The Eclipse Stakes is a Group One flat race for three-year-old and above thoroughbreds run over a distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs and 7 yards at Sandown Park.
The race took place in 1886 and is named after the great 18th century racehorse Eclipse. The race has been sponsored by Coral’s since 1976 and is the longest sponsorship in English horse racing.
The Eclipse is traditionally the race when the top horses from the classic generation (three-year-olds) meet older horses for the first time. It is a high quality race, often attracting both Newmarket and Epsom classic winners.
Unfortunately there are no classic winners among the nine declared runners on Saturday, however several of them were on the premises in the aforementioned races earlier in the season.
Here is a guide to the chances of the nine protagonists:
Decorated Knight (R.Charlton/O.Peslier)
Decorated Knight, a son of Galileo, has been going from strength-to-strength with each of his runs with his official rating rising from 85 to 119 in a two season period. He split Highland Reel and Ulysses in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest start after having previously won the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
Decorated Knight has to concede 10lb to his younger rivals however and that may just thwart his chances in this contest.
Desert Encounter (D.Simcock/S.Levey)
Desert Encounter has won five out of his eleven starts, and takes a step down in distance in this. He is clearly in good form, but it is hard to see him having the necessary turn of foot to trouble the market leaders.
Lightning Spear (D.Simcock/O.Murphy)
The oldest horse in the field at the age of six. He has been a great miler and really deserves a Group One win after such battling placed efforts in the Lockinge and the QEII. He put in a moderate run in last month’s Queen Anne and his stamina is far from being guaranteed.
Ulysses (Sir M.Stoute/J.Crowley)
Sir Michael Stoute has won the Eclipse on five occasions, and his four-year-old could easily give him victory number six. His win in the Gordon Richards at Sandown Park was really impressive, and it is reported that he is going well on the gallops back at home.
He ran a good race at Royal Ascot last time out to be a close third to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales's Stakes and ranks as a serious contender on Saturday afternoon.
Barney Roy (R.Hannon/J.Doyle)
Richard Hannon three-year-old tackles ten furlongs for the first time. Having run second in the 2000 Guineas, and winning the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, on both of those occasions he has been staying on strongly to the line.
Trainer Hannon admitted he had been tempted to run in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly on Sunday, but he too is looking forward to seeing what Barney Roy might be capable of over the longer trip.
He said: "We debated it thoroughly with Godolphin and weighed up all the angles but agreed the Eclipse is a more prestigious race to have on a colt's CV when he goes to stud, and we get a significant weight pull from the older horses."
We will see if the decision was an astute one come 3.40pm on Saturday.
Cliffs Of Moher (A.O’Brien/R.Moore)
Looked all over the 2017 Derby winner a couple of furlongs from home only to be nabbed on the line by stablemate and outsider, Wings Of Eagles. The drop back to this distance ought to suit him and he is the type to be constantly improving for the Aidan O’Brien stable. O’Brien himself has also won the Eclipse on five previous occasions.
"Everything has gone very well with Cliffs Of Moher since Epsom and we've been very happy," O'Brien said on Tuesday. "He went to Chester for the Dee Stakes over a mile and a quarter and we weren't entirely sure whether he'd get the trip or not. As it turned out, he got it well and he enjoyed it”.
It is very easy to see why this one is the bookmakers’ favourite.
Eminent (M.Meade/S.De Sousa)
Martyn Meade believes the son of Frankel is overdue some good fortune after not getting the rub of things at either Newmarket, where he finished sixth to Churchill, or at Epsom, when beaten a length and three quarters into fourth behind Wings Of Eagles.
It was reported that Eminent clocked 40mph on the gallops recently which will give his supporters plenty of encouragement.
Meade has been delighted with Eminent since Epsom. “Another horse might have sulked or not sparkled for a couple of weeks but he was perfect from the moment he arrived back in the stable”.
Eminent has every chance of doing his esteemed father proud in this renewal.
Registered several Group One placings as a two-year-old and ran respectfully in the King Edward VII Stakes. Looks up against it here though and a win will come as a major surprise.
Taj Mahal (A.O’Brien/P.Beggy)
Aidan O’Brien’s second-string has already run five times this season and more often as not has been set up in those races as a pacemaker for another O’Brien hotpot.
Hard to see another Wings Of Eagles scenario happening here as this one is almost 100% certain to blast out in front.
A fascinating contest in which you can only rule out three of the nine runners with some degree of confidence.
Eminent marginally gets the nod on this occasion due to his recent work on the gallops and the fact that he is due a change of luck.
888sport suggests Eminent (win).