The Coral Eclipse is a prestigious Group 1 contest that brings together the Classic generation and older horses. However, the race is dominated by three-year-olds so the weight for age allowance is received by the major players. Even off level weights the Derby winner, Masar, would be a leading contender and the Eclpise looks destined to be won by one of the younger horses. The race features the horse that finished third in the Derby, Roaring Lion, and the favourite, Saxon Warrior.
That horse was seen as a potential superstar after winning the 2,000 Guineas in impressive style. The Aidan O’Brien runner was installed as the odds-on favourite for the Derby and defeat seemed out of the question. There was even talk of an attempt to win the Triple Crown last achieved by Nijinsky in 1970. The demands of winning the Guineas, Derby and St Leger make it a rare feat. The three Classics are run over distances from one mile to one mile and six furlongs and from May to September.
Saxon Warrior never seemed to be going well in the Derby. Ryan Moore is seen as one of the best big race jockeys in the world but he did not cover himself with glory. He allowed Saxon Warrior to be boxed in and when a clear run occurred the horse was not good enough to peg back Masar. Given no problems in running it is still doubtful Saxon Warrior would have completed the second leg of the Triple Crown. The horse is not a proven stayer so the St Leger is off the agenda.
Saxon Warrior did not run a bad race when coming third in the Irish Derby last Saturday. At Evens favourite the horse finished third a neck and half a length behind Rostropovich and the winner Latrobe, trained by O’Brien’s son, Joseph. The family trained the first three home and the winner was ridden by Donnocha, Joseph’s brother. It must be very rare for three members of one family to be involved with the winner of a Classic and the horses that made the frame. Saxon Warrior could redeem himself in the Eclipse over a more suitable distance.
The Sandown feature is run over 10 furlongs but the two Derbies were run over two furlongs more. Masar had the speed to win the Craven Stakes over one mile at Newmarket so will be difficult to beat. The horse was one and three quarter lengths behind Saxon Warrior in the Guineas but the Eclipse is a race over the intermediary distance which could suit either horse but Masar is the best three-year-old colt in training. The fly in the ointment could be Happily.
The horse, another trained by O’Brien senior, is a filly so gets an extra three pounds from the colts. That means the four older male horses carry thirteen pounds more than Happily and can’t win under these terms. Roaring Lion won the Dante Stakes at York so is proven in Group company over one mile and two furlongs. However he finished two lengths behind Masar in third place in the Derby. Dee Ex Bee was the runner-up at Epsom but is not running in the Eclipse.
Forest Ranger has been the best backed of the horses aged over three. He won at Chester in May but has not raced since. The four-year-old would have to be an exceptional horse to beat the younger runners carry much more weight. Forest Ranger is a fresh horse but not good enough to win the Eclipse at the weights. Saxon Warrior deserves another chance but you can’t ignore the Derby form and on that basis Masar is the horse to beat.