Coral Challenge Preview: Grass Is Greener On The Other Side

The majority of racegoers heading to Sandown on Saturday will be doing so for one reason and one reason only – to see the return of John Gosden’s dual Arc heroine Enable.

A seven-time Group 1 winner, overall, she is the headline act amongst 13 entries for the first big clash of the generations in the Coral-Eclipse, and it will be a surprise if she can't extend her winning sequence on all known form, with her rivals all having at least 6 lb to find on weight-adjusted ratings.

Her superiority is also reflected in a rather one-sided market at this stage, and with the potential for the race to cut up tempering enthusiasm for an each-way bet on one at bigger odds, the suggestion is to look elsewhere for the sake of our Saturday preview, with the Coral Challenge appealing as a far more open betting heat.

LUSH LIFE winning the Veolia Handicap Stakes in Ascot, United Kingdom.
LUSH LIFE winning the Veolia Handicap Stakes in Ascot, United Kingdom. Picture: (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The favourite at the time of writing is the Richard Hannon-trained Ouzo. Taking on his elders for the first time, he progressed again to complete a hat-trick with his most complete performance yet at Newmarket last week, quickening to lead over a furlong out and just kept up to his work thereafter to win readily by two and a half lengths.

Admittedly, this represents comfortably the toughest task of his short career to date, stepping up markedly in grade from a 7 lb higher mark, but the style of his latest win suggested that he may not have finished improving yet, and he is not one to take lightly if taking up this engagement (also entered in the seven-furlong handicap for three-year-olds later on the card).

History Writer  also features prominently in the betting on the back of a dominant victory over C&D last month. That represented a career best effort, and he looks sure to give another good account at a venue that clearly suits him well (two wins and two thirds from five starts at Sandown), for all that a 6 lb higher mark will demand further improvement.

Several of those who finished behind History Writer on that occasion could reoppose here, notably the third Alternative Fact  and fourth Greenside . The former, who was beaten two and a half lengths, meets the winner on 5 lb better terms and remains potentially well treated judged on the pick of his form, including the useful effort he produced to finish fifth (beaten just one and three quarter lengths from a BHA mark of 98) at this meeting 12 months ago.

That career-best performance came over ten furlongs, though, and it was noticeable that he lacked a change of gear at a crucial stage last time, with everything having fallen perfectly for him to that point – the suspicion is that he may prove vulnerable to a speedier sort again here.

A C&D winner in June 2017, Greenside shaped better than the bare result when sixth in this race on his next start, meeting trouble in-running in the straight and ultimately never nearer than the two and three quarter lengths he was beaten at this finish.

Henry Candy's charge missed the majority of last season, but he retains all his ability on the evidence of his four starts so far this term, taking advantage of a drop in the weights with a ready success at Windsor in May. The standard-setter on weight-adjusted ratings, he remains 5 lb lower than when contesting this race two years ago, and, granted a bit more luck than he enjoyed on that occasion, it would be no surprise to see him go close here.

The form of last year's renewal is represented by Escobar and Via Serendipity, who finished second and third, respectively, behind Tigre du Terre. The former is 4 lb lower this time round, but that is for good reason – he is yet to fire in three starts this season and needs to be revived by a break since again finishing down the field at York in May.

Via Serendipity, on the other hand, arrives here in better form than ever, having produced a career best to take apart a Chelmsford handicap by five lengths last time, helped by having the run of things but dominant all the same. It is unlikely that things will pan out quite so favourably for him here, but a clear form case can be made for him if arriving in the same mood, effectively only 2 lb higher from his lower turf mark and with the booking of Kerrin McEvoy catching the eye.

Another contest that could prove key here is the C&D handicap that Lush Life won back in May, with History Writer just a neck and a head behind in third. The latter has obviously given the form a boost since, and with the horse who split them, War Glory, also amongst the winners in the interim, there are certainly grounds to suggest that Lush Life is worth another chance after her disappointing showing at Newcastle last time.

Indeed, she had proved generally progressive prior to that and was arguably value for more than the official winning margin when recording her C&D win, with Jamie Spencer at no point having to resort to the whip. She certainly showed enough to suggest that a 3 lb higher mark won't prove beyond her another day, and it would be no surprise if she had even more to offer in this big-field scenario, given her strong-travelling running style.

Qaroun  is shorter than the likes of Greenside and Lush Life  in the betting, but he has much more to find on ratings and makes little at current odds, for all that it is hard to knock his consistent profile for powerful connections – he is yet to finish out of the three in four 2019 starts, and ran as well as he ever has when finding only the unexposed Military Law too strong at Newcastle last week.

Others to note include Breden and Mojito . The latter has a 637-day absence to overcome, but he had looked a potential pattern-performer in the making as a three-year-old (wins included a handicap at this meeting), and a BHA mark of 101 appeals as being workable if retaining all his ability, while Breden proved better than ever at the age of nine to win a competitive heat at Newbury last time, digging deep to get the verdict by a head.

A credit to his connections, he seemingly doesn't know how to run a bad race and shouldn't be underestimated from only 2 lb higher, whenever we see him next (also entered at Sandown on Friday).


Ouzo is the one horse in this race with a 'p' attached to his rating, denoting that he remains open to more improvement, and he must be on the shortlist in his four-timer bid, having created a deep impression when recording his latest win at Newmarket.

Richard Hannon's charge has been well found in the market, though, and the recommendation at this stage is to side with a pair at slightly bigger odds instead. Greenside and Lush Life both bring winning form over C&D to the table, and while the former has previous in this race from a lower mark, Lush Life appeals as just the sort to thrive in this more competitive environment, with the way this will be run likely to see them both coming on strongly at the finish.


Back Greenside at 8/1 in Saturday's Coral Challenge at Sandown

Back Lush Life at 10/1 in Saturday's Coral Challenge at Sandown