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The Coral-Eclipse: History, stats, trends and replays of the past dozen renewals

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Sun 5 Jul 2020

When and where?: 3.35pm Sandown, July 5. Live in HD on Racing TV, Sky Channel 426 or on racingtv.com.

What Grade?: Group One. Which Course?: Round Course.

What Distance?: 1m 1f 209y What Prize-money?: £250,000, with a first prize of £141,775

Ages: this year restricted to four-year-olds and upwards.

Weights & Allowances: Four-year-old + colts & geldings 9st 7lb; fillies & mares 9st 4lb. Usually, three-year-old colts and geldings would carry 8st 11lb; fillies 8st 8lb.

RACE HISTORY:

Historian Tim Cox on Eclipse and the legacy the great horse left behind

Established in 1886, it is named after Eclipse, the legendary 18th-century racehorse. It is estimated that he features in the pedigrees of 95 per cent of all thoroughbreds who walk the earth.

The inaugural running was won by Bendigo and at that time, with a prize fund of £10,000, it was Britain's richest race. The prize was donated by Leopold de Rothschild at the request of General Owen Williams, a co-founder of Sandown Park.

It is the first occasion where the Classic generation and older horses can meet over middle distances.

The Eclipse has been contested by top-quality fields from its inception and its roll of honour includes some of the sport’s greatest names.

Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Wollow, Sadler’s Wells, Pebbles, Dancing Brave, Mtoto, Nashwan, Halling, Giant’s Causeway, Hawk Wing, Sea The Stars and Golden Horn have been among the memorable winners since 1970.

Joe Mercer tells Nick Lightfoot about Brigadier Gerard's Eclipse triumph

TRENDS AND STATISTICS:

Age

Most of the usual trends go out of the window for this year with the Classic generation barred from running after a juggle of the racing programme caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They would have had their work cut out given the calibre of the older horses engaged.

For what it's worth, in the past 52 years, 34 of the winners have been aged four or more (but no older than five) although that is misleading because, numerically, their representation has been stronger.

Since 1996, there have been 184 runners in the Eclipse - and only 59 have been three-year-olds. Last year, the only three-year-old in a field of eight was Telecaster, andhe trailed home seventh.

There will be two six-year-olds in action on Sunday - Enable and Deirdre - but history is against them. The only horse of that age to have won was Bendigo in 1886, the year the race was first run.

Fillies and mares:

It has been a case of ladies first in the Eclipse only three times. Pebbles (1985) and Kooyonga (1992) won at the age of four, while Enable delivered 12 months ago at the age of five from Magical - the first time the girls had enjoyed a one-two.

Enable will attempt to become the first female to win the Eclipse twice. Deirdre and Magic Wand will also fly the flag for the mares.

Enable will seek to win a second Eclipse on Sunday

Overall, not many fillies and mares have contested the Eclipse in the past 40 years but the vanquished include many household names.

Triptych, Indian Skimmer (twice), In The Groove, Islington, Ouija Board, Dar Re Mi, Snow Fairy and The Fugue (twice) have been among the vanquished in that time.

Trainers:

Sir Michael Stoute has saddled the winner a record six times and will be represented by Regal Reality, who was third last year.

Aidan O’Brien, who has five possibles to juggle, needs one more to match him but has been out of luck since So You Think prevailed in 2011. He has had the runner-up four times since then, while John Gosden has been able to celebrate four triumphs in the same period.

Godolphin have owned five winners and have a strong candidate in Ghaiyyath.

Odds-on favourites:

Mixed fortunes for those who get stuck into short-priced favourites with Erhaab (1994), Bosra Sham (1997), Motivator (2005), Authorized (2007) and The Gurkha (2016) all defeated at 4-6 or shorter.

However, Golden Horn, So You Think, Sea The Stars, Hawk Wing and Enable have justified cramped odds since 2002.

Less can be more:

Roaring Lion had already run four races before winning last year but in the previous 15 years no horse had run more than three times that season en route to winning.

Nathaniel won on his seasonal reappearance in 2012 and his daughter, Enable, emulated him last year. She attempts to repeat the trick and is the only horse in this year's field not to have run this year.

 Roaring Lion returns in 2018 (Focusonracing)
Roaring Lion returns in 2018 (Focusonracing)

Class counts:

Eleven of the past 14 winners had an official rating of 119 or higher.

Roaring Lion (118) bucked that trend and, unlike 18 of the previous 24 winners, did not have a Group One win on his CV. By the end of the year his rating was 127 and he had won four Group One prizes.

It will be a surprise if the winner this year is not rated at least 119 with Enable (128), Ghaiyyath (126) and Japan (122) heading the betting.

Course form:

In the past 27 years, eight Eclipse winners had previously won at the course. Enable, Regal Reality and Bangkok all have a Sandown win in the book.

Dual winners:

Orme (1892, 1893) Buchan (1919, 1920); Polyphontes (1924, 1925), Mtoto (1987, 1988) and Halling (1995, 1996) have been two-time winners. Mtoto gained his second win in the race by a neck, while Halling’s two wins were both by that narrow distance. Enable would be the first of her sex to win two renewals.

This year's super seven

Between them, the seven runners declared on Sunday have won 43 of their 114 races. They have achieved 17 Group 1 triumphs - Enable responsible for ten of them - and between them won at the highest level in America, Australia, England, Ireland, France, Germany and Japan. Enable has won her connections £10.4 million in prize-money. Collectively, Sunday's field have won more than £20,5 million with Deirdre and Magic Wand the next biggest earners.

THE PAST DOZEN WINNERS:

2019: ENABLE (4-6 fav)

Enable held Sandown in rapture and the life-affirming roar from the stands which greeted her when she hit the front two out will live long in the memory.

A cacophony of noise followed her all the way to line and beyond, with a packed winner’s enclosure giving her the kind of ovation usually reserved for the steeplechasing greats at the Cheltenham Festival.

"You wouldn't get this reception in a football game. I can't hear myself talk at the moment,” Frankie Dettori said before making himself heard and acclaiming her as the best he has ridden.

Making her return after signing off the previous year with victory at the Breeders' Cup, the two-time Arc winner was chalking up her tenth successive win. a racefit Magical could not match the pace and power of her old adversary despite again stretching every sinew.

2018: ROARING LION (7-4 fav)

Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior dominated the betting, and duly fought out an exciting finish.

The pair had finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Derby the previous month and looked well served by dropping back in distance.

Saxon Warrior led a furlong out under Donnacha O'Brien but Roaring Lion swept by in the closing stages to win by a neck and give Oisin Murphy a first Group One winner.

Roaring Lion gave Saxon Warrior a nudge close home and there was a lengthy stewards' enquiry, but the best horse had won and the result was allowed to stand. Murphy, 22, was winning his first Group One race in Britain but did pick up a four-day ban.

2017: ULYSSES (8-1)

A pulsating renewal in which Ulysses struck for the older generation - edging out Barney Roy by a nose under Jim Crowley.

The champion jockey had only picked up the ride after being dumped by connections of Eminent, who finished fifth, at the start of the week.

"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.”

Three of his colleagues ended up in trouble with the stewards, while winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute was fined £1,000 because Ulysses entered the parade ring late.

Meanwhile, Eminent also drew attention for trying to bite a rival in the closing stages.

2016: HAWKBILL (6-1)

The decision to supplement the thriving Hawkbill was more than vindicated as the Godolphin-owned colt, running in his first Group One contest, kept on stoutly under William Buick to get the better of odds-on favourite The Gurkha by half a length.

Hawkbill had previously won at Royal Ascot and was chalking up his sixth successive victory.

"Hawkbill came out of Royal Ascot so well - he thrived in the week after the race - and John, myself and Sheikh Mohammed got together and thought perhaps we should be having a look at this kind of race," winning trainer Charlie Appleby said.

Time Test was a creditable third with Countermeasure, his pacemaker, sent off at 150-1, fourth.

The victory was also extra satisfying for Buick, who the next day was to begin a month’s ban for a riding misdemeanour in France compounded by him being offensive to stewards.

2015: GOLDEN HORN (4-9 fav)

A straightforward success for the emphatic Derby winner, who later in the season would go on to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

He was faced by four older rivals but forged three-and-a-half lengths clear of The Grey Gatsby in the closing stages with Western Hymn, his stablemate, a distant third.

Afterwards, Frankie Dettori hailed Golden Horn’s “unbelievable” constitution and added “as a three-year-old, right now, I would say he is the best I've ridden.”

Winning trainer John Gosden added: “It was only in the last furlong did we finally shake him (The Grey Gatsby) off but he didn't have to really lay into him.”

2014: MUKHADRAM (12-1)

The betting revolved around The Fugue, who had won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Night Of Thunder, the 2000 Guineas winner, and Kingston Hill, the Derby runner-up, but none of the trio were involved in the business end of the race.

Instead, it was five-year-old “nearly horse” Mukhadram, trained by William Haggas and ridden by Paul Hanagan, who was decisive two-length winner from Trading Leather (12-1) with front-running It’s Somewhat belying his odds of 100-1 to hang on for third.

Mukhadram had been an unlucky third behind Al Kazeem in the Coral-Eclipse the previous year but had been only fourth, behind The Fugue, in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on his previous start.

“He came here as the forgotten horse,” Haggas said. "I was jumping up and down a bit from two out and afterwards I may even have kissed Angus Gold (owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager) which is not my style.”

2013: AL KAZEEM (15-8 fav)

The Eclipse was the final leg of a rapid and memorable Group One treble for the mighty Al Kazeem, owned and bred by John Deer.

Having won the Tattersalls Gold Cup and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes en route, he was sent off favourite under James Doyle and prevailed by a couple of lengths from Declaration Of War.

Mukhadram, hampered by the winner late on, was another length and a quarter back in third, having previously run Al Kazeem to a neck at Royal Ascot.

“I'm immensely proud of him and my jockey, and the owner-breeder," said winning trainer Roger Charlton. "The horse has shown he has terrific guts and bravery. He's progressed into a proper horse."

2012: NATHANIEL (7-2)

The horse who began and ended his career running against the flawless Frankel was a top-class performer in his own right and defied a 266-day absence with a game defeat of Farhh with Twice Over, the 2010 winner, third.

Rated 126 going into the race, Nathaniel needed to dig deep to beat a rival who would himself go on to be used as a punching bag by Frankel before landing the Champion Stakes the following year.

"I have to say that was a fantastic training performance from John Gosden," said winning rider William Buick. "To get the horse here in the shape he was in, all credit to John.

Only one of the nine runners, Bonfire, was a three-year-old and he never really looked like he would set alight at any stage.

2011: SO YOU THINK (4-6 fav)

The Aussie import, dual winner of the Cox Plate, had suffered a shock defeat by a neck in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes when sent off at 4-11 the previous month but those who kept the faith were rewarded as he kept on stoutly under Seamie Heffernan to beat Workforce, winner of the Derby the previous year, by half a length.

The first two went into the race with official ratings of 126 and 128; and with Snow Fairy, who finished fourth, also in the line-up perhaps it was no surprise that there wasn’t a single challenger from the Classic generation.

Almost black in appearance, So You Think was scheduled to have his final run in the 2012 Eclipse but was withdrawn a couple of days before with an injury.

2010: TWICE OVER (13-8 fav)

If ever there was a mile-and-a-quarter specialist, then it was Twice Over - whose victory in the 2010 Eclipse was one of ten wins for him over the trip.

The five-year-old, trained by Sir Henry Cecil and ridden by Tom Queally, was being pegged back by 33-1 chance Sri Putra in the closing stages but still had half a length to spare at the finish.

Cecil, enjoying his fourth win in the race, but first since 1978, said: "He'd been in front too long and he thought he'd done enough at the end. He also lost a shoe - he has to have stick-on shoes because you can't put a nail in his feet.

“I said to the Prince (Khalid Abdullah, the owner of Twice Over) that I wish everyday could be like this, but you can't be too spoilt, can you?"

Viscount Nelson, the sole three-year-old contender, was third, with Dar Re Mi, who cut out the early pace, back in fourth.

2009: SEA THE STARS (4-7 fav)

Sea The Stars had won the 2,000 Guineas and Derby en route to Sandown and confirmed himself a fabulous horse by beating nine rivals - four of them representing the older generation.

The odds-on favourite swept to the front two out, earlier than planned, and had to be honest to keep the persistent Rip Van Winkle at bay by a length, with Conduit, the best of the older horses, a distant third.

Sea The Stars, trained by John Oxx, became the first Derby winner to land the race since Nashwan 20 years earlier and went on to land the Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

"He's exceptional and there'll be more to come as he matures,” jockey Mick Kinane said. “You don't get many like him, he has so much early pace. When the second horse came at me, he just picked up. You are never going to win by more than two lengths on him."

2008: MOUNT NELSON (7-2)

Not the strongest renewal with only one of the eight runners representing the Classic generation - 13-2 chance Campeanologist, who was fourth - and none of the older horses officially rated higher than 116.

It was still an exciting spectacle, though, with Mount Nelson, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Johnny Murtagh, getting up in the final strides to deny 5-2 favourite Phoenix Tower, with Pipedreamer another length back in third.

The winner raced only once more, when third in the Arlington Million. Phoenix Tower also raced only once more before going of to stand at stud in India.

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