Today's racecards

Eclipse: Key Trials

By Ben Linfoot and Matt Brocklebank.   Last Updated: 03/07/14 9:37am

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True Story: Cannot be discounted after just five starts

True Story: Cannot be discounted after just five starts

Sky Bet

Ben Linfoot and Matt Brocklebank go through the videos of the key trials for Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

ebm-papst Feilden Stakes (Listed)

Free Video Replay

1m1f, Newmarket, April 16 2014

1. True Story 5/2

5. Somewhat 15/2

As a juvenile True Story won his maiden on his second and final start at two, beating Expert by three and three quarter lengths in the manner of a good horse. As a consequence his first start this season was eagerly anticipated and he didn't disappoint in the Feilden, beating Obliterator by seven lengths with another six back to the rest. The son of Manduro was keen in the early stages but tanked through the contest, pulling clear with Obliterator as they negotiated The Dip and then drawing away from that rival, who was eased down heavily, late on. Such was the impression he made he was cut to 14/1 from 20s for the Derby in the immediate aftermath by Sky Bet and he was backed down to shorter prices in the days that followed. Subsequently he was beaten in the Dante Stakes at York by French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby and Investec Derby fourth Arod, while he was a 10-length seventh at Epsom himself. Those disappointments see him chalked up at double-figure prices for Saturday's Eclipse, but perhaps it's too soon to be dismissing his chances. The Feilden was just his third career start, his fourth and fifth coming in the Dante and the Derby, and this lightly-raced Godolphin colt could have more to give yet, especially over a stiff mile and a quarter which looks likely to play to his strengths. Somewhat was 14 lengths behind True Story at Newmarket and has since been beaten in the Dee Stakes at Chester and the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. His odds of 100/1 refelct his chance in the Eclipse and he's set to be employed as a pacemaker for True Story. (BL)

Qatar Bloodstock Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2)

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1m4f, Newmarket, May 3 2014

3. Trading Leather 4/6 fav

Jim Bolger's Trading Leather won the Irish Derby as a three-year-old before a consistent yet winless end to his campaign that saw him post placed efforts in the King George, the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes. He beat Al Kazeem at York and finished just behind the same horse at Leopardstown, where he was also beaten just over three lengths by Saturday's favourite, The Fugue. Already he looks a big price at 25/1, so a revisit to the video replay of his only start this season in the Jockey Club Stakes is an absolute must. Sent off as 4/6 favourite to land the Group 2 contest, the son of Teofilo blew his chance by racing much too keenly throughout under Kevin Manning. Considering his exploits in the first half of the race it wasn't a bad performance to finish third behind Gospel Choir and Pether's Moon, horses that have boosted the form subsequently - Gospel Choir went on to win the Sky Bet Yorkshire Cup, while Pether's Moon has run well twice in defeat at Ascot. On this season's limited evidence the drop in trip to 10 furlongs looks a smart move and looking through his record it's a trip that he's always run well over. From four attempts he's finished second in a Dante, won a Listed race at the Curragh, finished second in a Juddmonte International and third in an Irish Champion Stakes. If he makes the trip over, not guaranteed with Godolphin already having True Story as a likely runner, he's a very interesting outsider. (BL)

QIPCO 2000 Guineas (Group 1)

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1m, Newmarket, May 3 2014

1. Night Of Thunder 40/1

8. Kingston Hill 10/1

9. War Command 8/1

Richard Hannon’s Night Of Thunder went into the 2000 Guineas a largely unconsidered 40/1 chance on the back of a four and a half-length thrashing by Kingman in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, but not only did he manage to reverse the form with John Gosden’s charge, he also beat subsequent dual Derby hero Australia. How he actually managed to do it was down to a combination of factors, not least his raw talent and the electric turn of foot he produced to collar the runner-up, who probably got to the front in the far side group earlier than he would have liked. Night Of Thunder veered badly left under pressure in the closing stages but it didn’t stop him moving forward. As you would expect, this form is about as strong as it gets in the three-year-old division, producing five subsequent victories, but the one glaring omission is that Night Of Thunder is not among them. Kingman made it 2-1 with a totally dominant victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and it’s no surprise to see Richard Hannon now testing the water with his runner over 10 furlongs. Night Of Thunder is out of a Galileo mare and Richard Hughes is adamant he will stay the extra yardage – if he does he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Neither Kingston Hill nor War Command ever really looked like landing a blow in the 2000 Guineas. The former, unbeaten at two and an impressive winner of the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, was held up towards the rear and looked short of pace before edging left slightly under pressure. He kept on well to his credit and clearly showed the benefit of the outing when finishing second to Australia in the Investec Derby. A drop back in trip at Sandown seems unlikely to play to his strengths, while connections feel he is a much better horse with plenty of cut in the ground. Ryan Moore reported the Aidan O’Brien-trained Coventry Stakes hero War Command raced lazily and didn’t pick up when asked to go about his business. He was due to have his next start in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh but missed that engagement on account of the soft ground, before heading to Ascot for the St James’s Palace. Joseph O’Brien held him up in rear as Night Of Thunder dictated the pace, but he could only run on at the one pace and finish fourth, three and three-quarter lengths behind Kingman. He could yet have a lot more to offer as a three-year-old and the move up in distance promises to eke out some improvement. (MB)

Investec Derby

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1m4f, Epsom, June 7 2014

2. Kingston Hill 15/2

7. True Story 8/1

Kingston Hill went into the Derby as the only previous Group One scorer in the field and acquitted himself with great credit in second. In truth, Australia completely bossed the race from just over a furlong out but Roger Varian’s star stuck to his task admirably and pulled over three lengths clear of the third, Romsdal Hill. The manner in which he stayed on left the impression a mile and a half will now be the minimum distance he’ll be asked to tackle and his presence in the Eclipse final field must be in significant doubt, even if the heavens do open. Not much went right for seventh home True Story and it could be the case that the Epsom experience, and all that comes with racing there on Derby day, got the better of him. Godolphin’s colt became warm and agitated in the preliminaries last season and it was evident again before he stormed to victory in the Feilden Stakes. He was sweating ahead of the Derby and was awkwardly away from the stalls before being bustled along to gain a reasonable position. He was close enough if good enough on turning into the straight but didn’t handle the camber particularly well and was ultimately left for dead by the principals. Having looked so good at Newmarket’s Craven meeting, it’s obviously too soon to be writing him off but it will take a leap of faith to think he can not only bounce back to form but also prove up to beating classy older horses such at The Fugue and Verrazano. (MB)

Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)

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1m, Royal Ascot, June 17 2014

2. Verrazano

4. Tullius

Verrazano and Tullius are the key form horses when assessing the merits of the older milers, as they've run in both Group 1 races over that distance in the UK this year. In the Lockinge Stakes, won by Olympic Glory at Newbury in May, Tullius finished two and a half lengths off the winner in second, with Verrazano a further two and a quarter lengths behind Andrew Balding's charge in fourth. However, Aidan O'Brien was adamant that Verrazano would come on for the run and it was no surprise to see that form reversed in the Queen Anne Stakes. The important outcome was the same - Richard Hannon won the races again, this time with Toronado - but Verrazano was on this occasion two and a quarter lengths better than Tullius, a swing of four and a half lengths in the Ballydoyle horse's favour. Watching the replay of the Queen Anne, it's hard to see Tullius turning the tables over Verrazano over another two furlongs. Verrazano, who sweated heavily at Royal Ascot, was ridden with restraint but slightly more positively than Tullius, who couldn't get any closer to the O'Brien-trained colt than when both made their move inside the final quarter mile. Both have won over nine furlongs before, but neither has proven themselves over ten. Verrazano, though, looks to be building towards a peak under the guidance of O'Brien and if he handles the preliminaries well he looks like being a major threat to all come Saturday afternoon. Tullius looks likely to play a supporting role, although he would have to come into calculations if there was plenty of rain as all of his winning form at a higher level has come on ground with cut in it. (BL)

St James’s Palace Stakes

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1m (Round), Ascot, June 17 2014

2. Night Of Thunder 3/1

4. War Command 9/1

Night Of Thunder won his two starts as a juvenile, both at six furlongs and both on soft ground. His Greenham second represented an encouraging return to action and he took a remarkable step up on the bare form when reversing Newbury placings with Kingman to claim Newmarket glory (see QIPCO 2000 Guineas analysis). The St James’s Palace saw Kingman reassert his superiority over Richard Hannon’s representative after Richard Hughes led at a slow pace and tried to kick clear two furlongs from the finish. He comfortably fought off Yuften, Toormore and Outstrip, but couldn’t live with the blistering pace of Kingman and in hindsight Hughes may regret not forcing the issue at a higher tempo. There’s enough in Night Of Thunder’s pedigree to suggest he’ll have the stamina to prove equally as effective over a mile and a quarter and he should do the Classic generation proud this weekend in receipt of 11lb from the older males, and 8lb from The Fugue. War Command finished with a rattle from off the pace to claim fourth and wasn’t suited by the way the race was run. Fitted with cheekpieces for the first time having raced “lazily” according to 2000 Guineas pilot Ryan Moore, he travelled with a bit more zest but didn’t shape like he was on the verge of opening his 2014 account. The way in which he finished will provide encouragement ahead of his first attempt at 10 furlongs but the jury is still out as to whether last year’s Coventry Stakes winner has truly trained on. (BL)

Prince of Wales's Stakes (Group 1)

Free Video Replay

1m2f, Royal Ascot, June 18 2014

1. The Fugue 11/2

4. Mukhadram 6/1

7. Zambucca 100/1

The Fugue is a wonderful filly on fast ground and she showed her best side when travelling beautifully before extending clear of Magician, Treve and Mukhadram in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. This is the best 10-furlong form in the race and she has more in her locker - that Irish Champion Stakes win last September and her Nassau Stakes win as a three-year-old. Over a mile and a -half she has that unlucky Breeder's Cup second, another second-place finish in the Hong Kong Vase and that brilliant Yorkshire Oaks win from last August too. The one blot on her copybook is her last-place effort here at Sandown in last year's Eclipse, but she wasn't right that day and John Gosden said she was subsequently sick for almost two weeks after that contest. Judging by her effort at Royal Ascot all her problems are behind her, and she is undoubtredly the one to beat on this form, even accounting for Treve's physical excuses and the fact that Magician is better over further. Mukhadram isn't a million miles behind her. He was four and a quarter lengths off her here, finished third in last year's Eclipse and was a neck second to Al Kazeem in last year's Prince of Wales's. A return to front-running tactics wouldn't surprise given he seems to be at his best when leading from the outset, but he could be hassled for the lead by pacemaker Somewhat. Still, at prices around 14/1 he represents good each-way value. As Matt mentions, Kingston Hill is an unlikely runner, while Night Of Thunder, Verrazano and War Command all have to prove themselves at the trip. We know Mukhadram is a Group 1 horse over 10 furlongs, and on this Ascot form he's not far off his best. Zambucca was placed in a Group 2 at Meydan in February, where he won over £100,000 for coming third. However, on his two runs in Britain this summer he looks set to be hopelessly outclassed in this line-up. (BL)

Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)

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1m4f, Royal Ascot, June 21 2014

2. Hillstar 7/1

This video is worth watching again just to see the brilliant Telescope skip clear by seven lengths to tee himself up for a crack at the King George later in the month. Stablemate Hillstar ran on well for second after being a tad keen when held up in the early stages, but he's always fallen short over ten furlongs, even in much lesser company, and with doubts about him on fast ground too he seems to be an unlikely runner this weekend. If he does take his chance, he could run on well enough to be placed. But it's very hard to envisage him being quick enough, or good enough, to win what looks like being, at this stage, a very good renewal of the Coral-Eclipse. (BL)

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