If top class summer racing is your drug of choice then it surely doesn’t come much better than this Saturday’s offering, with the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse taking centre stage at Sandown Park.
There might only be five of them lining up, but quality not quantity is very much to the fore at the Esher venue, with the big race live on Channel 4 at 3.10pm.
In-form Aidan O’Brien’s Aussie import So You Think has been all the rage since betting opened, with an initial quote of 13/8 with the sponsors receding faster than my hairline and indeed quickly going odds on across the board with some monster bets struck, as punters have supposedly laid siege to the those prices – according to the ever reliable bookmakers’ reps!
Undeterred by his defeat to Rewilding when sent off the 4/11 favourite in Royal Ascot’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes punters are clearly prepared to forgive that faux pas, largely pinning the blame on pacemaker Jan Vermeer exiting the stalls in the style of a slightly dishevelled bloke on his day off rolling out of bed, as opposed to the intended lightening break of a man in a bit of hurry.
Still his reverse 17 days was a shock if we’re honest, and while clearly So You Think’s form at a mile and a quarter is first rate (winner of two Cox Plates!), it was on the other side of the world, (largely speaking, though he has two lesser wins at the trip in Ireland to his name) and there is no guarantee his improvement will continue in Europe.
I have to say I’m a big fan of the horse, but he’s going to be have to be seriously good to come up trumps against Sir Michael Stoute’s Workforce, last season a winner of not only an above average Derby, but then the Arc as well!
Official ratings see him a couple of pounds clear, and I think they’re spot on.
The stronger stayer, he has the tactical speed to upset the mile and a quarter specialist, and his experience of the track could be key.
Workforce was an impressive course and distance winner on his seasonal reappearance in the Brigadier Gerrard (where he conceded weight to all comers); and to my eyes this is a great contest, one in which I’ll happily throw my lot in with this brilliant King’s Best four year old to see off a horse who hasn’t yet shown enough on these shores to entitle him to go off odds on against such high calibre opposition.
Not only does So You Think have a superstar in Workforce to wrestle with, but also a dual Oaks winner and four-time Group 1 winner Snow Fairy (she wouldn’t be without a chance but her lack of run since December means she’s passed over here).
Clearly the form of the Stoute team would be something of a concern and has to have been a contributory factor to the price differential in the antepost market, with a run of 30 losers going into Friday, but Class Is Class was a welcome winner for the stable at Sandown later that afternoon, and Workforce can continue the renaissance and net one of the season’s highlights on Saturday.
My other bet on the card at Sandown comes in the Coral Challenge Handicap at 2.35pm, with Devon trainer Tony Newcombe’s progressive sort Leviathan the one to be with in an open looking contest.
Kieren Fallon gave him a brilliant ride when he won at Salisbury last time, and a three pound rise to a mark of 92 might not be enough to put the brakes on this improving type.
Newcombe, perhaps best known for ingeniously dressing up as Santa Claus and giving away free shares in horses to attract new owners to his yard a couple of years back, has snapped up no less than Irish Derby winning jockey Colm O’Donoghue to carry out steering duties this time, and the pair will be a danger to all at 9/1 each way with Stan James.
Fascinating aside: the only other person I know who has dressed up as Father Christmas recently is Lord Culcheth, who turned up at a barbeque I was attending last summer in full fancy dress, white beard glistening.
I should point out no one else was in fancy dress, but then regular readers will know we are dealing with the same man who went to Royal Ascot four weeks ago swathed in the colours of the Greek flag.
I can offer no explanation….
Saturday’s best bets at Sandown Park:
2.35 – Coral Challenge (Handicap) – 10 Leviathan (each way) @ 9/1 (Stan James)