The Gurkha: French 2,000 Guineas winner is up in trip
By Tony O’Hehir 6:25PM 1 JUL 2016
SATURDAY’S Coral-Eclipse is the first chance for the Classic generation to tackle their elders, and The Gurkha bids to follow the example set last year by Golden Horn in the Sandown Group 1.
Last season’s Arc hero was the first three-year-old to triumph since Sea The Stars in 2009, but The Gurkha is a best-priced evens shot to give O’Brien a record-equalling sixth Eclipse.
Alec Taylor jnr holds the title having been successful on half a dozen occasions between 1909 and 1923.
Unraced at two, the Ballydoyle colt has made significant strides in his four outings this year and, after winning a maiden by nine lengths at Navan on his second start, he ran out an impressive five-and-a-half-length winner of the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Deauville. He then came from behind to finish second to Galileo Gold in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
He will be tackling a mile and a quarter for the first time, despite the fact that O’Brien had indicated after Ascot that the colt would be aimed at the Qatar Sussex Stakes and was unlikely to be stepped up in trip for his next race.
Speaking on Friday, O’Brien said: “The Gurkha has done very well since Ascot. He started to thrive and put on weight so we decided to keep him busier than we’d originally planned.
“He hasn’t done a whole lot in terms of work since Ascot but we’re very happy with him. He’s going up in trip and, as with any horse, you can never be sure how that will work out, but we always thought he would stay further than a mile. Good to softish ground should be fine for him. He’s got form with plenty of ease.”
Ground and weather
Racing on Friday took places largely on good to soft ground and clerk of the course Andrew Cooper expects much the same for Saturday.
Cooper on Friday night planned to keep the going description at good to soft, good in places, on the round course, and soft, good to soft in places, on the sprint chute.
He said: “I don’t envisage a great deal of change in how the track rides and I don’t think we’ll get to good, good to soft in places, for the Eclipse.
“We’ve measured barely a millimetre of rain here today and I don’t see any proper rain in the forecast, either.”