WE’RE used to small-field Eclipses. It’s that type of race. Quality over quantity. There were never too many runners in the sepia-tinted archive footage that has been running on Racing TV all week.
When Vadeni won the race last year, he beat four rivals. When St Mark’s Basilica won it in 2021, he beat three.
Today’s winner will also beat a maximum of three rivals and, in reality, it will obviously be a surprise if that winner is not Paddington or Emily Upjohn, given that they are betting around 11/10 each of two.
It’s a fascinating duel. There’s the three-year-old colt, seriously progressive, winner of the Madrid Handicap on his debut this season off a handicap rating of 97, now Irish Guineas winner and emphatic winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes last time, stepping up to 10 furlongs for the first time.
And there’s the four-year-old filly, Oaks runner-up, Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes winner, winner of the Coronation Cup on her debut this season and dropping back down to 10 furlongs for the first time since she won the Musidora Stakes in May last year.
The younger horse may just have the edge over this trip, but there is no betting angle to it.
La Yakel is an interesting contender for the Bet365 Old Newton Cup at Haydock. We haven’t seen William Haggas’ horse this season so far, he was taken out of a handicap at York’s Dante meeting in May, but he was progressive last season, he was a smart winner of a good three-year-olds’ handicap at Ascot last September, and he is only 5lb higher now than he was then.
He could resume his progress this season now, and you never worry about a William Haggas horse making his seasonal debut.
Maksud is also interesting. Hughie Morrison’s horse raced up with the fast pace in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot last time, and he was still second as they raced inside the two-furlong marker as the hold-up horses came to the fore.
He can be marked up at least a little on the bare form of that run in a strong handicap, and he gets to race off a 2lb lower mark today.
Cumulonimbus beat the Duke of Edinburgh third Live Your Dream over today’s course and distance, and he is a player, he is progressive, he has won his last two races now since Charlie Fellowes has fitted cheekpieces.
But he is 5lb higher now than he was last time, and the ground is not going to be as fast today as it was that day, and there is a sense that he had the run of the race from the front.
At a bigger price, Toshizou is more interesting. A son of Galileo, he was a good horse for Joseph O’Brien at two and three, he won his maiden over seven and a half furlongs as a juvenile and he reached a rating of 96 by the end of last season.
He hasn’t won yet for Roger Fell, but he has run some eye-catching races in defeat this season, and he has dropped to a mark of 90.
He ran really well off that mark last time at Epsom when he finished fourth behind Cadillac in a 10-furlong handicap on Derby day.
He was held up early on that day, in a share of last place with the ultimate winner Cadillac.
But, whereas Cadillac moved up on the inside early in the home straight and got into the clear fully three furlongs out, Toshizou got a little out-paced when they quickened at the top of the home straight, and had to try to stay on through traffic as a consequence.
In the circumstances, he did well to keep on as well as he did to take fourth place. He did get out into the clear at the two-furlong marker, but he had lots of ground to make up on the leaders at that point, and he just kept on well without showing a sparkling turn of foot.
Cadillac was a good winner, and his closing sectionals were good, but Toshizou was slightly faster than the winner through the final three furlongs, and the two of them were far faster than all their rivals.
The sedate pace over 10 furlongs didn’t help Toshizou last time. He has never been beyond that trip in his life, but he is well worth a try over a mile and a half now. He left the impression at Epsom that he could improve for a step up in trip and, while there is lots of speed in his pedigree – his dam won over six furlongs and he is a half-brother to Windsor Castle Stakes winner Southern Hills – we know how great an influence for stamina his sire is, even with speedy pedigrees. He is nicely drawn too in stall five, and he could be over-priced.
Struth could be over-priced too in the early Bet365 Handicap. You have to forgive Charlie Johnston’s horse a poor run in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot, but you easily can. That was another middle-distance handicap at the Royal meeting in which they went very fast early on.
Struth was right up behind the pace from early, and he shipped a bump on the home turn, which didn’t help, before fading in the home straight.
His profile before Royal Ascot was wholly likeable. He kept on well to win a three-year-olds’ handicap on soft ground over a mile and a half at Chester’s May Festival on his debut this season, and, raised to a mark of 91 for that, he ran a big race to finish second to Saint George in a one-mile-six-and-a-half-furlong handicap at Doncaster.
That race is working out really well, with the winner running a massive race to finish second behind clear St Leger favourite Gregory in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, and the fourth horse Midnight Lion winning a maiden at Goodwood the following week.
Struth should appreciate the step back up to a mile and six furlongs today and, with a better run through the race, there is every chance that he will leave his run at Royal Ascot behind.
Struth, 2.05 Haydock, 14/1 (generally), 1 point win
Toshizou, 3.15 Haydock, 11/1 (generally), 1 point each-way