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The Eclipse: the partial or total obscuring of one celestial body by another

The actual horse Eclipse, whom the race is named after, was born on April Fool’s Day in 1764 during a solar eclipse.  He went on to win all his races, and was eventually retired due to lack of competition.

“Eclipse first, the rest nowhere” was coined during his short career.  Like most great horses he had his idiosyncracies, being boisterous and bad-tempered.  His running style – carrying his nose near the ground -made him so hard to ride that only one jockey, John Oakley, partnered him in his 18 race career, all won hands and heels.  Rumour has it that Eclipse’s best friend was a Psalm squawking parrot…

It is reported that at least 80% of today’s racehorses have Eclipse in their pedigrees and he himself was a direct descendant of the great foundation sire the Darley Arabian.

It is therefore apposite to note that Singspiel who I met once at a distance at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud was sadly put down yesterday after a *long illness.  Today Singspiel’s daughter Dar Re Mi lines up against the boys in the race at Sandown.  I have checked that Singspiel and his daughter are in the 80% of thoroughbreds that have Eclipse runing through their veins and they do.  As you go back through horses’ pedigrees the different strands become so convoluted and the pathways so many that I couldn’t look at every bit of Eclipse that they inevitably have but I can confirm that Eclipse and Creeping Polly produced King Fergus who appears at least twice in Singspiel’s pedigree, not to mention a bit of Eclipse and Sportsmistress producing the strangely named Pot-8-Os.

Pot-8-Os Got his name from a stable lad who was asked to put “Potatoes” on his corn bin but misspelled it (possibly as “Potoooooooo”). It was said to have amused his lordship (Earl of Grosvenor), and so it appears in the General Stud Book. Later it was shortened to Pot-8-Os for general use.      


Anyway, I am sure most of the other runners today have Eclipse in the pedigree too, although it would be interesting to try and find the 20% who don’t and put a line through them.  Without the time to indulge in a morning of poking around  in pedigrees over 250 years old you will have to settle with my summary.

I want Dar Re Mi to win obviously, but the last time I went to the Eclipse wanting a mare to win Christophe Soumillon got poor Ouija Board murdered round the last bend and she came back in about 5th place with cuts and bruises.  I can’t even remember who won that day, and I can’t be faffed to look it up now.  Maybe it will come back to me.

Dar Re Mi may find 10f a bit sharp is the conventional wisdom, but she is a course and distance winner.  Zacinto will be popular, but is stepping up from his usual mile for the first time and for that reason I don’t fancy him.  With Twice Over I am always a little bit cautious especially since he didn’t fire in this race last year when I am sure I backed him, but a Cecil win is always a heartwarmer.  I won’t back his today though because my heart is with the mare.

Of the others: Viscount Nelson, Sri Putra and Mawatheeq – I am not convinced.

So come on Dar Re Mi – do it for your dad Singspiel and your 30Greats Grandad Eclipse.

Poor Singspiel succumbed to laminitis

A Mixed Bag

That’s what’s in my head this morning. I have started thinking about the 2000 Guineas next week and can’t help but wonder why Richard Hannon persists in his insistence that Canford Cliffs is his number one Guineas horse. After the Greenham last Saturday he said something along the lines of Canford Cliff would have won the race from his stable mate Dick Turpin if he hadn’t hung left, but horses don’t hang for fun, they are telling us something.

I think Canford Cliffs hung left because he was at the outer edges of his stamina limit. There is no doubt he is a speedy, classy individual, but the horse that finished off the race best was the winner and I am certain that of the duo the only one likely to improve again for the extra furlong of the Guineas is Dick Turpin. That’s not a given either, with the Greenham having been 14 days earlier and needs a whole new mulling over with the horse having been mooted for the Irish Guineas in any case.

Of course it is likely Hannons Senior & Junior (who always strike me as biznissmen not horsemen) are well acquainted with my theory and are mindful of the horse’s future career as a stallion as they continue to talk up Canford Cliffs Guineas chances. I will be very disappointed if the horse I consider to be their real live Guineas contender Dick, gets diverted to Ireland to leave the Rowley Mile clear for Canford because Canford Cliffs just cannot win. I don’t yet know who will though, that’s going to need some more time on the hob…

Sandown hosts the end of the jumps season to day with some nice flat races at the end of their mixed card. I toyed with the idea of going as I am in London later anyway, but other commitments have prevailed.
They are parading some of the season’s stars: Kauto Star, Imperial Commander and Deman were in the original line-up. Last year in the same parade Denman got loose and crashed out of the parade ring for a little canter through the crowd. A loose tank would have been quite a sight but he was quickly caught. I love Sandown very much. I like arriving on the train and walking across the course to get a real feel for the going before racing starts. Sundown @ Sandown is quite possibly perfect.

Anyhow, I’m not there, I’m here and I have looked at the card and I can’t decide on anything. I am a big Paco Boy fan but they say he may not want the ground and they may be right on this! I have looked at the Group 3 at 4.15 and I can’t say I like the look of that much either. Laaheeb looks very smart, but it is probably fair to say Crowded House and Tranquil Tiger might give him a race. Tranquil Tiger looked a bit worked up before running second in the Earl of Sefton last week and I have a suspicion he may prefer to race off a turn which he will get here today. I couldn’t select any one with confidence, although at the prices I will probably side with Henry Cecil’s quirky 6yo.

In the first, the flat v the jumps race, the flat lads will either be carrying lumps of lead or have made free with the pies – Kieren Fallon is riding at 11 stone and I think he’s got a good chance on Twilight Star.

Whatever, the jumps *is/are over: Long Live the Flat!

Dick Turpin: impressive as a 2yo

*either could work grammatically: the jumps’ season is/the jumps are…
I don’t care, I’m off duty.

Solwhit Goes

Following his recent cough and dirty scope it is reported this morning that the Irish horse travels tonight to Cheltenham and will take his chance in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle.

This is a rather convenient situation for me. I fancied the horse to win the race before all the coughing and if he doesn’t run well come the day I will be able to say

“Ah well, what can you expect, the animal clearly wasn’t right”.

My reserve was going to be Khyber Kim, so what now of his chances? It’s a headscratcher for sure.

Leave it with me.

I hope he's as shiny on the 16th March

Incidentally I will be keeping my eye on the mare Grassfinch when she runs in the Listed Mares’ Bumper @ Sandown this afternoon. Jimmy McCarthy is up, who happens to be the nephew of Irish poet and priest Michael McCarthy with whom my mother is acquainted and has kindly given me his latest book. Grassfinch will have her work cut out with an odds on Henderson mare and her conqueror last time out -Chicklemix, but that’s what racing is all about isn’t it; hopes and dreams.

We’ll also be watching out for Jimmy McCarthy partnering Ogee (same trainer as Grassfinch) next week at the Festival. Ogee being officially “my mother’s favourite horse”.

At the Races – Michael McCarthy
7 July 2007

In the dream my nephew, who is called after me
meets me at the races. He tells me I’m on yesterday’s video.
I remember yesterday, and where I was among the crowd.
I was in the grass paddock beside the hayshed,
standing on a rock above the furze machine.
It was around 1957. ‘There you are’ he says,
pointing up at the big screen.

I see myself coming towards me.
I’m wearing that checked grey overcoat.
I walk out of the screen past myself and notice
the overcoat is baggy. I’m bulkier than I thought.
As I walk up the terrace steps I observe myself
from the back. My hair is standing up. Thicker
than I remember. It’s turning from grey to black.

When I look again at the screen the video is finished.
I want to see the playback. The remote is out of reach.
I’m looking for a window-opener, or that long handled
candle-snuffer, when a woman asks me if she can help.
She gets the tape, a reel to reel, puts it into the machine.
I ask if it can be fast forwarded. She says not.
I’ll have to watch it from the start.

Ruby, Tony, Ruby!

Ruby and Twist Magic = Poetry in Motion

I did think Twist Magic might win yesterday, but I didn’t imagine quite the fifteen length romp that it was and that was due to the man in the saddle Ruby Walsh. His post-race analysis said it all: that the horse came out of his hands down the back stretch and he let him go on. He also said on a two miler round Sandown = no better feeling when riding a horse. I thought I saw a most intelligent and intuitive ride there, he knew the horse could make it and he felt the horse go on and let him do so. Twist Magic was enjoying it out there and Ruby facilitated that. There are so many times I have seen horses hauled back from a prominent position so that they may better challenge at a more opportune moment. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t (usually when I have backed them!). It takes real ken to let a horse bowl along in front, on that ground, up that hill and Ruby has it. The feeling he mentioned of the horse coming out of his hands is a magical experience. To me, it means the moment when the back end comes underneath the horse, you are no longer lolloping along flat and long, the weight of the head is no longer in your hands and you are feel as if you are almost floating.

Make no mistake, these guys are in heaven when they are riding horses that win like that. That’s why they put up with the mud in their faces, the wasting, riding in the rain, the early starts in the freezing cold and travelling miles to finish out the back or to end up going to hospital in an ambulance.

A travesty, once again, that our own Tony McCoy (or Ruby himself) is not on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. Maybe, when he’s riding horse like Somersby today, he doesn’t care. Nor should he.

Tingle Creek – “either met a fence long, or even longer…”

Racing is so full of jargon and cliches that it is a challenge to preview a race without falling into all the traps laid out for you. Like the great Tingle Creek (No 49 in the Racing Post’s 100 Favourite Racehorses) I will attempt to stand off the cliche obstacles as far as I can!

I love Sandown and I like the Tingle Creek Chase. It is aptly named, given the speed those 2 mile specialists thrash round the railway fences. I can’t give an honest preview of tomorrow’s race. Firstly, the course is subject to a 7.30 a.m. inspection (but they are confident of passing). Secondly, my judgement is a bit clouded where Well Chief is concerned. Thirdly, with a field of five I am always cautious!

A bit of course and distance is probably what I will stick with here, although I run the risk of disrespecting the Irish pair with that approach (which I don’t). Well Chief has it tucked in the book but this is a race in quick succession for the lovely chestnut with “glass legs”. Added to that he came back from the Connaught with cuts. Twist Magic is the other with CD to his name having won this the year before last. He lost his way last year, (cliche in the bag) but his seasonal reappearance third in the Haldon Gold Cup reads well enough. He has two ways of running (cliche 2) but I reckon it maybe a case of horses for courses tomorrow. Of the Irish I would take Forpadydeplasterer over Big Zeb given the latter’s propensity for taking a tumble. Mahogany Blaze is sure to run his race again (I’ve stopped counting).

Twist Magic for me. I also want to mention Mrs Penny, who runs in the 7.20 tonight at Wolverhampton. She came over from Australia with smart form and had her campaign cut short due to some problems. She has now had a wind op and although carrying top-weight has been working well at home and is the class horse in the race. I have hopes for her.

Really I wanted to write this post to remark upon the race’s epomymous hero – Tingle Creek an American-bred chaser who particularly liked to scorch round from the front at Sandown in eyecatching fashion.

Jockey, Steve Smith Eccles wrote of him:

“Tingle Creek probably provided me with my best memories. I was young and brave at the time and that style of riding really suited the horse – all he needed was to be pointed in the right direction. He either met a fence long or even longer – he would never get in close and fiddle. He never fell and certainly with me I can’t even remember him making a mistake.”

Tingle Creek, one of the most thrilling sights ever seen on a racecourse

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.