Timeform Weekend Preview
Timeform Weekend Preview
Timeform look at the highlights of the weekend, beginning with a fascinating renewal of the Eclipse at Sandown…
The Group 1 Coral-Eclipse , run over a mile and a quarter, features a rematch between Al Kazeem, Mukhadram and The Fugue, who filled the first three positions in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. Roger Charlton’s Al Kazeem landed the spoils that day, overhauling Mukhadram by a head after a titanic battle in the home straight, and Timeform ratings suggest it’s going to be another closely fought race, with most of the seven-runner field separated by just a few pounds.
The surprise entry is Ballydoyle’s Declaration of War, who showed a strong turn of foot when winning the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot, and who also holds an entry in the five-furlong Nunthorpe Stakes at York next month. That said, he was twice successful at around the Eclipse trip in 2012, landing a Group 3 over nearly a mile and three furlongs at Dundalk on the second occasion, and he looks a big player.
Aidan O’Brien, who saddled his fifth Eclipse winner when So You Think scored in 2011, will also be represented by St James’s Palace Stakes third Mars, the only horse in the line-up with a Timeform ‘p’ (to signify potential for improvement) attached to his master rating. Sixth in the Derby, this trip may prove ideal for Mars and he has realistic claims of becoming the fifth three-year-old to win the race this century.
Females have won the last two renewals of the Group 3 ‘Charge’ on the same card and the five-furlong event could again go the way of a filly, with Tickled Pink and Mince (will wear first-time blinkers) both to the fore on Timeform ratings. That said, the pair have a bit to prove after below-par efforts on their most recent starts and a more intriguing contender is three-year-old Dutch Masterpiece, who has won five of his eight starts and looked potentially very smart when winning a Newmarket handicap a fortnight ago.
The Cheveley Park Stud has been associated with many top horses down the years, including star sprinter Pivotal, and they are strongly represented in the Charge by Kingsgate Native and Duke of Firenze. Both must also put rather low-key recent performances behind them, but dual Group 1 winner Kingsgate Native (well below form when sixth in this race in 2011) looked back to his best on his first two starts this term, winning the Temple Stakes at Haydock in May, while Duke of Firenze showed smart form when getting up on the line in the Epsom ‘Dash’ on Derby day.
As well as a pair of listed races, Sandown’s Saturday fixture also features a clutch of competitive handicaps. In the Challenge Handicap over a mile, Wentworth looks particularly interesting despite another wide draw, having attained Timeform ‘Horse In Focus’ status when a fast-finishing fourth in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot on his latest outing.
The feature handicap of the weekend takes place at Haydock, however, where Sir Michael Stoute’s Royal Ascot winner Opinion looks likely to start a strong favourite in the Old Newton Cup over a mile and a half. The Duke of Edinburgh Handicap winner won’t have it all his own way, though, having been raised 8 lb for that success and with the majority of the field closely matched on Timeform ratings.
Luca Cumani has won the Old Newton Cup three times in the last nine years and runs Franciscan, who was a close second in the Cumberland Plate at Carlisle recently. Franciscan was well beaten in this race off a 2 lb higher mark last year, though, and will need to be better than ever to win, a comment that also applies to Fennell Bay and Highland Castle.
Haydock’s card also plays host to the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks , in which the progressive Albasharah looks to hold all the aces, as well as a handful of other competitive handicaps, including the first nursery of the season.