Can Cliffs tower over Eclipse rivals? Trainers give the inside track
Victory for Cliffs Of Moher in Saturday's Coral-Eclipse would give Aidan O’Brien a record-equalling sixth win in Sandown’s biggest Flat race and put the Ballydoyle trainer alongside Alec Taylor jnr, who saddled his winners of the event between 1909 and 1923.
O’Brien, who first won the race with Giant’s Causeway in 2000, was last successful with So You Think in 2011, while Cliffs Of Moher, the Derby runner-up, will be bidding to give Ryan Moore, successful on Notnowcato in 2007, a second win in the event.
Having the fifth start of his career on Saturday, Cliffs Of Moher, who was beaten three-quarters of a length by stablemate Wings Of Eagles in the Epsom Classic, had won the Dee Stakes at Chester on his reappearance.
O’Brien said: “Cliffs Of Moher came out of Epsom well and all has been good with him since. We think dropping back two furlongs in trip won’t be a problem for him. He won over the same sort of trip at Chester and lost out only near the finish at Epsom.”
Joining Cliffs Of Moher in the line-up is Taj Mahal, a second ride in Britain for Padraig Beggy since his red-letter day on Wings Of Eagles in the Derby.
O'Brien said of the colt: “Taj Mahal is a tough, hardy horse over a mile and a half and over a mile and a quarter. He’s in good form and we’re hoping he runs well."
Cliffs Of Moher Pros Solid claims on his second in the Derby and open to improvement dropping back in trip.
Cons Up against older rivals, plus Barney Roy, for the first time and will need to produce a career-best.
Improving Knight ready to charge
Roger Charlton seeks his second Coral-Eclipse with ever-improving Decorated Knight, who bids to maintain the influence of the Prince of Wales's Stakes on Sandown's all-aged clash.
Charlton took the prize four years ago with Al Kazeem, who won the Tattersalls Gold Cup and Prince of Wales's, and has followed the same path with Decorated Knight, who won the Curragh Group 1 prize but was beaten into second at Ascot by Highland Reel.
Charlton said: "He's improved with every race when he's got the ground he likes. You never know after a tough race in the heat but he came out of Ascot very well. He's very fresh and looks great.
"It'll be interesting to see how he runs with Ulysses again and the question mark is over the three-year-olds, which none of us will know until it happens.
"He's tough, improving and sound. It's his perfect conditions, with fast ground and a likely fast pace on a track that should suit."
Pros Improving form from always-influential Prince of Wales's Stakes
Cons Regular partner Andrea Atzeni unavailable
Simcock takes aim with Spear
Lightning Spear, one of the leading candidates for the Queen Anne Stakes only to disappoint, is among the outsiders here as he steps up to a mile and a quarter for the first time.
Trainer David Simcock said: "For one reason or another it didn't happen for him at Ascot but nothing came to light. This was always on the agenda and we're looking forward to trying it.
"He ran in the Champion Stakes on very soft ground before he was with me and didn't run any sort of a race then. It's going to be hard to give three-year-olds weight."
Simcock also runs Listed winner Desert Encounter, of whom he said: "He's improving all the time and drops back to a mile and a quarter. We'll see if that suits."
Ulysses 'appears to be in top form'
The track and trip are unlikely to prove an achilles heel to Ulysses, who bids to put his Sandown knowledge to good effect as the only course-and-distance winner in the race.
The four-year-old beat Deauville and My Dream Boat to win the Group 2 Gordon Richards Stakes in April and then ran a solid third in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.
His five-time Eclipse-winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute, whose last success was ten years ago with Notnowcato, is, like Aidan O'Brien, seeking to equal Alec Taylor's record set nearly 100 years ago.
Alan Cooper, racing manager to the Niarchos family who own Ulysses, said: "He's a course-and-distance winner and gained more experience at Group 1 level in the Prince of Wales's.
"He ran a super race at Ascot and we're hoping he can do similar on Saturday. Sir Michael said that Ulysses has taken Ascot very well and appears to be in top form, so we're hopeful of a good showing."
Pros Course-and-distance winner from race's joint leading current trainer
Cons Still missing a first Group 1 victory
Barney out to be the history boy
Barney Roy has recent history against him as he attempts to transfer his top-class mile performances into the middle-distance sphere.
The last horse to bridge the gap successfully was the 'Iron Horse' Giant's Causeway, but the challenge has proved too great for the eight trying 1m2f for the first time since.
Richard Hannon's 2014 2,000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder was one of the octet, but trainer and jockey are sounding confident the new distance will not trouble the Godolphin-owned St James's Palace Stakes winner.
Barney Roy made amends for an unlucky trip at Newmarket, where he stumbled during the race, by beating Lancaster Bomber and Thunder Snow at Ascot, where 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill was only fourth, to earn a start in the Eclipse.
Hannon said: "I don't know he'll get the trip, but I hope he will and I think he will. He's out of a Galileo mare and he doesn't pull. He's a horse we love who is massively popular in the yard."
Jockey James Doyle won the Eclipse four years ago on Al Kazeem, but is in awe of the colt with the long, powerful stride.
"His win in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot was outstanding in the circumstances," he said. "He didn't jump away all that great, but there was no doubting the way he galloped through the line.
"For anybody wondering whether he can run a strong mile and a quarter I feel the race will be perfect for Barney Roy, and I believe he can win, as long as he relaxes."
Pros Leading three-year-old miler with plenty to gain from successful step up
Cons No St James's Palace winner has won the race in 17 years
Trip 'may be making' of Eminent
Eminent is ready to put aside a "disappointing" outcome to the Derby in a race in which connections feel the Frankel colt should have everything in his favour.
He finished fourth at Epsom, beaten a length and three-quarters by Wings Of Eagles, and trainer Martyn Meade believes he was not seen at his best.
Champion jockey Jim Crowley, who had ridden the colt in all previous starts, has made way for Silvestre de Sousa at Sandown, where track and trip are expected to suit.
Eminent won the Craven Stakes this year and finished sixth in the 2,000 Guineas before contesting the Epsom Classic.
"We've had a couple of disappointing runs, so I'm hoping it's third time lucky," said Meade. "The more I analyse it, every single element is in his favour. The trip and track are right, he has a proper draw, a hungry jockey and, most importantly, the horse is in great form."
He added: "He never had the chance to use his stride at Epsom, going up the hill and coming down the side in the bunch all the way round.
"Coming into the straight he got squeezed first, was stopped again, then went on and got squeezed in the last furlong. When you weigh it all up he was beaten one and three-quarter lengths. Cliffs Of Moher had a relatively easy run through.
"I believe he has that extra speed, because of the Craven result, and coming back to one mile two might be the making of him."
Pros With a better run could have finished closer in the Derby
Cons Lacks class and profile of majority of three-year-old Eclipse winners
Salouen 'never in better form'
Salouen was one of the unluckiest horses in the Derby but could not make amends in the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot, in which he was seventh.
Trainer Sylvester Kirk said: "He's never been in better form and the owner was very keen to run him, but we're hoping rather than expecting.
"On his last two runs you could argue it doesn't warrant giving it a go, but it didn't really pan out as we'd hoped at Ascot. He ran very free early on and anything that was up there stayed up there, while we dropped him out – his run petered out but he did have quite a lot to do."