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Monday Musings: St Mark My Words!

The sports pages yesterday were dominated by a certain football match in Rome and, much earlier on Saturday, the 18-year-old world number 338-rated female tennis player wowing the home crowd at Wimbledon, writes Tony Stafford. At least on a par, ten miles down the A3 in Esher, St Mark’s Basilica was deservedly making his own headlines.

There is winning a Group 1 race, indeed one completed in slower time for the Sandown Park ten furlongs than the two handicaps over that trip on the card, and then there’s winning it like a potential champion.

You can list a big winner’s credentials but when it gets into the top level it is rare to find a horse running past fully tested Group 1 performers in a few strides and drawing away. That is what St Mark’s Basilica did in swamping Mishriff and Addeybb for speed once Ryan Moore unleashed him.

Afterwards there was the inevitable qualifying of the performance, commentators suggesting Addeybb, who battled back to wrest second off Mishriff, and the third horse may have both come to the race a little under-cooked.

Well here’s the rub. Both horses had already won Group 1 races this year, Addeybb continuing his Australian odyssey with another defeat of the brilliant mare Verry Elleegant in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in April while Mishriff earned his owner Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal just about £10 million when annexing his own country’s Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night.

Those wins illustrated his versatility, the former over nine furlongs on dirt and the latter a mile and a half on turf, so Sandown’s mile and a quarter will have fitted comfortably within his parameters.

When Mishriff drew alongside Addeybb in the straight on ground possibly a little less soft than ideal for the leader, he looked set to win, but St Mark’s Basilica was poised in behind in this four-horse field and, when given the signal by Ryan, he sailed serenely clear.

Sandown’s tough uphill conclusion often provides sudden changes in momentum. By the line St Mark’s Basilica was, either from loneliness or simply feeling the effects of the sudden change in velocity that took him clear, definitely if marginally coming back to the rallying Addeybb.

But William Haggas’ seven-year-old is a battle-hardened winner of 12 of 23 career starts. Mishriff, handled skilfully by the Gosdens, has won six of 11, but until Saturday his only defeat in the previous six had been in Addeybb’s Champion Stakes where he appeared not to appreciate the very testing ground.

Saturday’s success makes St Mark’s Basilica the winner of four Group 1 races in succession starting with the Dewhurst. That normally is the race that signals the champion juvenile of his year and then he went on to hoard both French Classics open to males, the Poulains and Jockey Club, where his electric burst heralded the type of performance we saw on Saturday.

In a year where four-fifths of the Aidan O’Brien Classic winners have been four different fillies and none of them Santa Barbara, the fifth has been going a long way to eradicate the overall disappointing showings – so far, and remember it is a long season – of the other colts.

A son of Siyouni – also the sire of Sottsass, the 2020 Arc winner, now standing his first-year stallion duties for €30k a pop at Coolmore Stud – his two French Classic wins made him an obvious object of admiration for French breeders as previously mentioned here.

Unfortunately, their pockets will need to have become much deeper than anticipated with each successive Group 1 victory and if the speed that has characterised all his wins remains or, as is more likely, intensifies with experience, he will easily outstrip his sire’s appeal – and stud fee.

Any thought that he will end up anywhere other than Co Tipperary is fanciful and with all those mares needing partners he will have an enviable stream of potential mates. One slight difficulty is that his dam, Cabaret, is by Galileo.

Cabaret was an unusual product of Galileo on the racetrack, atypically precocious enough to win twice including a Group 3 by mid-July of her two-year-old season but never nearer than seventh in four more races. Sold for £600k at the end of her four-year-old season – double the yearling price at which she joined Coolmore – she has been the dam not only of St Mark’s Basilica but also Aidan O’Brien’s 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia, by Invincible Spirit.

Post-race quotes of 6-4 for the Juddmonte International look just about spot on in a year when you get the impression that Aidan is being more confident in narrowing down his candidates for the biggest races to the single most deserving.

Of course, there’s still Love as a possible for the Juddmonte as she won reverting to ten furlongs at Royal Ascot, but why wouldn’t O’Brien prefer to keep her in her comfort zone for a second Yorkshire Oaks at a mile and a half? Then it is the small matter in three weeks of the King George, for which in a vastly over-round market, Love and the Derby winner Adayar are vying for favouritism at around 2-1 or 9-4, with St Mark’s Basilica moving in close at 4-1 if Aidan wants to stretch him out to 12 furlongs as soon as that.

And what of Snowfall? A 16-length Classic winner is not one to ignore wherever she runs. It’s great having a lot of good horses: the trick is knowing where to run them.

One trainer who never seems to be at a loss in choosing the right target for his equine inmates is William Haggas. With 67 wins from 266 runs, but more pertinently having won with 49 of the 106 individual horses he has run this year, the Newmarket trainer operates at a better than 25% strike rate despite many of his horses having to run in high-class handicaps.

If they sometimes are not raised as rapidly as those of his fellow trainers who might have a much less healthy strike rate, the economy with which they often win is at least a contributary factor.

But they are invariably well bet, so for Haggas to be losing under a fiver to level stakes for those 266 runners is miraculous. I saw Bernard Kantor, a patron of Haggas, again last week and we were musing as to whether his Catterick winner Sans Pretension – remember she was DROPPED 2lb for that! – would ever be reappearing.

The next day, Bernard excitedly told me, “She is in at Yarmouth on Wednesday,” about his Galileo filly. I’m sure he will have seen a later and much more high-profile entry in a fillies’ race at Ascot on Friday. I could be tempted as there’s another horse on the same card I really ought to go to see. I had planned to wait until post July 19, so possibly the King George, but maybe I will try to go this week. I bet Sans Pretension will not be too far away in whichever race the shrewd Mr Haggas decides upon.

There are some jewels that one’s eye will often pass over when looking for something in the Racing Post records. While Haggas has had nine winners from 41 runs in the past fortnight there is another area where he has plenty to prove.

Like Ryan Moore, who won a hurdle race first time on the track for his dad before ever riding on the Flat and who has not revisited that discipline since, Haggas had a go at jumping. I know he had at least one winner over jumps, Fen Terrier on October 20, 1995, at Fakenham, but possibly only one.

The 6-4 second favourite, a daughter of Emerati owned by Jolly Farmer Racing, won narrowly with the 5-4 favourite Dominion’s Dream, trained by Martin Pipe, ten lengths behind in third.

William has had a further seven runners over jumps in the intervening 9,389 days without another win. I wonder if he considers he has something to prove. Probably not!

Another of my favourite meetings will come and go without my attendance this week. Whenever I think of Newmarket July I go back to the day when Hitman broke the track record in the competitive ten-furlong three-year-old handicap for owners the Paper Boys, and Brough Scott insisted I do an interview for the telly.

My then wife was blissfully unaware of my association with the Henry Cecil colt, that was until a colleague on a day off who was interested in racing congratulated her on the win in the office the next morning. Other similar offences were digested and clearly taken into account before the eventual inevitable domestic rupture!

- TS

O’Brien lavish in praise of Eclipse hero St Mark’s Basilica

Given the greats of the Turf Aidan O’Brien has trained in his illustrious career to date, it is probably worth listening when he talks of St Mark’s Basilica in such glowing terms.

One of two three-year-olds in a field of four for the Coral-Eclipse, he arrived with a serious claim for already being the best colt of his generation – possibly in an argument with Jim Bolger’s crack miler Poetic Flare.

However, St Mark’s Basilica had beaten Bolger’s teak-tough colt in the French Guineas and subsequently added the French Derby to the Dewhurst which he won last season, so the only Siyouni colt in O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stable came with a smart CV.

He faced by far his toughest test to date, though, with William Haggas’ Champion Stakes winner Addeybb, a multiple Group One winner in Australia, and John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff, last year’s French Derby winner who had also won on dirt in Saudi Arabia and the Sheema Classic in Dubai, in opposition.

It was not the fact that St Mark’s Basilica won – in receipt of 10lb many thought he would and he was sent off the even-money favourite. It was more the ease with which he did it, by three and a half lengths and displaying an electric turn of foot that had O’Brien reaching for the superlatives.

Ryan Moore returns victorious aboard St Mark's Basilica
Ryan Moore returns victorious aboard St Mark’s Basilica (Nigel French/PA)

“We came here today taking on two proper older horses, they weren’t middle of the road horses, so it was pressure time as he would have been exposed if he wasn’t very good,” said O’Brien.

“They didn’t go very fast and he gave the two older horses first run, but he quickened up and put it to bed very quickly. He’s just a lovely horse, lovely nature, does everything right and is a true professional. I’m over the moon.”

Ryan Moore had not been on board since his defeat in the National Stakes last year, but had taken advice from his Dewhurst pilot Frankie Dettori and Ioritz Mendizabal, who rode him in France.

“Ryan was confident on him, but that is how Ioritz and Frankie rode him. Ryan spoke to them both and you can ride them like that when they have that change of pace,” said O’Brien.

“It’s what marks out the good horses and the ones who are better than good when they can turn it on like that.

“He’s very relaxed, he’s chilled, he floats along and is very professional. Ryan said today he was quick out but he was relaxed – even though there was no pace he settled.

“With everything about him, he’s always a horse you are confident with going into races. I was thinking about it the other day, it’s a different feeling with that type of horse, you are happy. He relaxes, he quickens, he’s genuine – it’s just a different feeling.

“I wasn’t nervous today, but the only nerves I had was that he had a lot to lose today because if he got beat it would neutralise all the work he had done up to now. He’d won two French Classics and a Dewhurst, so he had a lot to lose.

“We had to step him up somehow and this was the first chance. You can sometimes take on the older horses in this and they wouldn’t be as strong as those two were today – and in slowish ground.”

O’Brien was winning the race for a sixth time having struck with such greats like Giant’s Causeway, Hawk Wing and So You Think. But he believes St Mark’s Basilica might just be a little different.

He said: “Horses come from all angles, but you can only have one of them (top class) every year and if you get one you are very lucky, you can’t expect to get many.

“For all the horses we’ve had down the years I can’t remember we’ve had one like that, we’ve had horses who get into battle and brawl it out but he’s very happy to follow horses and quicken – he puts races to bed very quickly and that’s what he did again today. He’s just a bit different.

“He’d have no problem going back to a mile, and he won the French Derby over 10 and a half furlongs. I’m not sure what the lads (Coolmore) would like to do as we have other horses that can do other things. Ioritz was of the opinion he’d have no problem going further, but it’s up to the lads.”

St Mark’s Basilica was favourite for a Group One as a maiden last season, giving some indication of the regard in which he was held.

“We always thought he was very good, but last year was a mess. I tried to get a run into him before the Heinz (Phoenix Stakes) as I thought he’d win that. I rushed him out to get there,” said O’Brien.

“He ran in a maiden when he should have been having a gallop and ran in the Heinz when he should have been running in a maiden, but even though I was pitching him in he never took a step back.

“The plan was to go to France on Arc day, that got messed up and I just thought it wasn’t meant to be. But then he came and won the Dewhurst. He’s the only Siyouni I’ve ever had.

“He’s a very good horse, I don’t remember coming to an Eclipse as strong as this with a three-year-old before, they were two proper older horses, and he gave them a couple of lengths.

“I spoke to Gary O’Gorman yesterday (Irish handicapper) and he told me what he’d have to do – obviously he’s done that and more.

“The Juddmonte or the Irish Champion – he could do both – are the obvious races. He could do both, but the lads will decide.

“You’ll be nervous running him from now on because he’s turning into a very important horse.”

St Mark’s Basilica poised for showdown with Mishriff and Addeyyb

St Mark’s Basilica is out to uphold the honour of the Classic generation in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on Saturday.

Only three of the last 10 winners have been three-year-olds – despite a 10lb weight-for-age allowance – and they were not even represented last year as Ghaiyyath beat Enable.

Those that have won in recent times include the John Gosden duo of Roaring Lion and Golden Horn and perhaps one of the best Eclipse winners of them all in Sea The Stars.

On what he has done so far this season, the Aidan O’Brien-trained St Mark’s Basilica certainly would not look out of place among those names should he come out on top in a select four-runner field.

Winner of the Dewhurst as a juvenile, in two runs this year the Siyouni colt has landed the French 2000 Guineas and Derby.

“We’ve been delighted with him this season, both his runs,” said O’Brien.

“Everything went well before them and everything has gone well since. The ground is drying up and I’d imagine that the more it dries up the more it will suit him.”

When asked what made him decide to go down the French route with St Mark’s Basilica this season, the Ballydoyle hander replied: “We’d planned to take him over on Arc day last year with the intention of then aiming him at the French races.

“Obviously he couldn’t run on Arc day (due to feed irregularities) and that was how he ended up in the Dewhurst a week later. He was always going to go back to France.”

Ryan Moore has not ridden him since he finished third in the National Stakes, his last defeat.

“There are not many horses who win three Group Ones in a row, but that is what my colt has done in winning the Dewhurst and the two French Classics,” Moore told Betfair.

“I wasn’t on board for any of those successes, but he looked very impressive in beating last year’s Lagardere winner in the Prix du Jockey Club last time.

“Hopefully, getting 10lb from the older horses can swing it his way, but it is clearly his toughest assignment yet. And, of course with just four runners, this promises to be very tactical, too. But it is the same for us all on the latter front.”

Gosden has done his bit for the Eclipse recently, winning it with Nathaniel as well as the earlier aforementioned duo – not to mention running Enable in it the past two years, and she also won it once.

His Mishriff has proved a revelation abroad, but needs to win a big prize on home soil before he perhaps can be considered among his trainer’s very best.

“He was in winter training, which is a little bit different and obviously in his last race (in the UK) he got stuck in a bog at Ascot (on Champions Day),” said Gosden.

“We’ve been happy with him, he trained nicely into the Saudi Cup and flew home, then we had to train him again for the Sheema Classic.”

Mishriff on the gallops in Newmarket this week
Mishriff on the gallops in Newmarket this week (Joe Giddens/PA)

He went on: “He showed his versatility winning over a mile and an eighth on dirt and a mile and a half on turf, and then the idea was immediately to freshen up and give him every possible chance to come back for our summer programme.

“We’re not midway though the summer, but the Eclipse has been our plan for a long time. I’ve been very happy with his preparation. He’s not a horse I take away for racecourse gallops, he’s done enough travelling this year.”

After some trials and tribulations David Egan regained the ride on Mishriff and completed the job in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. He is understandably excited by the challenge.

“I think the Eclipse is the first middle-distance Group One of the European season open to both sexes in which the classic generation meet their elders, so that always makes it very exciting,” said Egan ahead of the latest middle-distance leg of the Qipco British Champions Series.

“It’s a small field, but it’s what you might call a boutique field, as they are all very good, and what makes it even more interesting is that it’s a clash between the last two French Derby winners.

“Mishriff has to give St Mark’s Basilica a bit of weight and it should be a very exciting race to watch, but I think he’s got what it takes. It should be a terrific race and I hope everything goes smoothly.”

A third top-class runner among the quartet is William Haggas’ Addeybb – three times a Grade One winner in Australia and successful in the Champion Stakes in October.

He has proved a real breakthrough horse for Tom Marquand who, like Egan, is a former champion apprentice.

“That spell down under last year was a huge help to my career, for while I was doing quite well already it took everything to a different level for me,” said Marquand.

“As we know, Addeybb is entirely ground dependent, and any more rain will help, but provided it’s suitable for him to run then he ought to have every chance. It’s a small field, but it’s good horses against good horses and that’s just what you want in a race like the Eclipse.”

Roger Varian’s El Drama completes the field. He won the Dee Stakes at Chester, but was a long way behind St Mark’s Basilica in the French Derby.

Gosden anticipating Eclipse to savour for racing ‘purists’

John Gosden has labelled this year’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown a race the purists will enjoy as he prepares his globetrotting star Mishriff to face just three rivals.

Wins at the highest level in France and Dubai, plus a valuable race on dirt in Saudi Arabia, have propelled Mishriff from fairly modest beginnings into one of the highest-rated thoroughbreds on the planet.

His presence, along with that of William Haggas’ Addeybb, who is actually 3lb his superior on British figures, and Aidan O’Brien’s French Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica means despite the small field, the 10-furlong contest will answer plenty of questions.

Gosden feels the size of the field is understandable, too, given the quality of the big three and the race’s proximity to Royal Ascot.

“He’s not the highest-rated horse, Addeybb is rated 3lb higher officially. I know it’s an elitist field but what people have to realise is that it’s a lot of money to enter these races, a lot of money to stay in at the forfeit stage and it’s a lot of money to confirm,” he said.

“When you have the likes of the front three here, they are not easy to take on so I think a lot of people take that viewpoint. Another thing for those criticising the small field to remember is the Prince of Wales’s was only 16 days ago and I know from experience that it’s very tough to come here after that.

“For the purists this is the type of race they enjoy – and you’ll probably find the outsider, El Drama, will come and do the lot of them!”

Since racing resumed in June last year, Mishriff has raced six times, winning all bar the Champion Stakes in October on ground Gosden described as “diabolical”.

Mishriff going through his paces on the Newmarket gallops
Mishriff going through his paces on the Newmarket gallops (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I don’t want to be critical, but the ground at Ascot on Champions Day was diabolical. I had a lot disappoint and so did Aidan (O’Brien),” said Gosden.

“It’s no one’s fault, but it was bottomless. We used the inner track there once very successfully and when it gets very soft it should be an option.”

It did not stop Addeybb, who relished the testing going, but conditions are set to be a fair bit quicker this weekend.

“I’ve got tons of respect for Addeybb, I think he’s a wonderful horse. He’s won a Champion Stakes, Grade Ones in Sydney and there is talk of some rain on Saturday afternoon. He would enjoy that, we’d be happier on anything from good to firm to good to soft,” said Gosden.

“Of course then you have the big question, in this race you have the best mile-and-a-quarter three-year-old colt in Europe running (St Mark’s Basilica). He’s won a Dewhurst, a French Guineas and he’s gone and won a Prix du Jockey Club the same as Mishriff, so it’s the ultimate test of the three-year-old against his elders.

“Interestingly I always remember Lester (Piggott) saying to me the three-year-olds always have the advantage in the Eclipse with the weight-for-age. I think it has changed 1lb since then. I’ve never been afraid to run three-year-olds in this, nor for the matter the King George.

“Roaring Lion and Golden Horn were three when they won it (the Eclipse) and took advantage of the weight, Enable was coming back off a long lay off when she beat her old friend Magical and last year ran against Ghaiyyath, so to that extent it is always demanding, but Mishriff is a lovely horse and fits in with that type.

“We’re very happy with him going in, but we’re perfectly aware of the task at hand.”

David Egan is making up for lost time on Mishriff
David Egan is making up for lost time on Mishriff (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Former champion apprentice jockey David Egan rides in his role as retained jockey to owner Prince Faisal, although he missed the French victories through suspension and quarantine complications and was overlooked in favour of Frankie Dettori for the Champion Stakes. He was on board in Riyadh and Meydan, though.

“David has ridden him very well, he pops up on him not long before his races, he knows him well. He’s a classy guy, a good rider, a good horseman and he’s very intelligent with it,” said Gosden.”

While he has a win on dirt to his name, Gosden is not currently considering the Breeders’ Cup due to it being held at Del Mar this year.

“I think he needs to win a Group One here. He’s done it in France, he’s done it in the Middle East, it would be nice if he could do it in the UK,” said Gosden.

“I’m not thinking of the Breeders’ Cup for him, though, he’s more of a Belmont horse than Del Mar – the straight is very short at Del Mar, probably the shortest in the world for a Grade One track.

“He’s a horse who just puts his head down and gallops strongly, can handle any ground, he has a clawing action where he really reaches for the ground which helps (on dirt) to a degree. He seems to be comfortable on anything, it’s probably mental determination rather than anything else.

“I think his versatility is down to his action and his attitude.”

Fabulous four take Eclipse challenge

French Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica will take on older horses for the first time in Saturday’s enthralling renewal of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown with a small but select field of four set to line up.

The 10-furlong Group One is always one of the highlights of the season as it is generally the first time the Classic generation tackle their elders in one of the showpiece races.

While there may not be many runners, the race lacks little in quality with Mishriff and Addeybb setting a very high bar for St Mark’s Basilica to aim at.

Having won the Dewhurst last year as Aidan O’Brien’s second-string, St Mark’s Basilica has continued to progress and has enjoyed two successful forays to France this season.

He is on his travels once more this weekend but slightly closer to home.

Mishriff has been a revelation for John and Thady Gosden, proving his versatility over different trips and surfaces.

He was a big price to beat his stablemate Waldkonig when racing resumed last June but since then his progress has been – bar one blip – phenomenal.

Mishriff won the French Derby on his next outing, returned to France to win a Group Two in August and his sole defeat came in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Mishriff goes through his paces on the Newmarket gallops on Friday morning
Mishriff goes through his paces on the Newmarket gallops on Friday morning (Joe Giddens/PA)

Since then he has won a valuable pot in Saudi Arabia on dirt – beating some of the best Americans – and then returned to turf to prove he stays twelve furlongs in the Sheema Classic in Dubai.

David Egan keeps the ride on Mishriff in his role as retained rider for owner Prince Faisal and he is targeting the the latest leg in the middle distance category of this year’s Qipco British Champions Series.

“He’s a fresh and enthusiastic horse who can be ridden any way you want,” said Egan.

“I rode him very differently in the Saudi Cup and at Meydan, and having been able to lay up over nine furlongs on dirt, for which you need a lot of speed, he then switched off at the back of the field over a mile and a half on turf at Meydan.

“Not many horses can win at the highest level on dirt and turf, let alone over trips as varied as that, so it was a tremendous achievement. I think the stiff 10 furlongs at Sandown will be ideal for him. He’ll enjoy that climb and he should be doing his best work at the end, so I’m very excited.”

The winner of the Champion Stakes, though, was William Haggas’ Addeybb, another globetrotter.

While that was his first Group One in Europe, he does have three in Australia to his name and despite being seven, retains all his ability.

Roger Varian’s El Drama, winner of the Dee Stakes at Chester but unplaced behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Prix du Jockey Club, completes the field.

As expected David Menuisier did not declare Wonderful Tonight while O’Brien chose to take out Armory and Japan, also.

Mishriff primed for Eclipse bid at Sandown

Mishriff is reported to be in tip-top form as he bids to win at the highest level on home soil for the first time in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown.

Trained by John and Thady Gosden, the four-year-old was one of a small but select list of seven horses left in Saturday’s 10-furlong Group One at the confirmation stage

Mishriff is already a Group One winner in France and Dubai and has also won the Saudi Cup on dirt, beating some specialist American challengers to prove his versatility.

His form received a timely boost when Chrono Genesis, runner-up to the Make Believe colt in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, won in Japan on Sunday.

“Everything seems fine. We’re one of seven left in, let’s see what the weather brings and see what happens,” said Ted Voute, racing manager to owner Prince Faisal.

“The Japanese horse he beat (Chrono Genesis) in the Middle East won a Group One in Japan on Sunday. That fills us up with some optimism.

“The Prince talked to John (Gosden) after the horse worked on Saturday and they were all positive. I haven’t talked to John but the Prince is over and got over in time so can get out of quarantine and be available for race day, so fingers crossed.”

St Mark’s Basilica is dual Classic winner in France this term
St Mark’s Basilica is dual Classic winner in France this term (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Aidan O’Brien is likely to field the main opposition with three of the seven hailing from Ballydoyle.

He can choose from French 2000 Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica, who will be tackling older horses for the first time, Armory, who was third to stablemate Love at Royal Ascot and Japan, who took third behind Ghaiyyath in this race last year.

Voute is looking forward to a potential showdown with St Mark’s Basilica and others.

“The clash with St Mark’s Basilica is great. It’s a big weight difference but it always is and there’s the lovely filly of Chris Wright’s from Ascot (Wonderful Tonight). It should be a good race with any luck,” he added.

“If we’re going to be the best, we’ve got to beat the best out there. This is a step in the right direction.”

William Haggas will be hoping it rains during the week to enable him to run the soft-ground lover Addeybb.

Addeybb could go for gold at Sandown
Addeybb could go for gold at Sandown (Mike Egerton/PA)

While the gelding may be seven years old now, he showed he is as good as ever when once again winning a Group One in Australia in April.

David Menuisier enjoyed one of the finest days of his career when Wonderful Tonight won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. She remains in the mix but would be dropping in trip and requires ease in the ground.

Roger Varian’s El Drama completes the possibles. The Dee Stakes winner finished only 15th behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Prix du Jockey Club.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper reported conditions on the round track to be a mixture of good to soft and soft following rain on Sunday.

“We had about 18 millimetres of rain on Sunday evening and we’ve had a murky, drizzly morning. We’d been dry for best part of a week,” he said.

Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper
Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper (Steve Parsons/PA)

“I walked the course this morning and the round course was a mixture of soft and good to soft. Overall, you could call it good to soft, soft in places. The five-furlong course was soft.

“There are showers forecast today and Tuesday. We are under a low pressure system so what happens over the next 48 hours will be key to where we are at the end of the week. We are not clear of that until Wednesday morning.

“Wednesday to Friday looks drier, but no great rise in temperatures all week and for the weekend there is suggestion of some showery activity coming from the Atlantic that might influence things, but that is some way off.

“Last night’s rain has left us on the easy side. We’re just going to monitor daily and see where we go.

“It’s unlikely to be quickish ground but, depending what happens in the next 48 hours, somewhere near good is possible.”

Cooper was happy with the shape of the field for the Eclipse.

“I am not surprised it is a comparatively smallish number. Of the 31 left in prior to today, a lot had run recently. Aidan (O’Brien) had 13 of them and he was not going to confirm everything,” he added.

“What it delivers is a clash of the generations – the French Derby winner (St Mark’s Basilica) going up against the calibre of Mishriff. That is what the Eclipse is all about.”

Mishriff tops seven seeking Eclipse honours

John and Thady Gosden’s Mishriff heads a small but select list of seven contenders for Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown.

The four-year-old is already a Group One winner in France and Dubai and will be aiming to win at the highest level for the first time on home soil.

He has also won the Saudi Cup on dirt, beating some specialist American challengers to prove his versatility.

St Mark’s Basilica is dual Classic winner in France this term
St Mark’s Basilica is dual Classic winner in France this term (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Aidan O’Brien is likely to field the main opposition with three of the seven hailing from Ballydoyle.

He can choose from French 2000 Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica, who will be tackling older horses for the first time, Armory, who was third to stablemate Love at Royal Ascot and Japan, who took third behind Ghaiyyath in this race last year.

William Haggas will be hoping it rains during the week to enable him to run the soft-ground lover Addeybb.

Addeybb could go for gold at Sandown
Addeybb could go for gold at Sandown (Mike Egerton/PA)

While the gelding may be seven years old now, he showed he is as good as ever when once again winning a Group One in Australia in April.

David Menuisier enjoyed one of the finest days of his career when Wonderful Tonight won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. She remains in the mix but would be dropping in trip and requires ease in the ground.

Roger Varian’s El Drama completes the possibles. The Dee Stakes winner finished only 15th behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Prix du Jockey Club.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper reported conditions on the round track to be a mixture of good to soft and soft following rain on Sunday.

“We had about 18 millimetres of rain on Sunday evening and we’ve had a murky, drizzly morning. We’d been dry for best part of a week,” he said.

Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper
Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper (Steve Parsons/PA)

“I walked the course this morning and the round course was a mixture of soft and good to soft. Overall, you could call it good to soft, soft in places. The five-furlong course was soft.

“There are showers forecast today and Tuesday. We are under a low pressure system so what happens over the next 48 hours will be key to where we are at the end of the week. We are not clear of that until Wednesday morning.

“Wednesday to Friday looks drier, but no great rise in temperatures all week and for the weekend there is suggestion of some showery activity coming from the Atlantic that might influence things, but that is some way off.

“Last night’s rain has left us on the easy side. We’re just going to monitor daily and see where we go.

“It’s unlikely to be quickish ground but, depending what happens in the next 48 hours, somewhere near good is possible.”

Cooper was happy with the shape of the field for the Eclipse.

“I am not surprised it is a comparatively smallish number. Of the 31 left in prior to today, a lot had run recently. Aidan (O’Brien) had 13 of them and he was not going to confirm everything,” he added.

“What it delivers is a clash of the generations – the French Derby winner (St Mark’s Basilica) going up against the calibre of Mishriff. That is what the Eclipse is all about.”

Mishriff in top form with Eclipse target

Mishriff remains on target for the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in July after connections opted not to enter the brilliant four-year-old at Royal Ascot.

He has yet to win at the top level on home soil, having been unsuccessful on his only attempt to date in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.

Mishriff’s three Group One victories have all come abroad – in the French Derby, the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic.

The son of Make Believe, trained by John and Thady Gosden, was last seen winning the latter contest at Meydan in March.

However, connections are pleased with Mishriff and the plan is for him to reappear in the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece at the Esher venue.

“He’s ticking along and John is happy with him. He’s quite a fresh horse,” said Ted Voute, racing manager to owner Prince Faisal.

“He didn’t enter him at Royal Ascot. He wants to go straight to the Eclipse and see how he gets on there.

“Mishriff is in the Arc as well, with all the other artillery from the big stables.

“We’re very happy with him and the Eclipse is the aim as it is now.

“He was a bit lighter in Dubai than he was in Saudi Arabia, but obviously he performed well there.

“He’s so adaptable. He can come from behind or run up with the pace, he can go on heavy ground and over different distances. Let’s hope it continues.”

Mishriff part of strong Eclipse team for Gosden

Globe-trotting superstar Mishriff is one of 45 initial entries for the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

John and Thady Gosden’s four-year-old has won both the Saudi Cup – the world’s richest race – and the Sheema Classic at the Dubai World Cup meeting already this year.

Mishriff, unraced since the second of those two hugely lucrative back-to-back triumphs in late March, is joined among the contenders for the 10-furlong Group One on July 3 by stablemates Lord North, winner of the Dubai Turf when last seen, and Europe’s top miler Palace Pier.

Dual Classic winner Love is part of the entries for the Eclipse
Dual Classic winner Love is part of the entries for the Eclipse (David Davies/PA)

Aidan O’Brien is very well-represented with 16 of the entries, published on Wednesday – and his dual Classic-winning filly Love and Armory, victorious in last week’s Huxley Stakes at Chester, are both prominent in the sponsors’ betting behind favourite Mishriff.

O’Brien, a five-time winner of the Eclipse but seeking his first success since 2011, may also run current Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet and 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth – two of the 28 three-year-olds initially in contention.

The Gosdens also have two three-year-old possibles, in Megallan and the unbeaten Mostahdaf.

Among other eyecatchers are William Haggas’ much-travelled multiple Group One winner Addeybb, O’Brien’s Japan – third to Ghaiyyath and Enable last year – and James Fanshawe’s  Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Audarya.