sport

Hill edging closer to Eclipse

Investec Derby runner-up Kingston Hill has come in for support with the sponsors ahead of Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, with trainer Roger Varian stating he is "keen" to run his stable star.

An 11th hour defector from last weekend's Irish Derby, Kingston Hill is now 7-1 from 10-1 with Coral despite there still being a slight question mark over his participation.

Rain is forecast overnight on Friday and while Varian is not looking for a mudbath, he would be loath to risk his Racing Post Trophy winner on ground with any jar.

"We're very keen to run on Saturday if we possibly can, we're not looking for soft ground, we understand we're in the summer time - he doesn't have to have it soft, but we're just looking for safe, galloping ground," Varian told At The Races.

"If it was too firm that might put our participation in doubt. Looking at the forecast there might be a bit of weather moving in Friday night/Saturday morning, how much that will bring I'm not sure but if it's enough to make it safe, galloping ground that would give us every chance to run.

"The plan is to declare him in the morning."

Should the Eclipse be ruled out, Kingston Hill will be on his travels once more, this time to France for the Grand Prix de Paris, seen by many as the new French Derby after the Prix du Jockey Club changed its distance to 10 furlongs.

"Paris looks a logical alternative, it's for three-year-olds over a mile and a half, but I hope we get the chance to run on Saturday," said Varian.

"You get a bit fed up looking at weather forecasts as one day it throws you one way and another it throws you the other. In the end patience is the key. We've got a smart horse on our hands and we'll do the right thing by him."

The sponsors would expect to see more money for Kingston Hill if the rain arrives, while favourite The Fugue would be a likely drifter.

"If conditions were deemed suitable for Kingston Hill to take his chance on Saturday, his price would shorten further following his excellent second place behind Australia at Epsom, while in those circumstances The Fugue would almost certainly be bigger than her current odds," said spokesman David Stevens.

Current second-favourite is Richard Hannon's QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder.

While no match for Kingman at Ascot, the step up in trip and less foreceful tactics might see him in an even better light, particularly with some juice in the ground.

"You can't beat a soft lead in any race and at Ascot my lad got that, we quickened first and Kingman went by me while I was quickening which is most unusual," said Night Of Thunder's jockey Richard Hughes on Racing UK.

"We were very disappointed after Newbury (when beaten by Kingman in the Greenham), we couldn't believe he got beaten, and that forced me to ride Toormore in the Guineas but I wasn't surprised when he won.

"At the end of last year I was hoping he'd stay a mile but when I rode him in the spring I had no doubts that he'd stay a mile.

"There's no reason why he won't get the trip, that's the least of out worries at the moment. Ideally I'd like good or slow ground because at Ascot I just felt in the last 100 yards he wasn't striding out on that quick ground.

"We're under no illusions as to how good she (The Fugue) is and overnight rain or rain on the day will be a help. I've ridden her and she doesn't like it soft.

"It's the three-year-olds taking on the older horses. We know they're pretty good this year and how good we'll find out on Saturday."

Another wanting rain is Andrew Balding for his runner, Tullius.

Tullius has been a revelation this season since he returned from injury with a series of very smart performances including when winning the Group Two bet365 Mile at Sandown in the spring.

He has since finished second in the Lockinge at Newbury and fourth in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

"He needs a bit of rain but we'd like to run as we'd like to see how he acts over a mile and a quarter," said Balding. "He'd want good ground at least. I think they are due some rain on Friday so I imagine we'll declare him and make a decision on the day."

: 7/4 The Fugue, 11/4 Night Of Thunder, 4/1 Verrazano, 6-1 War Command, 8/1 Kingston Hill, 10/1 True Story, 11/1 Mukhadram, 20/1 Trading Leather, 20/1 Tullius, 20/1 Hillstar, 66/1 Somewhat, 150/1 Zambucca