Two Classic Winners Face Three Older Group 1 Performers In Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse

Just 17 days after his somewhat inconclusive Royal Ascot defeat, the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes favorite Bay Bridge gets a second chance at a first Group 1 win this Saturday when he takes on five top-class rivals in what promises to be an enthralling running of Sandown Park’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes.

The Coral-Eclipse, which is part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series, is widely recognized as the season’s first meaningful clash of the generations. With a field that includes two of this year’s Classic winners and three older runners who are also already Group 1 winners, Saturday’s race ought to give strong clues as to the relative merits of the different age groups, as well as offering 4-year-old Bay Bridge a quick chance of redemption.

Bay Bridge was still working his way up the handicap ranks at this time last year, but he was improving rapidly. He took another massive leap forward when he was a five-length winner of the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes over the Coral-Eclipse course and distance on his reappearance, and he was so impressive there that he went off at odds on to beat an international field when stepped up two grades at Royal Ascot. However, he could never quite get to grips with all-the-way winner State Of Rest, who was given an inspired ride.

Further improvement could well be on the cards for Bay Bridge, and if successful he will be a record seventh winner of the race for Sir Michael Stoute, whose six winners currently have him in a three-way tie as top trainer with Aidan O’Brien and Alec Taylor, whose last Eclipse winner was 99 years ago.

Owner-breeder James Wigan, who said he turned down substantial offers from abroad and sold a share in the colt to the Ballylinch Stud before the Brigadier Gerard Stakes to ensure that he continued to race in this country, believes Bay Bridge ran better than the bare result suggests at Royal Ascot.

Wigan said: “Bay Bridge came back from Ascot bouncing and seems to be in rude health. I think the winner there was very cleverly ridden and stole a march on the others.

“I’m not saying we would have won if the race had been run differently, but he was beaten only a length and was still inching closer at the finish. If the race was run again I think we could have been closer still. It’s probably the best Eclipse we’ve seen for a while, but he seemed to enjoy Sandown when he won the Brigadier Gerard.”

While Bay Bridge has been the subject of strong support through the week, the Eclipse betting is still headed by the impressive Prix Du Jockey Club winner Vadeni, who was supplemented for the race on Monday at a cost of £50,000 and is following the path taken by last year’s winner St Mark’s Basilica, who had also won at Chantilly.

The colt’s key weapon, besides his obvious class, is a devastating change of gear, and the 10lb weight for age that 3-year-olds receive from their elders cannot be underestimated. Christophe Soumillon, who has ridden at Sandown on only five occasions, without success, was lavish in his admiration for Vadeni after the Prix Du Jockey Club, telling reporters that Vadeni “swept past rivals between the 400 and the 300-metre marks and he completely took off.”

Soumillon added that he “certainly didn’t expect what he did there,” which was “something totally out of the ordinary” – praise indeed from a rider associated with middle-distance horses as gifted as Almanzor, Cirrus Des Aigles, Hurricane Run, Shirocco and Zarkava.

Vadeni, owned and bred by HH Aga Khan, will be a first runner at Sandown for his trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, who has been at the top of his profession for the best part of 30 years and has been a previous QIPCO British Champions Series winner with Almanzor, Ervedya and Qemah. If successful, he would be the first French-trained winner of the race since Javelot in 1960.

In a press call hosted by the Jockey Club, the Aga Khan’s racing manager Georges Rimaud said that the team believe that Saturday’s mile and a quarter might prove Vadeni’s optimum trip, hence the desire to press on now rather than give the colt a traditional French Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe preparation.

Rimaud said: “We don’t necessarily know or think that this horse is made for a mile and a half. He has a lot of speed and we wanted to stick to 2000 metres (a mile and a quarter). This was very much in our team’s mind rather than going to the Guillaume d’Ornano, which is a Group 2. We felt that we need to keep him at the top level and the decision was very quickly reached.

“I know he wasn’t entered for this as such but he hadn’t had the performance he put up at Chantilly and it was that run that led us to thinking that he could handle Sandown and the runners who would be in it. I know Jean-Claude always had a great belief in him and we need to exploit this now. Time will tell if it’s a good idea!

“We don’t know if he will manage Sandown but we certainly expect him to. He’s a well-balanced type of horse and he’s always had a lovely action. He doesn’t mind any type of ground and the undulations of Sandown are a bit similar to Chantilly really in that they’re both quite tough in the finish.”

Native Trail, who bids to give Charlie Appleby a third Eclipse win following Hawkbill in 2016 and Ghaiyyath in 2020, is also a Classic winner, having won the Irish 2000 Guineas after finishing only third when favorite for the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The Curragh form is unconvincing however, and unlike his two predecessors Native Trail has to prove himself over a distance his pedigree suggests he might not appreciate. However, his style of running offers encouragement on that score, and the same double was completed by Sadler’s Wells back in 1984.

John Gosden, now training with his son Thady, has won the Coral-Eclipse four times since 2012, most recently with the brilliant Enable in 2019. The stable will be double-handed this time with Mishriff, another former Prix Du Jockey Club winner, who was only third of four 12 months ago but went on to a stunning six-length defeat of Alenquer in the Juddmonte International, and Lord North.

Both had valid excuses last time. An explanation for Lord North’s last of five when bidding for a second Prince Of Wales’s win was there for all to see, as the 6-year-old lost many lengths at the start when his blindfold wouldn’t come off, and John Gosden can also account for Mishriff’s last of 14, when he was attempting to repeat his 2021 win in the Saudi Cup.

Gosden said: “They went very hard in the Saudi Cup and he got a lot of dirt down his throat. The jockeys said that the consistency of the track had changed from the year before, when he won the race, and it was riding pretty much like an American track, with much greater kickback.

“He had a tough time there and it wasn’t the most positive of experiences for him. He needed time to get over it, but he seems in good form now.”

The William Haggas-trained Alenquer completes a strong field. Alenquer beat the subsequent Derby winner Adayar in the Classic Trial over Saturday’s course and distance last spring and gained a well-deserved first Group 1 win in a fiercely-run Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh last time, where he dug very deep under pressure and got up close home to beat High Definition narrowly, with Lord North fourth.

The post Two Classic Winners Face Three Older Group 1 Performers In Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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