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Hamilton hopes Forest Ranger can find way to win Coral-Eclipse

5 Jul 2018

Jockey relishing opportunity to ride "gent of a horse" in Sandown showpiece.

Hamilton and Forest Ranger have combined for two pattern wins this year. Picture: 

Tony Hamilton is hoping the Richard Fahey-trained Forest Ranger can upstage Classic winners Masar and Saxon Warrior in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown (2.10pmon Saturday and provide him with the biggest success of his career.

 The Group 1 summer showpiece, which forms part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series, has drawn a final field of eight. It carries prize money of £790,625 and will be the richest race ever run at the Esher racecourse.

Hamilton has enjoyed many big winners for Fahey during their 17-year association but none of them have been at the highest level and he will be riding in the mile-and-a-quarter contest for the first time.

The 34-year-old said: “Forest Ranger has got to improve on what he’s done but he seems on an upward curve and hopefully he will give a good account of himself. It’s going to be a tough race, and you’d be hopeful rather than confident, but it’s great to be involved.”

Forest Ranger was gelded at the end of last season and has shown improved for in his two races this campaign. He won the Group 3 bet365 Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket on his reappearance in April and was a commanding winner of the Group 2 Homeserve Huxley Stakes at Chester on his latest start.

“Chester was definitely a personal best for him,” Hamilton said. “It was the first time he’s quickened like that and I thought the way he went away from the field was most impressive.

I don’t know whether the gelding operation has had anything to with his improvement, but I doubt it. He’s a gent of a horse and no different than when he was a colt – I’d say it is more that he has just grown into his body.

“He’s a huge horse – the biggest in the yard – and is maturing. He’s just getting better with age and I think he’ll keep getting better.”

Forest Ranger’s record relays that he goes well fresh and he has had a two-month break since his Chester win. However, Hamilton has sat on him plenty in the interim.

“I ride him in all his work. He doesn’t do a lot at home and you just go by his wellbeing and demeanour,” he said. “If you are working him with a 60 or 70-rated horse he will just go with it, but if you take him with a nice horse he’d go with that too. They are the ones you want – those who don’t do a lot at home but sprout wings when they get to the track.”

The weight for age scale means Forest Ranger has to concede at least 10lb to the three-year-olds in the line-up. “I have no strong opinion on it [the scale] but it’s a lot of weight and could prove costly. We’ll just have  to see,” Hamilton said.

Charlie Appleby is delighted with the wellbeing of Masar ahead of the colt attempting to become only the fifth Derby winner in the past 50 years to win the Eclipse in the same season. The other quartet have been Mill Reef (1971), Nashwan (1989), Sea The Stars (2009) and Golden Horn (2015).

The Godolphin-owned chestnut, supplemented to run on Monday at a cost of £50,000 after satisfying his connections in a dawn workout at Newmarket’s July Course on Saturday, created history at Epsom last month when he became the first Derby winner to race in four different countries – England, France, America and Dubai – en route to scooping the premier Classic.

Masar will already be having his fifth run of the season but his Newmarket-based trainer believes he has never been better. “We do tend to look after and protect them (the horses) but he’s thriving on his racing,” he said. “However he runs on Saturday, he looks if not better now than before the Derby. Physically, he’s doing well and he’s becoming a very professional sportsman.

“It doesn’t phase me dropping back to ten furlongs and the sounder the surface the better. His stride length is amazing,” Appleby said. As for future targets, he added: “We will learn a lot more on the back of going to the Eclipse.”

Masar will be joined in the line-up by his stablemate, Hawkbill, who himself won the Eclipse two years ago after being supplemented. He is seeking to become the sixth two-time winner of the race – the latest of them being Halling (1995-96).

The Three Lions of England play their World Cup quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday afternoon (Sandown will be providing a Football Zone for racegoers who want to watch the match) and coincidence backers will no doubt be drawn to Roaring Lion.

John Gosden, his trainer, is clearly a believer in the dictum of “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” because the Qatar Racing-owned grey has already run against Masar three times this term and finished behind him on each occasion – including at Epsom last month when he was third in the Derby.

However, this will be the first time the pair have met over a mile and a quarter; the distance which Roaring Lion excelled at when a runaway winner of the Dante at York in May.

Aidan O’Brien is one short of a record-equalling six Eclipse winners, having previously struck with Giant’s Causeway (2000), Hawk Wing (2002), Oratorio (2005), Mount Nelson (2008) and So You Think (2011). This time, he is triple-handed with Saxon Warrior, Happily and Cliffs Of Moher all on duty for him.

Saxon Warrior won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May and has since finished fourth in the Investec Derby and, last Saturday, a close third in the Irish equivalent.

Happily, third in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas,will attempt to become the first three-year-old filly to win the Eclipse. The last to attempt to pull it off was the German-trained Tryphosa, who trailed home last in the 1995 renewal. Pebbles (1985) and Kooyonga (1992) have been the only fillies to win the race, but they were successful as four-year-olds.

Cliffs Of Moher was runner-up in the Investec Derby last year and was fourth in a dramatic running of the Eclipse 12 months ago, when sent off favourite. He finished third to Crystal Ocean in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest start.

The field is completed by the Richard Hannon-trained Raymond Tusk. He was unraced as a two-year-old but looked an exciting prospect when winning on his debut in a mile maiden at Newbury in April. He has since been beaten in a useful minor event at Newmarket.