World Class: Hawkbill best but could be eclipsed

Hawkbill (William Buick) beats The Gurkha

Hawkbill (RPR 123) beats The Gurkha (RPR 122) in Coral-Eclipse Stakes

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By Sam Walker 2:453PM 4 JUL 2016 

Hawkbill was the rightful winner of the Coral-Eclipse Stakes on Saturday, but it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top when this lot meet again.

Off a stronger pace and on better ground The Gurkha, who was keen and got a bump, might turn around his half-length defeat. Then again, if it was truly fast ground the strong-travelling Time Test, who finished third, might prove a completely different proposition.

Then there’s fifth-placed My Dream Boat, who ran a big career best to land the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on soft ground a couple of weeks ago. This might have come too soon for him and if he can get back to his best after a break he could get back in the mix.

And, of course, there’s the winner. Hawkbill scored by just half a length and his rivals had excuses on the soft ground and off a steady pace, but he has improved his RPR on every single start, winning his last six, so there could yet be more to come.

Levelling out

Overall the Eclipse proved fascinating but inconclusive. Hawkbill posted an RPR of 123 for the win, but the bare form has a big question mark in the form of the pacemaker Countermeasure, who held on for fourth, finishing within five lengths of the winner.

Countermeasure had a previous best RPR of just 88 and got the run of things out in front. The fact he finished ahead of Group 1 winner My Dream Boat shows this is not form on which to hang your hat, but the real question is: who will end up best of these by the end of the year?

It could well be The Gurkha. He is less exposed than most and had excuses for both recent defeats. He remains capable of better, although having posted three RPRs of 122 in a row his profile is levelling out a bit.

On Saturday he was beaten at odds-on for the second time in as many starts, despite starting neither race with the highest RPR in the field. That’s the profile of a horse who is likely to be overbet again next time and there’s a good chance he would go off favourite (though maybe not odds-on) in a rerun of this race.

Everything fell right

Time Test could also prove the best of these by the end of the season. He’s had a relatively light campaign, with just two starts, and travelled well without looking likely to pick up in the soft ground on the weekend, posting an RPR of 119.

With five wins from ten starts he’s clearly endured the odd hiccup along the way but there is no doubt the four-year-old is getting better with age and if he can improve on his peak RPR of 124 under his ideal conditions he could turn the tables with Hawkbill and The Gurkha.

When horses are as closely matched as this it often comes down to the circumstances of the race and one way of looking at Hawkbill’s Eclipse win is that this was the day when everything fell right for him.

He may, of course, continue to improve and win again and again, but considering he had already proved himself on soft ground and was ridden handily off a steady pace, there is no arguing that things fell more in his favour on Saturday than for either the runner-up or third.

That’s not to detract from what the winner achieved. Merely to point out that on quicker ground and off a stronger pace we might well have seen a different result.

German number one

Over in Germany we saw the comeback of the year when 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist bounced back to form to win the Grosser Hansa-Preis at Hamburg on Sunday with an RPR of 118.

The six-year-old won the Melbourne Cup for Andreas Wohler 20 months ago before moving to Kris Lees’ yard in New South Wales, from which he failed to finish higher than fifth in eight starts over distances ranging from 7f to 2m.

That dismal run saw him move back into Wohler’s care late last year. He was an easy winner of a minor race as Dusseldorf last month before leaping back into Germany’s number one spot with a three-and-a-quarter length success over Iquitos (113) on Sunday.

If he can keep firing at this level he should be a player in the top staying events in Europe this season and there is a chance he will be back on the plane to Australia for a second crack at the Melbourne Cup in November.

There was a bunch finish to the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on Sunday, with the first nine covered by less than four lengths. Silverwave held on for the win with an RPR of 116.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Hawkbill 123 Charlie Appleby (GB) (Coral-Eclipse, Sandown, 1m2f7y, 2 July)


Name (country trained)RaceRating
1A Shin Hikari (Jpn)Prix d’Ispahan131T
2Frosted (US)Metropolitan Handicap130D
3California Chrome (US)Dubai World Cup127D
4Postponed (GB)Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup126T
 Winx (Aus)Doncaster Mile126T
6Aerovelocity (HK)Centenary Sprint Cup125T
 Fascinating Rock (Ire)Tattersalls Gold Cup125T
 Nyquist (US)Kentucky Derby125D
9Chautauqua (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124T
 Galileo Gold (GB)St James’s Palace Stakes124T
 Harzand (Ire)Derby124T
 My Dream Boat (GB)Prince Of Wales’s Stakes124T
Terravista (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124T
 Time Test (GB)Brigadier Gerard124T
 Werther (HK)QEII Cup124T


Name (country trained)RaceRating
1A Shin Hikari (Jpn)Prix d’Ispahan131
2Postponed (GB)Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup126
 Winx (Aus)Doncaster Mile126
4Aerovelocity (HK)Centenary Sprint Cup125
 Fascinating Rock (Ire)Tattersalls Gold Cup125
6Chautauqua (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124
 Galileo Gold (GB)St James’s Palace Stakes124
 Harzand (Ire)Derby124
 My Dream Boat (GB)Pricne Of Wales’s Stakes124
 Terravista (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124
 Time Test (GB)Brigadier Gerard124
 Werther (HK)QEII Cup124


Name (country trained)RaceRating
1Frosted (US)Metropolitan Handicap130
2California Chrome (US)Dubai World Cup127
3Nyquist (US)Kentucky Derby125
4Effinex (US)Oaklawn Handicap122
 Exaggerator (US)Preakness Stakes122
6Taris (US)Humana Distaff121
7Exaggerator (US)Kentucky Derby120
8Creator (US)Belmont Stakes119
 Destin (US)Belmont Stakes119
 Salutos Amigos (US)Carter Handicap119
 Songbird (US)Las Virgenes119

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