Jim Crowley had the last laugh as he gained the biggest win of his career aboard Ulysses in a dramatic Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday.
The champion jockey, dumped by connections of Eminent at the start of the week, squeezed home by a nose on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained four-year-old from Barney Roy.The pair drew clear of Desert Encounter, smuggled into third at 50-1 by Sean Levey.
Crowley is a class act who resisted any gestures or gloating, although in fairness the finish was so tight that he had no time for one of those finger-on-the-lips jobs that riders have sometimes employed.
As he celebrated victory on the 8-1 chance, three of his colleagues found themselves in trouble with the stewards after a rough renewal and Stoute was fined £1,000 because Ulysses entered the parade ring after the signal to mount had been given.
Eminent's future conduct might also be monitored after he tried to bite a rival in the latter stages.
"Things happen in life for a reason," Crowley said. "You have to respect the decision and I don't think I did too much wrong (on Eminent), but it has worked out in my favour today.
"This has to be the No 1 [in terms of victories] for me. I’ve had Group One winners at Ascot but this the Eclipse is one of the big ones that everyone wants to win.
“If the horses are good enough they will win. I don’t feel any pressure from my job [as Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider] and they don’t put you under pressure. The only pressure is that which you put yourself under to ride big winners because that is what you want. It’s great to be able to do it today.”
The race was run in sweltering conditions and temperatures reached boiling point at the first bend when there was something of a collector’s item: a Coolmore own goal.
Derby-winning jockey Padraig Beggy, pacemaking aboard Taj Mahal for Cliffs Of Moher, cut up Decorated Knight and the interference suffered by the latter had a knock-on effect with Cliffs Of Moher, the 2-1 favourite, caught up in the trouble and shuffled back.
The Derby runner-up never looked like winning from then on but did plug on into fourth.
Beggy was given an eight-day ban and Silvestre De Sousa, chosen as the “ideal” replacement for Eminent, also found himself in trouble for careless riding later on that led to him receiving a two-day ban.
As if that were not enough, James Doyle, the rider of Barney Roy, used his whip above the permitted level and was referred to the Head Office of the British Horseracing Authority.
His misdemeanour warranted a suspension of between two and six days, but he can expect much more under the totting up procedure as this was his fifth such suspension within the previous six months.
For what it is worth, given the headlines about the whip this week, I didn't see anyone storm out of the racecourse in disgust.
Doyle can expect a hefty punishment, which may rule him out of the King George meeting or Glorious Goodwood - perhaps both.
With regard to the initial incident, in which Cliffs Of Moher suffered, Crowley said with a broad smile: “Yeah, I was watching all that. I was to the back of it, to the left, thinking I was a lucky boy not to be involved.”
Were there words exchanged? “A couple,” he said, without expanding.
He continued: “Coming to the furlong marker I thought I was going to win nicely but the other horse fought back. When it’s a tight photo like that it can go either way.”
It was unclear which of the front two had prevailed as they went past the post in a blur in front of the 14,500 racegoers and Stoute, having suffered a rare blank at Royal Ascot when he saddled four beaten favourites, must have feared the worst.
“I didn’t have a great view and, in any case, it’s a notoriously tricky angle here,” he said before delighting at the judge’s verdict.
Remarkably, it was his first Group One success in Europe with a colt (or older male horse) since Workforce won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2010.
The Niarchos family, who own Ulysses, will be delighted he has snapped that barren run because Ulysses was born to be a stallion - being out of a Derby winner (Galileo) by an Oaks winner (Light Shift).
“From the furlong marker I thought he was also holding him - he’s a very consistent, game and admirable horse,” Stoute said. “He’s only had one blip and that was in the Derby when he got turned over twice. He’s never run a bad race.”
Stoute asked what the score at Lord's was and posed for selfies with racegoers, but went back into his shell when asked where Ulysses would run next.
The 72-year-old said he would pause before deciding. The colt is trading between 4-1 and 8-1 (BetVictor) for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the end of the month and his handler does not discount him returning to a mile and a half at some stage.
Next month’s Juddmonte International may be a better fit and he is a general 6-1 for that York feature.
"Let's go home and see how he is in 10 days' time,” Stoute said. “I wouldn't rule out going back up to a mile and a half as he won the Gordon Stakes last year and ran a big race at Santa Anita (fourth in Breeders' Cup Turf).
"He's not as keen this year and settles better, so he'll get a mile and a half."
Barney Roy, the St James's Palace Stakes winner, was backed down to 9-4 and got every inch of the longer trip to give Richard Hannon, his trainer, plenty of options.
Hannon said: "He is good horse and he is getting better. We are delighted, he has run a super race. He was just shade unlucky. I'm very proud of him and the team, it was a good effort. He is a brave horse and he is only a baby.
"It was just bad luck. I don't normally believe in luck, but I do now. He will be a very good middle-distance horse for this year and next year. He is in a lot of good races.
"He is still quite inexperienced, but he has run a super race all things considered. He has come back from Ascot - he had a hard race there but he has still come out and run his race here."
James Doyle, his jockey, added: "Ulysses jumped on us quick and I thought we were definitely beat and then he's rallied back in the last 50 yards.
"In another stride I think we'd have got there, but full credit to him, he's run a stormer."
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