The Eclipse at Sandown always represents a fascinating clash between classic generation milers looking to test the upper limits of their stamina and older, seasoned mile-and-a-quarter merchants. A weight-for age allowance of 10lbs for the three-year-olds suggests that were one of them to be of the top drawer over 1m2f they would surely have an excellent chance of stealing a march on their more aged foes.
Such a hefty pull in weight between classic generation representatives and those of an older vintage would lead one to suspect that the recent winners’ list was dotted with three-year-old victors, but that’s far from the case, with just two striking during the past decade.
However, during the three runnings completed since the great Sea The Stars last scored for the three-year-olds just two of that age group have competed, so it’s not as if they have been trying and failing in their droves.
More positively it suggests that any leading classic generation members that make it to the start line are likely to be thought capable of making an impact.
So it’s perhaps significant that Aidan O’Brien’s Mars forms part of the Ballydoyle maestro’s three-pronged attack on this year’s prize along with Declaration Of War and Camelot.
O’Brien previously had fellow three-year-olds Magician and Battle Of Marengo (previously unbeaten over 1m2f) in the race, but both were absent at the five-day declaration stage.
With Camelot far from convincing in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes behind the re-opposing Al Kazeem and Mukhadram last time, Mars’ entry seems a fair vote of confidence in the lightly-raced son of Galileo.
Brought along with saintly patience since winning a Dundalk maiden last term, Mars was an ante-post favourite for the Derby before he’d seen a racecourse. He started off 2013 with a sixth in the English Guineas under a gentle ride from Seamie Heffernan, before meeting all kinds of trouble in running to occupy the same position in the Derby at Epsom.
His latest start – in the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting – saw him step up a level on those runs, finishing just two-and-three-quarter-lengths behind the leading pair as Dawn Approach and Toronado flashed past the post together.
Having finished eight-and-three-quarter-lengths behind the former at Newmarket he’s clearly improving as the campaign wears on.
That Ascot contest was just his fourth start and his potential for improvement is tantalising. What’s more, being sired by dual Derby-winner Galileo out of a mare by Danehill – previously a sire of top 1m2f performers like Duke of Marmalade for the yard – the step up in trip here is sure to suit.
Coming as it does on the back of a highly encouraging Group 1 run over 1m Mars looks to have an excellent chance in receipt of 10lbs from all comers, especially given his trainer has taken three of the last eight renewals.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.