Global Weekly Preview - 30.06.16
Godolphin's rapid improver Hawkbill is ready for the biggest challenge of his brief career when he faces six rivals in Saturday's G1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park (UK), the feature of an interesting weekend of racing in Europe.
The three-year-old chalked up his fifth consecutive win when landing the G3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot - but now he is poised for the quantum leap to the highest level.
Charlie Appleby, his trainer, feels that the timing of the race in the calendar, plus unseasonal ground conditions, more than justify the decision to supplement the Godolphin colt.
"Hawkbill has taken great benefit from his win in the Tercentenary and has come on for his win, both mentally and physically. He is putting together a consistent record and is a progressive horse," Appleby said.
"Obviously, the Eclipse is another step up in grade, but I feel he is a horse that deserves to take his chance at this level, and it looks like he will get conditions to suit," he added.
Those close to top horses are always reluctant to draw comparisons, for obvious reasons. But an observer can - yes, your correspondent is poised to do it - and I find it fascinating that Hawkbill progressed from maiden class to winning handicaps off marks of 81 and 89, prior to winning a Listed contest and a G3.
In emerging from handicap ranks, he has a vaguely similar profile to Halling, who in 1995 became Godolphin's first winner of the Eclipse.
After taking his maiden, Halling won handicaps off 75 and 88, before his memorable G2 Cambridgeshire triumph off 93. Then, following three runs in Dubai, he won the first of his two Coral-Eclipses.
The big difference to Hawkbill is that Halling was a four-year-old. There have been six three-year-old winners of the race in the past two decades.
The Gurkha won the G1 French 2,000 Guineas in brilliant style, and then looked a little unlucky in the G1 St James's Palace Stakes, My Dream Boat was a worthy winner of the G1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes but had a hard run, and Time Test, the G3 Brigadier Gerard winner, prefers top of the ground. It is an intriguing contest.
Sunday's G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in Paris sees Godolphin's Manatee take his chance against the progressive and prolific Vazirabad, plus Erupt, who seeks to put behind him a poor run in the G1 Prix d'Ispahan, and One Foot In Heaven.
Trainer Andre Fabre said: "Manatee comes into the race in good form, although he has a bit to find with some of his rivals."