Barney Roy read to rumble

Jockey James Doyle celebrates winning the St James's Palace Stakes on Barney Roy

Richard Hannon is confident the step up in trip will hold no fears for Barney Roy in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday.

The Excelebration colt has won three of his four starts to date, but has yet to venture further than a mile.

He was narrowly denied Classic glory by Churchill in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, but reversed that form when landing the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot almost three weeks ago.

The Godolphin-owned youngster tests his powers over a mile and a quarter for the first time in this weekend's feature event and Hannon is hopeful he will not be beaten for a lack of stamina.

"He's been in great form since Ascot. He came out of the race very well and very fresh," said the trainer.

"He did a piece of work on Tuesday and Sean (Levey) said he felt as good as he's ever felt. He's relaxed and we're very pleased with him.

"A mile and a quarter looks to be well within his compass, but you don't know that until you've been there.

"You're also taking on older horses and the mile and a quarter round Sandown is not an easy mile and a quarter. He's going to have to get it well. He has always run to the line in his races which makes you think he would get the trip, and he gets a 10lb pull off the older horses.

"He's already a special horse to us. It's a very difficult task, but we've been very pleased with him, we think he's a very good horse and hopefully he'll show that on Saturday."

The Sandown showpiece traditionally provides three-year-olds with their first opportunity to take on their elders at the highest level.

The betting suggests this year's renewal could be dominated by the Classic generation, with Barney Roy joined at the head of the market by the Aidan O'Brien-trained Cliffs Of Moher and Martyn Meade's stable star Eminent.

O'Brien has saddled four previous winners of the Eclipse and feels his latest big-race candidate will benefit from a drop in distance after filling the runner-up spot in the Epsom Derby behind now-retired stablemate Wings Of Eagles.

"We've been very happy with him since Epsom," said the Ballydoyle handler.

"It was a mile and a quarter when he won at Chester (Dee Stakes) and then we went to the mile and a half at Epsom.

"Maybe the last 50 yards caught him between fitness and maybe getting the trip.

"We're looking forward to seeing him run over a mile and a quarter."

O'Brien also saddles possible pacemaker Taj Mahal.

Meade feels it is Eminent's time to shine.

The son of Frankel was sixth in the 2000 Guineas and finished on the heels of Cliffs Of Moher when fourth in the Derby.

Meade said: "Certainly I think Sandown will suit him very well. He's only run at Newmarket and Epsom and I think Sandown and a stiff mile and a quarter will help him.

"We think this is the right race for our horse. You can analyse it until you are blue in the face about the form and the going. It's a test, but we had to do what we have done with him.

"We had to run in the Guineas, even though it didn't prove a great success, and we really had to run in the Derby where we were a bit unlucky.

"It sounds a terrible sob story, but this has to be the time for him. He has had that experience now.

"I was very happy with how he came out of Epsom. The Derby can be very hard on horses and can sometimes set them back, but he's raring to go."

The Sefton Lodge handler interestingly sees Barney Roy as a bigger danger to Eminent than Cliffs Of Moher.

He added: "How far were we off Cliffs Of Moher at Epsom on the basis that we were squeezed out by him? What were we, a length off him? We can change that.

"They were up there all the time and they had the run of the race. We were in the pack all the way round and we were squeezed twice on the run-in.

"I think Barney Roy is a smashing horse. The way he won at Ascot was fantastic.

"It is pretty quick after that, but Richard Hannon knows what he is doing and he wouldn't be running him if he wasn't in top form. That's our big danger.

"In his demeanour Eminent is a happy horse and if all goes according to plan, he should sparkle."

Roger Charlton's Decorated Knight and Ulysses from Sir Michael Stoute's yard renew rivalries after finishing second and third respectively in the Prince of Wales's Stakes last month.

Decorated Knight is already a dual Group One winner having landed the Jebel Hatta in Dubai and the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and bids for the hat-trick in the latest leg of the Qipco British Champions Series.

Charlton said: "Every time Decorated Knight has run, he has produced a better performance. It was no disgrace to be beaten by Highland Reel (at Ascot).

"He's a tough, sound, genuine racehorse suited by fast ground and a mile and a quarter. We've no need to look beyond that distance for him.

"He has come out of his run at Royal Ascot in very good shape, especially considering how hot it was. He got very sweaty that day, but that's just him and it does not affect his performance."

The nine-strong field is completed by Sylvester Kirk's Salouen and David Simcock's pair of Desert Encounter and Lightning Spear.

Simcock is keeping his fingers crossed Lightning Spear can show his true colours after a disappointing effort in the Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting.

He said: "Lightning Spear seems in good order, we are just trying something different.

"I think he was very disappointing at Ascot, but we've got our own reasons.

"We've been planning to try a mile and a quarter at some point and this seems as good as a time as any.

"Desert Encounter is a progressive horse and is going the right way. Whether the step back to a mile and a quarter is exactly what he wants, I don't know.

"He is in good shape and he will belie his odds."


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