The prestigious Coral Eclipse is just under two weeks away, but with so many doubtful runners heading the ante-post market our big-price tipster Tony Calvin is licking his lips at the prospect of landing another juicy winner...
"However, Arabian Queen was never going to be seen to best effect over 1m4f there, and the return to this trip is ideal. And surely connections must see that the Eclipse could be very winnable this year."
On a day where Dermot Weld has thrown an unexpected spanner in the works by saying that a final decision on Harzand's participation in Saturday's Irish Derby will be made on the day of the race - he would ideally want the race to be coming a week later for his Epsom winner - I decided to take a look at the Eclipse.
What Weld's commendable frankness today has underlined - and it is hardly rocket science, I know - is the importance of ascertaining running plans when betting on ante-post markets.
I imagine Harzand will now be friendless in the Irish Derby betting, until the day-of-race market kicks in after the finals decs at 10am on Thursday morning, and bookmakers will be very cautious about how they trade the race, especially each-way, until then.
There are only 11 runners as it stands, six of which are trained by Aidan O'Brien, and two of the others are potential pacemakers. It could cut up pretty badly.
Market leaders not certain to run
But, anyway, back to the Eclipse betting, where I am struggling to identify many who will actually turn up at Sandown on July 2nd, though there is a supplementary stage on June 27th. And therefore it makes it very interesting from a punting point of view.
Let's start in betting order on the exchange, and Time Test is the understandable favourite at 3.711/4. He may well set the form standard on the day courtesy of his Brigadier Gerard defeat of Western Hymn, giving that horse 5lb and a neck beating, over course and distance last month.
But he was pulled out of Royal Ascot on account of the soft ground, so do you really want to be backing him just under a fortnight ahead of the race? Obviously not.
However, you then look at the next four in the betting, and all are firmly odds-against to turn up.
The Gurkha currently heads for a Sussex Stakes re-match with Galileo Gold and Awtaad next. The last time I heard that Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Fascinating Rock was on his mid-season holiday and having the summer off. New Bay wasn't delighting connections at home ahead of the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, so he didn't run there. And Minding is set to run in the Pretty Polly at the Curragh on Sunday, after which she will surely be given a break after her fourth run of the season.
As well as this quartet, you have Galileo Gold (quoted between 7-1 and 12-1 with bookmakers) set to go straight to Goodwood for the race his owner sponsors, US Army Ranger (9-1 to 14-1) heads to the Curragh on Saturday and Found (10-1 to 14-1) is also now being rested ahead of a planned autumn campaign. And impressive Chester winner Cannock Chase also had a slight setback before Ascot.
And an outsider that would have been of some interest, Almodovar, is apparently going to take in a listed race at Newbury next month ahead of the Juddmonte.
But those likely to run include...
No, the only likely runners that I can see, as it stands, are Time Test, The Grey Gatsby, Prince Of Wales's winner My Dream Boat, Deauville, Tryster and Western Hymn. And possibly Intilaaq and Highland Reel, though the former was very disappointing last time and the latter was running quicker sideways than forwards when second in the Hardwicke on Saturday.
And, heaven forbid if it does come up soft at Sandown next month, as a fair few of that short-list wouldn't enjoy those conditions at all, if allowed to race.
Dante runner-up and Derby non-stayer Deauville is an obvious one at 10-1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, as he is being aimed at the race at least, though again he doesn't want soft ground, despite being a winner on heavy, and I am not sure how strong the York form is, anyway.
One at a big price
As you can see I am struggling here, but then my eyes fell upon a filly who would be a match for any of these at her best, one who handles fast ground or plenty of dig, and for whom 1m2f looks her optimum trip.
Step forward Arabian Queen at 34.033/1 or bigger on the exchange, and a very tempting 33-1 each way across the board, including on the Betfair Sportsbook.
The first thing to say is that I don't know if she is an intended runner, or whether she is more likely to head to the Falmouth Stakes (she finished last in that race last season) a week later at Newmarket on July 8. So we could be doing our money in cold blood here. And she did run well below par in the Coronation Cup last time, having missed the Middleton Stakes at York in May after a recurrence of an old sinus problem, so her campaign has not been problem-free.
However, she was never going to be seen to best effect over 1m4f there, and the return to this trip is ideal. And surely connections must see that the Eclipse could be very winnable this year.
Ok, you may not want to buy into her defeat of Golden Horn in the Juddmonte last season but even a return to her length second to subsequent Duke Of Cambridge winner Usherette in the 1m1f Dahlia Stakes, 4 ½ lengths clear of the third, on her reappearance would give her strong claims in this. And it is not hard to see her dominating from the front if we do get a single-figure field.
She is worth a speculative few quid each way at 33-1.
Back Arabian Queen at 33-1 with Betfair Sportsbook, or 34.033/1 or bigger on the exchange, in the Eclipse at Sandown on July 2nd