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Friday 30 September 2016

O'Brien: Time to test the Gurkha

The Gurkha looks to be Aidan O’Brien’s main horse for the Coral Eclipse. Pic: Racing Post
The Gurkha looks to be Aidan O’Brien’s main horse for the Coral Eclipse. Pic: Racing Post

Aidan O'Brien is responsible for five of the 11 potential runners remaining in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday.

Heading the Ballydoyle contingent entered up is the French 2,000 Guineas winner, The Gurkha, who could well look to put his Royal Ascot defeat behind him by stepping up to 10 furlongs for the first time in one of Europe's premier races.

The Gurkha had to settle for second place behind Galileo Gold in the battle of Europe's three Guineas winners in the St James's Palace Stakes earlier in the month and O'Brien has suggested that the three-year-old will take his chance this weekend.

Easy

"The Gurkha hasn't done much at all since Royal Ascot, he's had an easy time of it, but we'll step him up this week and see how he goes. It's definitely possible that he could run at Sandown."

Yesterday evening The Gurkha was the clear market leader at 13/8 with BoyleSports and a touch shorter with Betfair Sportsbook at 6/4.

"We had been thinking of the Eclipse for Long Island Sound after he ran in the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot but I would say that the ground is probably going to be gone for him," O'Brien added.

"The ground could be gone for Deauville as well but we'll take another look at it and there's nothing definite yet. Bravery has been left in as has Cougar Mountain."

With O'Brien likely to have at least one runner and thus retaining Ryan Moore, it would look very likely that this season's dual Derby winning jockey, Pat Smullen, will be onboard Time Test for Roger Charlton.

Smullen has an agreement in place to ride for Prince Khalid Abdullah when not required by Dermot Weld.

Time Test wouldn't want much more rain at the track, which was described as soft yesterday, but despite unfavourable conditions, Charlton has supplemented Countermeasure into the field suggesting that he would be employed for pacemaking duties.

"I am keen to run if we can," said Charlton. "If it is good to soft so be it. We have put a pacemaker in as well.

"There is nothing else for him to run in so the chances are he will turn up."

Also supplemented for the race yesterday was the Charlie Appleby-trained Hawkbill. The winner of the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot earlier this month is now on a sequence of five without defeat but this will be his first assignment at Group One level.

Course-and-distance winner My Dream Boat, one of the winners that contributed to a memorable week for Clive Cox and Adam Kirby at Royal Ascot, is the current second favourite.

My Dream Boat caused a 16/1 surprise to beat Aidan O'Brien's filly Found to win the Prince Of Wales's Stakes but is now just 3/1 to add another Group One victory to his name this weekend.

Having won on easy ground at Ascot, coniditions are set to suit My Dream Boat and probably won't inconvience The Gurkha should he line up.

Andrew Cooper, clerk of the course at Sandown, said: "It's due to be unsettled midweek, for the next 48 hours we are forecast at least two, possibly three bands of rain where we could get between 10-20mm.

"It is then due to dry up Friday into Saturday but by then we could be back to predominantly soft ground."

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