1pt win Happily @8/1, 14:10 Sandown, Saturday

Saturday’s big race is the Coral Eclipse over ten furlongs at Sandown, where the Classic generation, including three of the first four home in the Derby, take on the older horses for the first time at Group One level.

The market is expecting the three-year-olds to dominate and it’s no surprise Derby winner and Guineas third Masar is a short-priced favourite, trading at 6/4.

More of a surprise is the participation of Guineas winner Saxon Warrior, once a triple crown hope who hardly flopped in the English or Irish Derbys but was disappointing given all the hype, who makes a quick turnaround from his third place at Curragh last weekend.

This represents a compromise in trip between the two Classic winners’ best form as Masar is the Group One winner over 12 furlongs and Saxon Warrior over a mile.

The two are very closely matched and I’m having difficulty splitting them, with the only viable reason for the discrepancy between their prices – Saxon Warrior is 7/2 generally – being the quick turnaround.

Throw in Dante winner, Derby third and Guineas fourth Roaring Lion – ironically the only winner at this trip of the trio – and all three are very closely matched on form.

They’re matched closely at the prices, too, so I suspect there might be some value in the other form-lines, either from the older horses or the sole filly in the race, HAPPILY.

Of the older horses Hawkbill, a 33/1 shot, is clearly the one with the best back form, having won this as a three-year-old on soft ground and also been successful a Group One level at Meydan in March.

His form has significantly tailed off since, though, and, as he’s more of a galloper than a turn-of-foot horse, I don’t particularly like his chances on fast ground at what’s probably his minimum trip.

Happily, on the other hand, gets her 3lb from the three-year-old colts and a whopping 13lb from the older horses, which leaves her something to find at the weights with the Derby horses on official ratings but way ahead of the older lot.

At this stage of the season we’ve not seen the strength of the filles’ form versus the colts, but back in October last year Happily beat Masar and subsequent French 2000 Guineas winner Olmedo to Group One glory over a mile at Chantilly.

It’s clear Masar has progressed since, and it’s worth caveating he wouldn’t have liked the soft ground in France, but it’s form that shouldn’t be forgotten and provides more than a glimmer of hope that the fillies form could have the edge over the colts.

And what of Happily this season?

Despite her form screaming middle-distance filly, she started over a mile when running a good race behind Billesdon Brook and Laurens in the English 1000 Guineas, before again finishing third, this time behind Alpha Centauri, in the Irish version.

Alpha Centauri has since gone on to stamp her authority on the mile division by blasting away the track record at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes, and Happily was less than two lengths back.

That’s obviously top-class form and when stepped up to the Eclipse trip of 10 furlongs on her next start in the French Oaks, she ran into all sorts of traffic problems when finishing a very unlucky fifth.

That was a very eye-catching run and I’m convinced she’d have won with a clear passage, so I think she’s still totally unexposed at middle distances.

She has a lovely profile for an 8/1 chance, being unexposed against older horses, the colts and over the trip, and has the Group One winning back form too.

Her one blip on fast ground at the Breeders’ Cup last season can be easily forgiven as she was slowly away and got boxed in to the point where she was almost literally stopped by traffic, so, whilst I accept it might not be optimal, I’m not that concerned by the ground either.

Jump on.

1pt win Happily @8/1, 14:10 Sandown, Saturday

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