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The Eclipse

On June the 7th, the day after the Derby I wrote:

“Enough about my endeavours of endurance, what about Sea the Stars, the big star of racing, – where next? Obvious choice the Irish Derby which is annoyingly close to the Eclipse. The Irish Derby sometimes comes up claggy so I guess Mr Oxx will turn up at Sandown instead if that’s the case. It would also be a perfect opportunity to show his charge’s ability over 10f. 3/1 for the Eclipse is a cracking bet, except for the fact that the horse is far more likely to stay at home!”

Pity I didn’t snaffle that price then, this morning our champion 3yo colt is a best-priced 8/13 (ok I only looked in one place, but I don’t think there’s any value left now!).  Of course this test is over 10f (probably perfect in pedigree terms) but the finish at Sandown is a little stiff and he will be taking on his elders, if not his betters at 3.15 but with an 11lb pull at the weights for the 3yo contenders, Sea the Stars is a more than worthy favourite.

I love Sandown and I love the Eclipse, the first Group race in the calendar where the 3yos can take on the older horses.  The sun usually shines and the sloping lawn outside the trainers and owners bar offers a great view of the track.  Added to that, the chance to stand right by the horses as they go onto the track (at eye-level with the jockey’s boots if you are about 5’6 – Christophe Soumillon favours croc patent leather n’est pas) and have a good look at the horses and the rider’s faces it is all just about perfect.  I wish I could go, but I am on cycling duty this weekend and hoping to maybe make the July Cup on Friday if some miracle occurs! 

Mr Oxx says that he thinks Sea the Stars has improved from the Derby.  I really hope he has.  The supreme effort of winning the Derby has wrecked recent winners’ subsequent careers, but today we have the opportunity to see an outstanding horse, that has so far at least done everything with consumate ease, cement his reputation as possibly one of the outstanding horses of recent years.  If he wins today, he would be following in the white-socked hoofprint of Nashwan, who in 1989 won the Guineas, the Derby, then started a short-priced favourite and duly obliged in the Eclipse, before having the first battle of his life at Ascot in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, still prevailing and making a record of 6/6.

Nashwan by N.W. Brunyee
Nashwan by N.W. Brunyee

Of the other contenders I can’t find a serious threat.  Sir Michael runs a pacemaker for Conduit, who has failed over the 10 at Sandown before.  On breeding he just wants a good bit further and possibly slightly softer ground.  I would be surprised if he were able to win, but I respect his and his trainer/jockey’s chances.  If you can remember Notnowcato ploughing his own furrow  by the hedges a few years ago to win, you will understand what I am talking about! 

I really like the Henry Cecil colt Twice Over, despite his leaving a mental scar in the Craven when beating Raven’s Pass last year.  By Observatory, I think he has the opposite problem to Conduit and the pacemaker is not going to help him.  Cima de Triomphe has a course and distance win to his name and will be an each way price and it would be nice to see Rip Van Winkle run up to his hype over a more suitable trip. 

I can’t really split the also-rans so I think my bet for today will be a CTC (I think that’s a dog racing term?) – Sea the Stars, Cima de Triomphe & Conduit or Rip Van Winkle – two bets with the latter two interchanged – ok?
I have had a bit of a crisis this week over the morality of summer-jumping.  I don’t bet much on jumps anyway and I really try to steer clear of the firm ground in the heat.  News that  this week’s heatwave had meant that horses were coming off transport lathered in sweat and that the temperatures in the stables (and jockey’s room) were in the 90s was clearly not acceptable.  I wonder this – if punters stop punting on the daytime summer jumping calendar (although this does not address the firm ground issue) would the fixture list be amended?  No-one can argue with the facts, summer jumping causes more injuries than the winter season and I personally think we would be better off without it.  Water jumps need to be consigned to the scrap heap too, I am afraid.  A spectacle they may be, but they are one I would rather live without, given that sometimes the spectacle is too awful to behold, such as Mistanoora “plunging around in agony” to quote Brough Scott, at Stratford this week after breaking a leg.
I love racing, but I cannot accept that we need to run horses over extreme distances in extreme heat after travelling them in un-airconditioned boxes and that we are so desperate for punting opportunities that we cannot forgo the chance to back horses who are risking their limbs jumping onto hard ground in the middle of summer.  The horses are the things we admire and cherish in this sport and to do anything less than honour their efforts and rigorously protect their welfare makes us unworthy participants in the sport.