The Sporting LIfe team look back at some of their favourite renewals of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Giant's Causeway - 2000 'The Iron horse'
It comes to something when you admit that your most memorable Eclipse was one where you backed a loser but as a Kalanisi fan I had to begrudgingly accept defeat at the hands of Giant’s Causeway.
History tells us just how good a field had assembled on that Saturday afternoon and it was Derby second (and subsequent Arc winner) Sakhee that was made 7-4 market leader for the prize.
The aforementioned Kalanisi had to shoulder a weight-for-age allowance but was a solid second favourite at 7-2 while Henry Cecil’s Shiva was rated at 4-1 following her victory in the Brigadier Gerard.
It is perhaps a quirk of fate that the horses that went on to be the best were relatively unconsidered on the day. Fantastic Light (a six-time Group 1 winner for Godolphin) at 5/1 while Giant's Causeway wasreadily available at 8-1 despite finishing second in that season’s Guineas behind King’s Best.
With Mick Kinane unable to take the ride due to injury, Aidan O’Brien turned to 53-year-old George Duffield and though much was made of the decision to book a seemingly unfashionable rider, the Yorkshireman had already won an Eclipse back in 1991 on Environment Friend and had ridden Aristotle for the Irish outfit in the previous season’s Racing Post Trophy.
Godolphin entered no-hoper Sun Charm as a pacemaker but he broke tardily from the gate and struggled to assume any sort of early position. Though Daragh O’Donohoe eventually got his mount to the front, Duffield neutralised the tactiv by placing his mount in the box seat alongside Sakhee and forcing Fantastic Light to race someway adrift of his stable companion.
Held up in rear was Kalanisi and with three furlongs to go, Pat Eddery assumed his crouching position and began to ask the colt for his response.
With Giant's Causeway engaged in a protracted battle with Sakhee, the Aga Khan’s colt gradually began to bear down upon the pair and Eddery seemed to have timed it right as he brought Kalanisi through to lead inside the final furlong
However, a slight lurch to the right may just have been the horse’s undoing. The movement seemed to galvanise Giant’s Causeway and in doing so, unleash reserves of energy that frankly appeared impossible under the circumstances .
With the rail to keep him straight, the 'Iron horse' gave his all and uncompromisingly wrestled victory when defeat looked a far more likely outcome I was loathe to admit it but on this occasion – the best horse really did win! (IB)
Notnowcato - 2007 'A Moore masterclass'
Say what you like about the merit of Notnowcato’s Eclipse victory, but what cannot be disputed is that he received one of the great Group 1 rides from Ryan Moore.
The 2007 renewal was billed as an epic clash of the generations as Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Derby hero Authorized took on the previous year’s 2000 Guineas/QEII winner George Washington from the Aidan O’Brien yard.
It was Authorized who came out on top in that particular battle as all bar one jockey decided to stick to the far rail – but across the other side of the track Moore had stolen a march on his own and pushed the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Notnowcato to a length and a half victory.
It was a third top-class win for the horse but most of the credit goes to Moore, who had walked the course on the morning of the race and was adamant the ground down by the famous Sandown hedge had continued to dry out significantly quicker than other parts of the track.
At the very least, it was a triumph for the art of homework. (MB)
Sea The Stars – 2009 ‘The Greatest’
After beating up his contemporaries over a mile in the Guineas and a mile and a half in the Derby, the great Sea The Stars rocked up at Sandown to take on his elders over a mile and a quarter on July 4 2009.
The son of Cape Cross had never run over the distance, but it was a trip that his gentleman trainer John Oxx thought would prove to be his optimum. He was right.
The best older horse he encountered at Sandown on that particular Coral-Eclipse day was Conduit, the previous year’s St Leger and Breeders’ Cup winner. Obviously, stamina was his forte and he had a pacemaker, Lang Shining, in there to ensure this was going to be a test of stamina.
But there were speedier horses in there too, notably fellow three-year-old Rip Van Winkle. He was a couple of lengths behind Sea The Stars both at Newmarket and Epsom, but 10 furlongs was presumed to be his best distance as well.
Perhaps it was, as he got as close to Sea The Stars as he ever did. In fact, a furlong from home it was Rip who looked the likely winner as he loomed up on the outside.
But Sea The Stars was just toying with him. And when his affable partner Mick Kinane pulled out the persuader he went clear by one of the cosiest lengths you could wish to see in a Group One contest.
The form didn’t work out too badly: Rip Van Winkle went on to win the Sussex Stakes and QEII, both over a mile, on his next two starts.
The third home, Conduit, won the King George at Ascot three weeks later. The seventh home, Twice Over, won his next three starts culminating in the Group One Champion Stakes.
And Sea The Stars himself added the Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to his glittering collection.
The winning time, 2m 3.40s, is the fastest ever recorded in the race. All in all, the 2009 vintage has every right to call itself The Greatest – and you can enjoy it again by watching the free video replay. (BL)
So You Think - 2011 'An Australian odyssey'
I've only been at Sandown for one Coral-Eclipse but the field featured a Derby winner and an Oaks winner among the five runners so it wasn't a bad one even if Snow Fairy failed to run up to her best after an injury-interrupted preparation.
Workforce overcame doubts about the form of his yard to ensure that the odds-on favourite So You Think didn't have an easy ride en route to collecting a seventh top-flight success.
This Australian bull of a horse divided opinion with Antipodean fans hailing him as one of the best they'd ever seen with his legendary handler Bart Cummings saying after news of the acrimonious sale broke, "It's bit a like Phar Lap during the Depression - people love this horse. I think this [sale] is a great tragedy for racing."
Victories at 2/13 and 1/7 before a 4/11 defeat at Royal Ascot did little to persuade European fans of his merits. The Eclipse success was very much a coming of age as his new fans and new connections grew more familiar with a colt who will go down in Australian folklore but failed to convince the Euro-sceptics. (IO)