Coral Eclipse Preview: City Of Troy Tackles His Elders

Saturday, the 6th of July serves up one of the most anticipated middle-distance contests of the season, as the Esher venue of Sandown Park hosts the 2024 edition of the Coral-Eclipse.

This £750,000 contest enjoys a unique status among the British 1m2f Group 1 events, in being the first time the Classic generation locks horns with the most talented older horses in training over this distance.

First run in 1886, looking through the list of previous winners presents a tale of racing greatness – Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Sea The Stars, Golden Horn, and Enable all boasting an Eclipse win on their glittering CVs. 

That’s quite a list of racing superstars, but who will join them in 2024? Here, we run through the main contenders and potentially interesting outsiders.

The Classic Generation

City Of Troy Hard to Conquer

Where else to begin than with the most talked about horse in training – City Of Troy? Sensational during a blistering juvenile campaign - encompassing three wins in as many starts, including the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes- he is the latest superstar to roll off the Coolmore production line.

Fast forward to 2024, and a Triple Crown challenge beckoned for the son of Justify, only for City Of Troy to run way below expectations when ninth of eleven in the 2000 Guineas – fully 17 lengths adrift of the winner, Notable Speech. 

Had his bubble been burst conclusively a la Air Force Blue, or would he do his best impression of 2023 Guineas flop Auguste Rodin and bounce back in the Derby? Happily for connections, the latter scenario proved the case, as City Of Troy came with a relentless run in the straight to pull 2¾l clear of the field. 

Best of the Rest

Having finished with a flourish to grab second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and seemingly failed to stay when sixth in the Derby, this 1m2f trip may prove ideal for the Roger Teal-trained Dancing Gemini. Nicely bred – by Camelot and out of an Australia mare – he rates an intriguing each-way contender.

Fourth in the 2000 Guineas and the Prix Du Jockey Club, Clive Cox’s Ghostwriter takes his third shot at Group 1 glory in 2024. That Newmarket effort is worth upgrading, considering he stumbled soon after the stalls opened. A return to quicker ground should suit, and a career-best effort may be forthcoming. Going in the same Jeff Smith colours, See The Fire is the only three-year-old filly in the field. Well beaten in the 1000 Guineas, she improved to finish fifth in the Coronation Stakes but needs to step up on all known form.

Brian Meehan’s Jayarebe is potentially more interesting following his win in the Hampton Court Stakes, but more will be required as he steps up from Group 3 to Group 1 company.

The Classic Generation

Older Horses

White Birch Scaling New Heights

The John Joseph Murphy-trained White Birch leads the charge for the older brigade. Showing plenty of promise during his Classic campaign – finishing third behind Auguste Rodin in the Derby – this good-looking grey nevertheless ended the season with “only” a Group 3 success.

Fast forward to 2024 and, in common with many runners by Ulysses, White Birch appears to have improved markedly from three to four. Kicking things off with a Group 3 win in the Alleged Stakes, he followed up in the Group 2 Mooresbridge Stakes before bagging a first-career Group 1 when downing old nemesis Auguste Rodin in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. Having already conquered one of the Ballydoyle flagbearers over this trip, can he repeat the trick at Sandown?

Best of the Rest

Aidan O’Brien is responsible for three of the six older runners in the field in Luxembourg, Continuous, and Hans Andersen. It would be a surprise to see the 2023 St. Leger winner Continuous drop down to 1m2f, and Hans Andersen has a mountain to climb on this season’s form, but Luxembourg is a solid performer at this level. Benefitting from an excellent Ryan Moore ride when claiming the Coronation Cup over 1m4f last time, he’s a dual Group 1 winner at this trip and can’t be dismissed.

Of the others, Joseph O’Brien’s Al Riffa is yet to hit the heights of his Group 1 winning juvenile form following almost a year on the sidelines, whilst the Hughie Morrison-trained Stay Alert is zero from six in Group 1 company and was well beaten in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the weekend.

Older Horses

The Verdict

The older horses have held the edge in the current century, with 14 wins compared to 10 for the Classic generation. However, the past three editions have all fallen to the three-year-olds – two of whom hailed from the yard of Aidan O’Brien in the shape of Irish 2000 winner Paddington and French 2000 champ St Mark’s Basilica. 

Having flopped in his Guineas assignment, City Of Troy brings a different profile to the race as he bids to become the first Epsom Derby winner to follow up in this event since Golden Horn in 2015. He is also yet to race over this trip or on ground any quicker than good – a possibility given the generally dry forecast headed into Saturday.

All that said, we aren’t particularly keen to take on a horse labelled the best Derby winner to ever hail from Ballydoyle, but equally, we won’t be rushing to take the odds on quotes.

White Birch is the clear pick of the older runners, and some punters may see him as an each-way bet to nothing at 5/1. However, if there is any value in this field, we suspect it lies with Ghostwriter. An impressive winner of the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes last season, he ran a cracker in the Guineas given his troublesome start and was never likely to be seen to best effect on heavy ground in France last time. Back on a quicker surface, he looks like a fair each-way bet at 9/1 with LiveScoreBet.