both the Prince Of Wales’ and Hardwicke were creditable but neither screamed Eclipse winner – in fact the latter performance hinted he may be suited by going further than a mile-and-a-half rather than dropping back to ten furlongs.
FOREST RANGER: Two from two this year, landing the Earl Of Sefton and Huxley Stakes at Chester. Deserves this crack at an elite prize but it will be a surprise if he’s able to repel the thrust of the Classic generation up the hill.
HAWKBILL: Pick of the older horses on official ratings but a stablemate of Masar and at his best on soft ground. A trip overseas seemed more likely than a jaunt across the M25 but he's declared. He’ll need to be at his very best to make an impact though – which he wasn’t behind Poet’s Word at Royal Ascot.
MASAR: Ran out impressive winner of the Investec Derby, comprehensively reversing QIPCO 2000 Guineas form with Saxon Warrior in the process. Shaped that day as though dropping back to ten furlongs will be no inconvenience. Very much the one to beat.
RAYMOND TUSK: Looks out of his depth here for all he’s made a promising start to his career – chasing home William Hill St Leger hope Loxley, a stablemate of Masar, at Newmarket on his second and latest start.
ROARING LION: Edged out by Saxon Warrior in Racing Post Trophy last season and no match for Masar in the Craven but firmly back on track since, including when third to the latter in the Investec Derby. He just flattened out close home there and the way he won the Dante at York suggests this is his optimum trip but hard to see why he’ll pass his Newmarket and Epsom conqueror this time around.
SAXON WARRIOR: Was expected to wait for the Juddmonte International but heads here after finishing third in Irish Derby at the weekend. Seemed no excuses there and the brilliance of his QIPCO 2000 Guineas win has been missing since. Dangerous to write off but all of a sudden a colt, for whom the Triple Crown dream was the talk of the spring, now has questions to answer.
HAPPILY: Likely to run for Ballydoyle here and had the measure of Masar in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere as a two-year-old. Placed in the English and Irish 1000 Guineas and ran well to finish third in the Prix de Diane last time, short of room at a crucial stage. Interesting runner but the two colts will prove very tough nuts to rack.
A race that represents the first significant clash of the generations but with doubts over the participation of Cliffs Of Moher and Hawkbill, it could be left to Forest Ranger to represent the older brigade. He’s dipping his toes in Group One waters for the first time and this looks to boil down to the MASAR v Roaring Lion clash. The former has come out on top in three previous 2018 meetings and there’s no reason to think he won’t make it 4-0 on Saturday.
Tactically he’s versatile and shaped at Epsom as though dropping to ten furlongs will hardly inconvenience him. Roaring Lion was very impressive in the Dante but that wasn’t strongest renewal of that Group Two, third home Zabriskie finishing last in the Investec Derby on his only subsequent start and fourth Merlin Magic 18th of 21 in the Jersey.
John Gosden’s charge was in a different league to those rivals and ten furlongs on fast ground is his perfect combination. However he hasn’t had the legs of Masar so far and with his rival likely to be quickening from in front of him again at Sandown, it’s hard to make a convincing case for why he’ll reel him in this time.
It's fascinating that Saxon Warrior is turned out so quickly after his run at the Curragh but he now has something to prove and Happily looks best of the rest.