Timeform Preview: Eclipse Stakes

Timeform preview Saturday's Eclipse Stakes at Sandown
Timeform preview Saturday's Eclipse Stakes at Sandown
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Timeform preview Saturday's Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, and pick out their best bet...

"...he sets the standard here, having reversed the Guineas form with Saxon Warrior at Epsom last time."

Timeform on Masar

The Timeform ratings suggest that the classic generation hold the upper hand heading into this, with the Derby 1-3-4, Masar, Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior heading the 10-runner field at this stage.

As you would expect, it is Masar who sits at the top of the figures, and he sets the standard here, having reversed the Guineas form with Saxon Warrior at Epsom last time. It's interesting that Godolphin have opted for this race over last week's Irish Derby (he was supplemented for this race on Monday), a path taken by only two of the previous ten Derby winners, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn, both of whom were successful. In receipt of weight from the older horses, he will be difficult to beat if in the same form as Epsom with the drop back in trip no problem.

The biggest threat therefore will seemingly come from Roaring Lion, who lost little in defeat at Epsom last time. Whilst he stayed the longer trip in the Derby, he was run out of second place late on by Dee Ex Bee, and as such it could be that a mile and a quarter proves to be his optimum trip. He has been holding his form well since the Craven, producing a career best last time, and another bold bid is likely.

Fourth at Epsom was Saxon Warrior, the only one of the trio to run since, finishing third in last week's Irish Derby. The messages are mixed in terms of whether he will take his chance here, but he has gone backwards since his success in the Guineas, appearing destined for greatness after that, but now looking in danger of not even being considered the best of his generation. Whilst he can have excuses for his Epsom run, when short of room three furlongs out, they were harder to come by at Curragh, and his next run is very much a redemption mission.

Heading the charge for the older generation is Hawkbill, who won this race as a three-year-old himself back in 2016. However, he is yet to reach top form this summer, disappointing in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, though he bounced back to some extent when third in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot a fortnight ago. The five-year-old has shown his best form when able to dictate from the front, and he would be a big threat if repeating the performance which saw him win the Sheema Classic at Meydan in March - where his jockey enforced such tactics.

Another of the older runners who's likely to be prominent at an early stage is Forest Ranger, who has proved to be a different proposition since being gelded over the winter, taking pattern races at both Newmarket and Chester, most recently producing a very smart effort to dominate the Group 2 Huxley Stakes. Such a performance has earned him a seat at the top table, and whilst he would need another sizeable chunk of improvement to take this, he may well outrun his current double-figure odds.

Completing the challenge of the older generation are the Aidan O'Brien pair of Cliffs of Moher and Yutacan. The former has been kept busy this term, running twice at Royal Ascot and matching the pick of this season's form when third in the Hardwicke. However, he has never gone on from his second in last year's Derby, and will again likely prove vulnerable here, as will Yutacan, who will need to step up markedly on his effort to win Sunday's Group 3 International Stakes at Curragh.

Aidan O'Brien, unsurprisingly, is represented by five of the ten runners after the five-day declarations, and his challenge is rounded off by the three-year-olds Happily and Rostropovich. The filly Happily will receive both an age and a sex allowance, and whilst she was a beaten favourite in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, she matched her peak two-year-old form when fourth in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly last month, and could have more to offer at this trip. Rostropovich continues to progress with racing this season, but he was seen to best effect when having the run of the race in a tactical Irish Derby last Saturday, and he will need to raise his game further to feature.

The complete unknown quantity in the race is Raymond Tusk, who made a big impression when winning on debut in April, looking a pattern performer in the making. We have only seen him once since, though, and he disappointed, failing to build on that promise when finishing second in another minor event. This is a big step up in grade, but his connections clearly think highly of him, for all he has plenty to find on form.

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