Aidan O’Brien has won two of the last eight runnings of Saturday’s Group 1 feature at Sandown Park, the £525,00 Coral-Eclipse (live on Channel 4 at 3.45pm), most recently with 4/6 favourite So You Think back in 2011.
In that period, with the exception of 14/1 shot Mukhadram in 2014, no winner has returned bigger than 7/2, with five of the last eight favourites doing the business, most recently when Derby winner Golden Horn graced this contest 12 months ago.
He was one of two three-year-olds to be successful in the same period, the other being the mighty Sea The Stars on the heady day his owner Christopher Tsui fainted back in 2009, but in 2016 The Gurkha looks ripe to be an O’Brien-trained favourite who can boost the successful record of three-year-olds.
O’Brien, who also fields outsider Bravery (a creditable fourth in the Irish Guineas) in the line up, will have no issues with the going at the Surrey track for either of his duo, currently given as Good to Soft (Good in places).
That’s a big change from the very wet conditions previously forecast this time last week, and will give renewed hope to supporters of his nearest market rival, Time Test.
However, the ground was good when The Gurkha won the French Guineas, and Soft when he was runner-up in the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot.
Perhaps in an ideal world Ryan Moore would have had him more aggressively positioned that day, but either way his finishing burst will have more time to be unleashed over this additional mile and a quarter, and the 11 pounds he receives from the older horses could be pivotal as he bids to ward off the likes of Time Test and My Dream Boat.
This is only The Gurkha’s fifth ever racecourse appearance, and as such he retains real star potential.
Back him to deliver in the hands of Ryan Moore.
Later on, Quest For More looks a really potent threat at the front of the market for the two mile Coral Marathon (4.20pm).
In a contest which features three runners for Hughie Morrison, plus Sir Mark Prescott’s recent course winner Pallasator, Roger Charlton could very well have the solution with the quality, proven stayer.
The winner of the last ever Northumberland Plate to be run on turf, he then progressed to be beaten a neck when sent off favourite in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup.
A trip down under saw him finish ninth in the Melbourne Cup in November, since when he’s run a fine comeback race to be second to a progressive rival at York.
On the day when Charlton has the highest hopes for Time Test in the Eclipse, perhaps it’s the appropriately named Quest For More who can give him most to cheer about.
Saturday’s best bets at Sandown Park:
3.45 – Coral-Eclipse – 7 The Gurkha (win) @ Evs (Paddy Power)
4.20 – Coral Marathon – 10 Quest For More (win) @ 9/2 (bet365, Betway, Boylesports or William Hill)