Winners galore helps Silvestre De Sousa get chance to shine on big stage

Fri 7 Jul 2017

Read why Silvestre De Sousa will replace Jim Crowley on Eminent in the Coral-Eclipse on Saturday and watch great renewals of the race in the 1990s and at the start of this century 

By Andy Stephens

Silvestre De Sousa’s sparkling five-timer at Sandown last month was among the factors that helped persuade connections of Eminent that he should replace Jim Crowley in the Coral-Eclipse at the Esher track on Saturday.

Martyn Meade, the trainer, has revealed that De Sousa’s riding style and appetite for winners helped them choose him over Crowley, who has ridden Eminent in his previous four races. The latter will not be twiddling his thumbs as he has picked up the ride on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ulysses.

“Every single thing was looked at and that [the five-timer] certainly had some bearing on it,” Meade said. “Silvestre is ravenously hungry and the main thing is that his style of riding will suit the horse.”

Crowley guided Eminent to victory on his debut at last autumn, when a freelance, and was also on board the Frankel colt for the comeback success in the Craven Stakes at Headquarters, as well as his defeats in the 2,000 Guineas (when sixth to Churchill) and Derby (when fourth to Wings Of Eagles).

However, connections were unsettled by Crowley’s retainer with Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum - not knowing if he would be available to ride in advance - and there was also some disquiet in the camp about his tactics at Epsom.

“I think we should have been more prominent early on and then we were squeezed twice in the final furlong,” Meade said. “The second time was a shame - you are not going to go between Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori.

“The person that greeted us into fourth sport said ‘would you like to re-run the race’ and I said ‘yes, I certainly would’ because we were unlucky.

“It took me a few days to get over it - seeing the horse making ground all the way and then being short of room and [the jockey] not being able to give that little bit of encouragement.

“I’m sure if he’d been able to give him a smack or two he would have responded, because he does, but unfortunately that was not available.

“He has to be up there and use that long stride of his and then press on from two-furlong pole. That is the way Sylvester rides and he’s also very strong in the finish.”

Few could argue that De Sousa deserves a rare opportunity to be on a leading contender in one of the biggest races of the summer, which has attracted a final field of nine.

Since being marginalised by Saeed Bin Suroor and eventually dropped by Godolphin at the end of 2014, he has thrived in his role as a freelance and is the runaway leader in this year’s jockeys’ championship, having taken the title in 2015 and finished runner-up to Crowley last year.

His only Group One win in the past three years was aboard Arabian Queen in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York in 2015. She upstaged Golden Horn at 50-1 after being given an inspired ride near the head of affairs in a muddling contest.

At Royal Ascot last month, he rode in five of the eight Group One races at the meeting, which all form part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, but two of his rides went off at 66-1 and another at 40-1. The other pair started at 28-1 and 14-1.

De Sousa was surplus to requirements in the 18-runner Derby but, with Eminent in mind, he will be encouraged by the way the form is working out.

Benbatl (fifth) and Permian (tenth) subsequently won at Royal Ascot, while Rekindling (sixteenth) landed a Group Two prize at the Curragh last Sunday. In addition, the first three home in the Irish Derby ran at Epsom - finishing ahead of French Derby runner-up Waldgeist.

“The form is being franked all the time, although, of course, it also franks Cliffs Of Moher as well,” Meade said. “Cliffs Of Moher is a very good horse but we know where we are with that one. We know how close we got to him and with a different run I think we’d have beaten him.

![Discover Ascot Raceday - Ascot Racecourse](//

“Barney Roy is different. He’s progressed and I was impressed with way he won at Ascot. He’s going to take a bit of beating but his last run was not long ago.”

Golden Horn and Hawkbill have prevailed for the Classic generation in the Eclipse for the past two years but it has been 26 years since three-year-olds won the race three times in succession via Nashwan (1989), Elmaamul (1990) and Environment Friend (1991).

Betway make it 1-4 that a three-year-old wins, and 11-4 that one of the older generation lift the spoils.

Decorated Knight, a five-year-old son of Galileo, has been thriving on his racing with his official rating rising from 85 to 119 since he won a handicap at Sandown just under two years ago.

He split Highland Reel and Ulysses in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest start, having previously won Group 1 prizes at the Curragh and in Dubai.

Charlton said: “Every time Decorated Knight has run, he has produced a better performance. It was no disgrace to be beaten by Highland Reel.

“He’s a tough, sound, genuine racehorse suited by fast ground and a mile and a quarter. We’ve no need to look beyond that distance for him. He has come out of his run at Royal Ascot in very good shape, especially considering how hot it was. He got very sweaty that day, but that’s just him and it does not affect his performance.”

The weight-for-age scale means that Decorated Knight has to concede 10lb to his younger rivals. When asked to assess them, the Beckhampton handler, who landed the Eclipse with Al Kazeem four years ago, said: “Barney Roy looked pretty good at Ascot and I’ve got plenty of respect for all of them, but they haven’t been tested.”

Cliffs Of Moher will be joined possible pacemaker Taj Mahal, while David Simcock saddles Desert Encounter and Lightning Spear.

Salouen, from Sylvester Kirk's yard, completes the field.

The sponsor bets: 2-1 Cliffs Of Moher, 11-4 Barney Roy, 3-1 Eminent, 7-1 Decorated Knight, 15-2 Ulysses, 16-1 others.

Click here for a runner-by-runner guide to the Coral Eclipse including lots of replays


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