Eclipse: Tom Collins is looking to oppose vulnerable Vadeni in Sandown's feature

Tom Collins

1 July 2022

Will Vadeni end a 62-year drought in the Eclipse by becoming the first French-trained winner since Javelot? The market believes there’s a distinct possibility that it could happen.

Jean-Claude Rouget’s three-year-old has taken time to come into his own, as proved by shock Group 3 defeats on his final juvenile start and, to a lesser effect, his racecourse reappearance this season, but he put his name in lights with an impressive strike in the Prix de Guiche at Chantilly in May before he romped home to win the French Derby at the same track last month.

The latter five-length success for the son of Churchill was extremely visually impressive, especially given it was first start over a mile and a quarter. He seemed to benefit from an aggressive ride by regular pilot Christophe Soumillon and sauntered clear to win without turning a hair. Soumillon even had time for his elaborate celebration crossing the line.

A Racing Post Rating of 124 backed up the success, though it has to be noted that his two closest pursuers - El Bodegon and Modern Games - are rated 113 and 115 respectively. The latter clearly didn’t bring his A-game, either. Maybe Vadeni was flattered by the margin of his French Derby success, but he certainly warrants his place in this field.

Rouget has never had a runner at Sandown, a track that tends to suit forwardly-placed horses. And with Aidan O’Brien pulling out his three entries at the declaration stage, he might be wondering where the pace angle is in this field. He might as well join the club, as we’re probably all struggling to figure that one out! Whatever happens, they won’t be going hard up front.

Although Vadeni was ridden close to the speed last time, his prior efforts saw Soumillon adopt extreme waiting tactics and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Belgian jockey go back to that ploy here as he will seek cover in a small field. Vadeni could be on the backfoot as a result and, although his acceleration isn’t a worry, trying to make up a handful of lengths into a quickening pace could find him out.

As a result, I want to look elsewhere. Alenquer might be the most likely front-runner in this field and he warrants respect for the in-form William Haggas and Tom Marquand partnership - I certainly think he will outrun his odds, though he might lack class. While Lord North and Mishriff are hard to back after disappointing on their most recent outings.

Native Trail brings added intrigue into the race as the sole three-year-old Brit. Charlie Appleby won this race with Hawkbill, who didn’t have the same level of talent as his entry this year, back in 2016 and clearly doesn’t mind having a pop at the older horses with his Classic generation stars. If they crawl through the opening stages and he’s relatively close to the pace, he could cause a minor shock. But there are stamina doubts there and this isn’t the easiest of spots to transition from a miler to a middle-distance star.

I like Bay Bridge - I’m going to stick to my opinion that he’s the best middle-distance horse in the country (Desert Crown aside, of course). This colt has done nothing but impress me since he plundered the London Gold Cup at Newbury in May last year and he fairly bolted up in the Brigadier Gerard on his penultimate start, proving that he handles this course and distance with aplomb. 

He rightly went into the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot as the short-priced market leader and was overturned by State Of Rest, but he didn’t get the best run through that day. Ryan Moore decided to track Japanese raider Shahryah, which didn’t work out well, and he could never claw back the eventual winner who made every yard. 

Bay Bridge still ran to an RPR of 122 despite not being at his best and it’s fair to assume that he will bounce back in a big way. I don’t know how aggressive they will be with him - Moore seemed pretty set on getting a lead at Ascot - but I wouldn’t be against a forward-going ride given his tenacity and proven stamina. Whatever happens tactically, I think he’s the best horse in the race.

Recommended bet

Bay Bridge (3.35 Sandown) @ 4.8

Tom Collins

1 July 2022

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