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It’s a race that pitches the three-year-olds against the elders, and despite winning the last two renewals, the youngsters have not always dominated, as for the previous five years – it was the older generation that triumphed.
But it’s the three-year-olds that we start with this time around.
The Derby form at Epsom will come under very close scrutiny, as runner-up Cliffs Of Moher, fourth-placed Eminent, and Salouen (well beaten in 13th), all line-up on Saturday.
Cliffs Of Moher won his Derby trial at Chester, before finding his now retired stable companion, Wings Of Eagles, too good in the classic.
There is a suspicion that dropping him back to this mile-and-a-quarter trip will suit him though, as he didn’t lack for a turn of foot at Epsom, and is taken to uphold the form with both Eminent and Salouen.
Eminent has run with credit in both, the 2000 Guineas, and Derby, but there is a suspicion that he may just be short of the very top class.
Salouen looks outclassed.
A fascinating contender is Barney Roy. Richard Hannon Jr’s progressive three-year-old steps up in trip for the first time to ten furlongs. Having run second in the 2000 Guineas, and winning the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, on both of those occasions he stayed on strongly to the line.
It seems logical to try him over further, and there are grounds for optimism on his breeding, as his dam is related to the mighty middle-distance star, Galileo. If he stays, he is a major player.
Aidan O’Brien also saddles likely pacemaker Taj Mahal.
The Ballydoyle maestro has won the Eclipse five times, and last did so with So You Think in 2011, and his second-string could easily out-run his odds after some decent efforts this campaign.
Roger Charlton won the Eclipse in 2013 with Al Kazeem, and Decorated Knight has made tremendous strides since relocating to Beckhampton.
The five-year-old has won five out of nine races under Charlton’s guidance, and ran with great credit when finishing second in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last time, behind the top class Highland Reel.
Third that day was Ulysses, who also re-opposes here.
Sir Michael Stoute has won the Eclipse on five occasions too, and it’s not impossible that this four-year-old could challenge at the business end of the contest. His win in the Gordon Richards at Sandown Park was quite impressive, and he has been catching the eye on the gallops back at home. He is another runner to note in an intriguing renewal.
David Simcock saddles two in the race.
Desert Encounter has won five out of his eleven starts, and takes a step down in distance.
He arrives in good form, but it’s difficult to see him having the necessary gears to trouble the leading contenders.
On the other hand, Lightning Spear tries the ten furlongs for just the second time in his career, having been campaigned at a very high level over a mile.
His second in the Lockinge at Newbury behind Ribchester is solid form, but a bigger concern is that in seven tries at Group One level he has never won. And the Eclipse could well be above average this time around, so he is readily passed over.
Conclusion and odds
Tactics could be crucial here, with Aidan O’Brien’s Taj Mahal likely to dictate the pace out in front.
Cliffs Of Moher and Barney Roy lead a very strong three-year-old challenge, but preference is with the former, especially if the latter doesn’t settle.