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Appleby hoping Hawkbill can hit his Eclipse rivals for Six

30 Jun 2016

Godolphin-owned colt has won his past five races

Hawkbill Eclipse

Hawkbill running out an impressive winner of the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. Image courtesy of Racingfotos.com

Charlie Appleby is relishing pitching Hawkbill into Group 1 company in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park on Saturday.

The midsummer showpiece, traditionally the first clash of the generations at the highest level over a mile or more, forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series and has attracted a final field of seven.

Following an inauspicious start to his career, when he finished tailed off last at Newbury after almost refusing to start, Hawkbill has thrived and he extended his winning sequence to five with a decisive success in the Group Three Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot this month.

Not originally entered for the Eclipse, the Godolphin-owned three-year-old colt was among two £30,000 supplementary entries on Monday, boosting overall prize money to £525,000 and making it the richest race ever run at the track.“We felt he felt deserved to be in the line-up,” Appleby said. “He’s done nothing but please us this season, has come out of Ascot really well and is now proven on soft ground. His next step is taking on the older horses and we are looking forward to it.

“He’s very well balanced, so I feel Sandown won’t inconvenience him and he’s ridden close to the pace, which is where you generally need to be there.”Hawkbill has a tendency to get warm before his races and can be quite keen once the gates open – but neither trait have held him back.

“He’s like that at home and if he didn’t get warm pre-race I’d be concerned because that is his character and it has become normal for him,” Appleby said. “Mentally, he seems to be getting better with each race.

“Can he go higher up the ladder? That is what we are hoping to find out. I feel in time stepping up in trip we will see a little bit more improvement.”

The other supplementary entry for the mile and a quarter feature is the Roger Charlton-trained Countermeasure, who will be deployed as a pacemaker for stablemate Time Test, who won the Tercentenary Stakes last season and began this term with a taking last-to-first victory in the BetVictor Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown in May.

That pair are owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, whose first success in the Eclipse was with Dancing Brave 30 years ago.

“Everybody likes to see a nice sensible gallop in this calibre of race, you don’t want a messy contest where everyone is watching one another and you end up with hard-luck stories,” Appleby said. “It would be nice if there is a decent pace to take a lead from but, worst-case scenario, we will be quite happy to make our own gallop.”

On official ratings, there is little to choose between My Dream Boat (122), Time Test (121) and The Gurkha (120).

The Clive Cox-trained My Dream Boat, well beaten in a handicap at Newmarket off a mark of 92 this time last year, confirmed himself one of the most improved horses in training with a neck defeat of Found in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot this month – a race Time Test missed because of the softish ground.

The Gurkha was also in action at the royal meeting, chasing home Galileo Gold, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner, in the St James’s Palace Stakes, having previously been a runaway winner of the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Deauville.

The Galileo colt, who will be running beyond a mile for the first time, seeks to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a record-equalling sixth Eclipse success. Alec Taylor Jr is the only trainer to have previously saddled six victors, although his haul, achieved between 1909 and 1923, included a dual winner and a dead-heat. O’Brien will also be represented by Bravery, winner of one of his six starts

The field is completed by Sandown specialist Western Hymn, whose form at the track reads 111232. Third to Golden Horn in last year’s Eclipse, he has finished behind My Dream Boat and Time Test in races at the course this season, albeit not being beaten far on either occasion.