There’s a top class field for this Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse.
Traditionally, this is the first seasonal clash between the Classic generation and their elders, and this year’s renewal has not disappointed.
French raider Vadeni and the Charlie Appleby-trained Native Trail lead the charge for the three-year-olds, while Bay Bridge, Mishriff, Alenquer and Lord North represent the older brigade in a six-strong field.
The big race is scheduled for 3:35pm on Saturday.
Coral-Eclipse best bet:
- 2pts Native Trail to win the Eclipse (7/2, Coral)
Native can leave rivals numb
Three-year-olds have won four of the last seven renewals (57%) of the Coral-Eclipse from 34% representation (16 of 47 runners).
In 2020, however, there were precisely zero representatives from the Classic generation, so technically they have won four of the last six runnings where victory was possible.
The market is dominated by the younger horses in 2022 and that looks right.
Vadeni, so impressive in the Prix du Jockey Club, is a best-priced 13/8.
The selection, however, is fellow three-year-old NATIVE TRAIL.
He was last season’s champion juvenile, going 4-4 in a perfect campaign that took in the Group 1 National Stakes and Dewhurst.
He was impressive when easily winning the Craven on his 2022 debut, before losing his unbeaten record in the 2000 Guineas – going down narrowly to stablemate Coroebus.
Native Trail resumed winning ways at the Curragh, taking the Irish 2000 Guineas last time out.
His retrospective and recent form has a very solid look to it.
Go way back to last July, and you’ll see he defeated Masekela in the Group 2 July Stakes. That rival has since finished fourth in a strong Derby at 66/1.
His Craven win wasn’t lauded at the time – but look at it now. Runner-up Claymore won the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot; third-place Hoo Ya Mal finished second at Epsom at 150/1; fifth-placed Star Of India won the Dee Stakes and the sixth home, Zechariah, finished a nose-second in the Queen’s Vase.
The Guineas is working out too.
Winner Coroebus did well to add a messy St. James’s Palace Stakes to his resume; sixth-placed Lusail followed him home in second.
Newmarket seventh Perfect Power has subsequently won the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, while the eighth home Royal Patronage ran well behind Desert Crown when second in the Dante.
There’s a school of thought that Native Trail was unlucky not to win the Guineas itself, having been drawn on the wrong side of the track. Should he have won that day, we’d be looking at an unbeaten champion.
There’s a real substance to Native Trail’s form, which simply cannot be said of Vadeni.
Indeed, Jean-Claude Rouget’s colt has faced 29 rivals in the calendar year, and just two of them have been subsequent winners.
More on him later, as that obviously doesn’t paint the full picture.
Native Trail is tackling 1m2f for the first time, which is undoubtedly the biggest question mark against him, but I think it will suit.
His unraced dam is a half-sister to three jumpers who have all stayed three miles.
She’s also related to two 1m2f winners.
The grand-dam, New Orchid, stayed as far as 1m4f herself and is from a middle-long distance family.
Perhaps the most important factor of all is Native Trail’s running style.
Even in his juvenile days, he’s always shaped as a horse that stays very strongly rather than a horse with instant acceleration. He has a rare and likeable trait of always hitting the line extremely hard.
It may prove that 1m2f is his optimum trip.
He takes a long time to wind up in his races, and I wonder if this new distance will allow him the extra time he needs to show his true colours.
There’s a concern on that front that this might be a muddling race – there’s no guaranteed front-runner – and so taking time to wind-up is hardly ideal. However, on the flip side of that coin, there likely won’t be any horse with as much natural pace as Native Trail (who’s done all his racing over 7f and a mile).
He’s fancied to go very close.
Favourite classy but questionable
Vadeni was mightily impressive in the Prix du Jockey Club.
He skipped away from El Bodegon and Modern Games by five lengths, having tracked the fast tempo.
While visually stunning and hard to knock, I just wonder if he was flattered by the winning distance.
Modern Games is an habitual front-runner who was drawn in the car park. He used a lot of petrol to tack to the rail. From that point, he was never given a moment of peace on the front-end.
Firstly, El Bodegon (another proven pack-leader) hustled him on the inside, before Andrew Balding’s Imperial Fighter pulled his way up to the outside and forced Modern Games to go forward again.
If that wasn’t enough, Imperial Fighter’s move seemed to set Yoozuna alight who pestered Modern Games for the entirety of the race until the home straight.
It’s perhaps significant then, that Yoozuna and Imperial Fighter finished out with the washing, while Modern Games managed to cling onto third. El Bodegon was second, while Vadeni (who had sat in the pocket observing the battle for the lead) was the easy winner.
Nothing got into the race, but anything that had contested Modern Games’ lead was beaten a street.
I think there are grounds for thinking that Modern Games didn’t run to his true form, and I also think that Godolphin rate Native Trail as comfortably the superior horse.
Older brigade may be vulnerable
There’s a high chance of this being a tactical race.
None of the runners have ever made the running before.
Hazarding a guess, the most likely pacesetters might be Bay Bridge or Lord North. But neither would be ideally suited by that scenario, and this could easily turn messy.
In situations like that, the horses best suited to the conditions are those with natural speed.
It would most certainly be against strong stayers Mishriff and Alenquer, but it may turn out to be a positive for Vadeni and Native Trail.
The three-year-olds might dominate, and Godolphin’s crack miler could be the one to snatch victory over this longer trip.
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