All eyes are on superstar mare ENABLE on Saturday when she makes her eagerly-awaited return to the track in one of the big races of the summer, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes.
Winner of the last two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes and beaten in just one of her 11 races, John Gosden’s 5yo has her first outing since also tasting success in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs last November. And she is almost sure to start an odds-on favourite for the £750,000 Group One contest at Sandown Park, which is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Her sire, Nathaniel, overcame a similar seven-month absence to land the Eclipse of 2012. And she will be ridden by man of the moment Frankie Dettori, fresh from his remarkable week at Royal Ascot. But given that the 10f trip is short of her best and given that the ground on the Esher slopes will be faster than ideal, many punters are still preparing to take her on.
So, which of her seven rivals are most likely to give her a fright? Maybe Hughie Morrison’s Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante winner at York, TELECASTER, who is bidding to bounce back after flopping in the Investec Derby. Or maybe the fast-improving REGAL REALITY, one of two runners in the race for Sir Michael Stoute.
Morrison says Telecaster is “bursting with energy” and is hopeful he will show his true colours in the Eclipse after the son of New Approach satisfied his trainer in a spin under Oisin Murphy on Tuesday morning.
Unraced as a 2yo, Telecaster was sent off at just 5/1 for the Derby last month after his previous impressive triumph at York, but he trailed home last after racing prominently in the early stages.
It was a deflating experience for Morrison and connections, who had supplemented him to run for £85,000. But, on the plus side, the trainer reports that his horse has shown no ill effects.
Morrison said: “We were very happy with him on Tuesday. Epsom probably came too soon for him and the course was probably not to his liking. Hopefully, we are not coming back too soon.
“He has a lot of ability and we look forward to a good run. He didn’t turn up at Epsom and there was no reason to think that he wouldn’t, other than he had not had enough time to recover from a hard race 16 days before in the Dante, as well as the fact that he was an immature horse who’d had three races in the spring. We had that doubt in our mind.
“Will we get the horse who ran in the Dante or the one who ran in the Derby? It’s pretty unnerving and it would be easy to bottle it, but he looks well, is working well and opportunities like this do not come along very often.”
The past two Dante winners to have run in the Eclipse, Golden Horn (2015) and Roaring Lion (2018), have won, so Telecaster’s York form has a glow.
Too Darn Hot, the runner-up, has since gone close in two more Group One races, while Japan, who finished fourth, went on to finish third in the Derby before trouncing the opposition in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Turgenev and Nayef Road, who finished fifth and sixth on the Knavesmire, also ran sound races in close defeats at the royal meeting.
“Japan franked the form and I’d argue Too Darn Hot ran his best race of the season in the Dante,” Morrison added. “The form is good, the horse is good, but he’s young and immature.
“Mentally, he’s always been strong-willed and he keeps himself fit. I think we knew that after winning his maiden. He never really did any serious work before the Derby, or after it.
“He was the form horse going into Epsom and had the right profile, but it wasn’t to be. The positive is that he showed no stress levels afterwards.”
Outstanding mare Enable, who will be seeking her eighth Group One, has to concede Telecaster 7lbs.
Morrison said: “The weight-for-age concession is helpful, although we are a relatively immature 3yo. I’m a huge admirer of Enable. She’s a fantastic mare and is fantastic for the sport. It’s great to be even considered for a race that she competes in.”
Enable’s sequence of nine successive wins, ridden by Dettori on each occasion, also includes three QIPCO British Champions Series triumphs in 2017 – the Investec Oaks, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes and Darley Yorkshire Oaks.
She will seek to become only the third of her sex – and the oldest - to win the Eclipse, a race that forms part of the middle-distance category of that Champions Series. Pebbles (1985) and Kooyonga (1992) are the only fillies to have won the feature and they were aged four, whereas Enable is five.
However, Regal Reality will not be at Sandown to make up the numbers as he attempts to provide veteran trainer Stoute with a record-breaking seventh success in the race.
The 4yo colt’s grandsire, Medicean, who also carried the Cheveley Park silks of Patricia and David Thompson, was among Stoute’s previous six Eclipse winners when successful in 2001.
Regal Reality put up a career-best performance on his latest start when he was an emphatic winner of the Group Three Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown over the Eclipse course and distance, with subsequent Group Three Paris Longchamp winner DANCETERIA, who re-opposes at Sandown, almost seven lengths back in third.
Regal Reality was always travelling like a winner on his first start beyond a mile, although he proved tricky in the preliminaries and less than straightforward to get to the start.
Chris Richardson, managing director at Cheveley Park, admitted: “He had a ‘moment’ that evening, but things slightly went against him. He’s a horse who likes routine and, on that occasion, he was being asked to go into the paddock at a moment there was a horse coming out, and it just upset his rhythm.
“If you change his routine at home, including on gallops, it can be the same, but he’s hugely talented and it did not affect him once the race got under way. He was impressive and Sir Michael is of the opinion that he deserves to take his chance.
“By all standards, it’s a very competitive race against some significant opposition, but the horse is in great form and has performed positively at the track. I think moving up to a mile and a quarter suited him last time and I know Sir Michael feels it is going to be his advantage.”
He added: “The Eclipse is one of Mr and Mrs Thompson’s favourite races and they are delighted to have a runner, and to be participating. One has to be respectful of a very strong field and Enable is a deserved favourite, but if you are not in, you can’t win and we are not going to run away from one.”
Stoute will also be represented by MUSTASHRY, the decisive Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes winner, while his Newmarket neighbour, Roger Varian, will saddle ZABEEL PRINCE, who landed the Prix d’Ispahan at Paris Longchamp in late May but disappointed at Royal Ascot, despite Soft ground that he loves.
Aidan O’Brien is seeking a record-equalling sixth Coral-Eclipse victory, although he has not struck since So You Think won the 2011 renewal. He relies on two-time Group 1 winner MAGICAL, plus HUNTING HORN, who won at Royal Ascot last year.
Magical has two Group One wins on her CV – the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes and the Tattersalls Gold Cup – and finished three-quarters of a length second to Enable in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. On her latest start, she was runner-up to Crystal Ocean, trained by Stoute, in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
THIS article is based on information and quotes kindly supplied by Great British Racing.