Racing: Bonfire out to recapture winning form in Eclipse

Bonfire bids to put his Derby nightmare behind him as he drops back in trip for the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown today.

The Andrew Balding-trained three-year-old was sent off second-favourite for the premier Classic after an impressive victory in the Dante Stakes, but failed to handle the famous cambers on the Downs and eventually finished a well-beaten sixth.

Returned to the shorter ten-furlong trip and more conventional track, connections are hoping he can top his older 
rivals in the Group 1 feature.

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“He’s in good form. He worked very well last weekend and seems in good shape since the Derby,” said Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. “You could see at Epsom that he just wasn’t handling the track. Jimmy [Fortune, jockey]said he knew he was in trouble as he came down the first little bit of the descent and he was all at sea around Tattenham Corner We all consulted and decided we wanted to drop back to his winning Dante trip, and this just seemed like the right race all round for him.

“You get a good weight-
for-age allowance in this race and should the ground turn a little testing, that could well come into play.”

Godolphin’s supplementary entry, Farhh, is likely to go off favourite, with rain at the track on Friday enhancing the chance of Saeed bin Suroor’s charge.

The four-year-old finished third on his Group 1 debut in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, but Godolphin racing manger Simon Crisford is not reading too much into that performance. “Royal Ascot was an interesting run. He might have been a bit flattered. He looked unlucky, he missed the break and met trouble in running. I can’t help feeling he got sucked into it and was passing tired horses,” he told Racing UK.

“He lacks the experience of some of these other horses. Nathaniel won the King George last year and you have to put Cityscape into the picture. He [Cityscape] was brilliant when he won in Dubai and just because he had a bad trip in Hong Kong he is probably the forgotten horse in the race. Farhh has a lot to do. I do think it is a tall order for him.”

Godolphin have an enviable second string in Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso. The five-year-old has not run since his Meydan triumph in March and Crisford believes he could need his first start in nearly 100 days.

He said: “He’s going to be a little bit rusty as we have our eye on the second half of the season and the big international races later in the season. I can’t say he will run to his BHA mark in the Eclipse.”

John Gosden has warned he will only run last year’s King George winner Nathaniel if he is happy with the ground. The four-year-old will be making his first start since last year’s Champion Stakes if he takes his chance. “For a lot of these older horses, the better races are now towards the end of the year. There’s no point starting too soon in the spring,” he told At The Races.