The highlight of the summer at Sandown Park is the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes over about a mile-and-a-quarter. Unlike most years, the 2020 renewal is only open to older horses because of the race’s proximity to The Derby and The Oaks on Epsom Downs 24 hours earlier.
Sitting between Royal Ascot and the King George at the same track, the Eclipse takes place on 5 July this year. Who are the contenders for Sandown’s big horse race?
Last year’s Eclipse heroine Enable is set to return to action with a defence of her crown. Owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah and trained by John Gosden, the beloved six-year-old mare has one mission: to try and win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France for a historic third time.
That doesn’t mean that they can’t make hay with Enable elsewhere, though. How she gets on in the Eclipse will shape her route back to France for Europe’s most famous race and she is a warm favourite for another Sandown success.
Powerful global owners Godolphin and retained trainer Charlie Appleby have a force on their hands in front-runner Ghaiyyath. The five-year-old impressed on his first British start for a long time when winning the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Newmarket.
Ghaiyyath has done better over a mile-and-a-half, but the way he is ridden means dropping back in trip is no problem. Godolphin has won the Eclipse a joint-record five times, so this 3/1 chance should be respected.
The rapidly improving Gosden colt Lord North has made remarkable progress over the last nine months. Although always held in regard by his connections, he has bloomed later and settled down since becoming a gelding.
Lord North won the Cambridgeshire Handicap as a three-year-old last autumn and has since taken steps up in grade to land both the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes and the Group 1 Prince Of Wales at Royal Ascot. Following that latest success, his Eclipse odds were slashed into 9/2 with good reason.
Irish master trainer Aidan O’Brien is no stranger to Sandown success after saddling five previous Eclipse winners. His four-year-old colt Japan hit a summertime hat-trick last season with wins in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, then the Grand Prix de Paris over in France and the Juddmonte International during York’s Ebor Festival.
He came fourth in the Arc, finishing behind Enable but well in front of Ghaiyyath. Tipped by Hayley Turner for another Royal Ascot win in the Prince Of Wales, Japan again placed fourth but could come on for that reappearance and is 17/2 to do better in the Eclipse.
William Haggas won the Eclipse back in 2014 with Mukhadram and, if the going comes up soft at Sandown, Addeybb relishes such conditions. Although he’s now a six-year-old, this globetrotting gelding went over to Australia in the spring and plundered two Group 1 prizes Down Under.
Like Prince Of Wales conqueror Lord North, Addeybb has progressed from handicap company into a genuinely top horse if getting the softer surface he so enjoys. Ante post odds of 16/1 will not last if there is a typically wet British summer between now and Eclipse day.
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