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Masar is missing but the Lion and a Warrior make it another absorbing Eclipse

Masar will not be present but Derby third and fourth, Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior, will be at Sandown
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The day in a nutshell

For Charlie Appleby, it was akin to Gareth Southgate losing Harry Kane on the eve of the World Cup quarter-final.

Godolphin flagbearer Masar will be missing but even without him the Coral-Eclipse remains a fascinating race, one that could provide handsome consolation to two sufferers of Derby disappointment.

The Eclipse is traditionally billed as the first great clash of the generations. This year one generation stands out.

Due to a swollen leg Masar will not be in action, but we still have Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior, the third and fourth at Epsom. For the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion, the Eclipse was quickly logged as the next target. Not so for Saxon Warrior, turned over in the Irish Derby just seven days ago and now reunited with his Newmarket-winning partner Donnacha O'Brien.

High-class three-year-old filly Happily further boosts Aidan O'Brien's attempt to win what at just under £790,625 is the richest race ever staged at Sandown, where the field also includes the master trainer's Cliffs Of Moher, the beaten Eclipse favourite 12 months ago, and Masar's stablemate, 2016 winner Hawkbill. Both are outsiders. That tells you plenty about this race.

The races at Haydock are excellent as well, not least the historic Bet365 Old Newton Cup. Roger Charlton, triumphant in last Saturday's Northumberland Plate with Withhold, has the top two horses in the betting, Atty Persse and Blakeney Point.

Like Harry Kane, Charlton is seeking to score again. For Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior, the Eclipse is certainly not now an open goal - but in Masar's absence the net looks a fair bit wider.

Hamilton a million miles from nervous

Victory in the Coral-Eclipse would represent by far the biggest success in the long career of Tony Hamilton. Yet if the man himself feels any sort of tension going into the race he is hiding it well.

Hamilton will be aboard Yorkshire raider Forest Ranger as he attempts to break his Group 1 duck in his 19th season with a licence.

The 34-year-old, who succinctly describes himself on Twitter as "Flat jockey from Hartlepool", is as closely associated with Forest Ranger's trainer Richard Fahey as Compo was with Clegg. He believes the horse they bring to Sandown has a clear chance of upsetting the superstar three-year-olds and landing the £448,663 winner's pot.

There are, however, no last-minute jitters.

"It's just another race at the end of the day," said Hamilton. "I'll just get on with it. The last thing I would do is get nervous.

"I'm not denying it's a tough race but my horse is on the up. His last run was better than the one before."

Asked how special it would be to win a first Group 1 prize, the extremely able Hamilton added: "You can't do it without the horse, no matter who is riding. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't."

Saxon's half-century parallel with Sir Ivor

Aidan O'Brien surprised racing fans, and also the connections of other Coral-Eclipse aspirants, when on Monday he left last Saturday's Irish Derby third Saxon Warrior in the Sandown showpiece.

There is, however, a clear historic parallel to him running in the Eclipse - and one that does not bode well for the principal Irish contender.

Lester Piggott and Vincent O'Brien failed to win the 1968 Eclipse with Sir Ivor

Exactly half a century ago a colt based at Ballydoyle (like Saxon Warrior) and who had won the 2,000 Guineas (like Saxon Warrior) contested the Eclipse only seven days after being a beaten favourite in the Irish Derby (like Saxon Warrior). On that occasion, the Vincent O'Brien-trained Sir Ivor could manage only third at Sandown.

Racing Post historian John Randall said: "Sir Ivor's 1968 Eclipse defeat was caused by at least three factors.

"He had probably not fully recovered from his Irish Derby exertions; he was ill at ease on the firm ground at Sandown (no artificial watering in those days) and was jarred up afterwards; and Lester Piggott gave him a lot to do from the home turn."

Donnacha O'Brien will know not to make the same mistake.

Moore and Mendelssohn back on dirt

Aidan O'Brien set out his stall to win the Kentucky Derby for the first time with Mendelssohn. Amidst desperate conditions at Churchill Downs the dream failed to be realised, with the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf champion finishing 20th of the 20th runners, 74 lengths behind Justify.

There is now a new dream. The road to it possibly being realised begins on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Mendelssohn has the Breeders' Cup Classic on his agenda. As part of his progression towards that race - also staged at Churchill Downs - he returns to American dirt for the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes, a mile Grade 3 event in which he will again be ridden by Ryan Moore.

The world's top jockey missed out on partnering Saxon Warrior to 2,000 Guineas glory in order to take part in the Kentucky Derby. He now misses out on partnering Saxon Warrior in the Coral-Eclipse in order to take part in the Dwyer.

This is not, though, a one-race trip for Moore, who will also be on duty for O'Brien aboard Hunting Horn in the Belmont Derby and Athena in the Belmont Oaks.

The menus differ at Chelmsford and Barbury

Racing professionals do not always agree but one thing on which they are united is the subject of prize-money at Chelmsford.

From one meeting to the next the purses available at Fred Done's track are impressive, as they are again for a fixture that includes a £35,000 nursery and three £25,000 handicaps.

If the all-weather action in Essex is at one extreme, positioned firmly at the other is the JCB Champions Challenge, a relay race over fences that takes place between jump jockeys and three-day event riders during the Saturday programme at the Barbury Horse Trials.

Water may be splashed in the JCB Champions Challenge

Defending the honour of the jockeys will be Richard Johnson, Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore and Wayne Hutchinson, while the other side includes equestrian legend Sir Mark Todd.

The competition is set to take place at 1.45pm, 20 minutes before the Chelmsford nursery.

You pays your money and you takes your choice.

The racing voices of England and Sweden

Gareth Southgate says he will need "a racehorse trainer's eye" to make sure none of England's footballers try to deceive him about their fitness levels before the World Cup quarter-final with Sweden.

Mick Channon already has a racehorse trainer's eye, two of them in fact, and he also wore the England jersey, initially for World Cup-winning manager Alf Ramsey. As such, he is perfectly qualified to assess the big game. 

Mick Channon expects a tight game

"They are two quite evenly matched sides and it won't be easy to score goals," said Channon. "Really it all comes down to who can find a bit of magic. Overall I think we have the best players and I would be very hopeful - but it's going to be tight."

It could be a busy day for Channon, who has runners at Sandown, Haydock, Chelmsford and Leicester. Unfortunately, he has no runners at Beverley, which is relaxing its usual dress code by allowing England shirts into its Premier Enclosure. Providing they are collared.

"I think I'll be staying at home," added Channon.

Hosting a party at home is former trainer Mikael Magnusson, who, usefully for the purpose of this piece, happens to be Swedish.

It could be a huge summer for Sweden, given the Abba-inspired Mamma Mia 2 is released on July 20. Before enjoying a little bit of Fernando, Waterloo and Dancing Queen, Magnusson expects his home country to have defeated England on a Russian football field.

"I would strongly recommend people putting some money on Sweden at 7-2," said Magnusson.

"We are hugely overpriced compared to England at 10-11. I wasn't very confident at the start of the World Cup but I have been impressed by Sweden. We have a very strong defence and it will be difficult for England to score goals.

"I am hosting a big party and will be dressed in Sweden's kit and wearing Swedish flags. Everybody else who is coming is English."

How could you want to be anywhere else?


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