Apologies for the lack of tips last weekend – we were at Glastonbury and the going was certainly heavy.
Sandown hosts its big flat card on Saturday, with the mile-and-a-quarter Group One Coral Eclipse the feature – traditionally a race where the Classic generation of three-year-olds meet their elders for the first time.
This year is no different with French Guineas winner and St James’ Palace Stakes second The Gurkha leading the three-year-old challenge, accompanied by his pacemaker Bravery and Royal Ascot winner Hawkbill.
The Gurkha has been heavily backed all week and looks set to go off odds-on favourite against an older generation lacking a big name, with Time Test, who has so far failed to scale the heights thought possible after his runaway Royal Ascot success last season, closest to him in the betting at 10/3.
Then there’s surprise Prince of Wales’ Stakes winner My Dream Boat for the in-form Clive Cox stable, and the horse that followed him home in third at Ascot, Western Hymn for John Gosden.
Despite a fantastic record at Sandown, Western Hymn has too much ground to make up and can’t be backed with any confidence and My Dream Boat’s best form looks vulnerable to an improver.
The going could be crucial and I’ve seen Time Test flop enough times with any juice in the ground to be put off backing him here – particularly as he only just got the better of Western Hymn last time out on good-to-firm ground at Sandown, giving him 4lb, and even with the revised weights that form doesn’t give much reason to back him ahead of My Dream Boat at a tighter price.
The one plus for Time Test could be his freshness, as, bar the pacemaker, all the others ran at Royal Ascot 17 days ago and might have left their best form in Berkshire.
For the rest of them the gap between races can’t be an excuse – so they’re all off a level playing field and the horse who gets the track, trip and ground the best is likely to figure in the finish.
And that’s why I like HAWKBILL‘s chances, as he ran towards the end of the Royal meeting where the ground was a bit quicker – and therefore less taxing – and ran in comfortably the weakest of races.
There’s a lot to like about the form, too.
Unbeaten in his last five starts, he’s rapidly progressive and, aged three, has plenty of scope to continue his upwards curve.
He handed a ten-length beating to Blue De Vega at Ascot, and that bare collateral form would be enough to win the Irish 2000 Guineas won by Awtaad, where 2000 Guineas and St James’ Palace Stakes winner Galileo Gold finished a couple of lengths adrift in second.
Galileo Gold, of course, beat an unlucky The Gurkha in the St James’ Palace so, very loosely, there isn’t too much between them all.
Hawkbill is 10/1, in form, proven on the ground and proven over this mile-and-a-quarter trip – which The Gurkha isn’t.
He also likes to race up with the pace, which is important at Sandown as it’s notoriously difficult to pass horses up the hill at the finish – a big negative for Time Test, who like to come from behind.
Whilst he doesn’t rank the most likely winner, he does rank the value bet in a seemingly wide-open renewal.
With Countermeasure and Bravery priced like they’re there on pacemaking duties, that’d leave five in the race with a realistic chance of winning, which suddenly makes the each-way terms of 1/4 odds and two places look more attractive.
I’m confident Hawkbill will be involved at the finish, so at 10/1 he looks the each-way play.
0.75pt each-way Hawkbill @10/1 or best morning price, 15:45 Sandown, Saturday (Paddy Power)Leave a comment