Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Golden enhances stock in Eclipse

Derby hero shows class and tenacity in Gatsby Sandown showdown

Frankie Dettori and Golden Horn lead the field home to win The Coral-Eclipse Race. Julian Herbert/PA Wire
Frankie Dettori and Golden Horn lead the field home to win The Coral-Eclipse Race. Julian Herbert/PA Wire
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

It is hard to believe now that Jim Bolger was moved to have a dig at the quality of the three-year-old colts after Pleascach won the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

In explaining the rationale that had compelled him to put his Classic-winning filly in the Derby, the Coolcullen genius took the opportunity to have a mischievous swipe at the dearth of Derby contenders in his protégé Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle base.

"It wasn't so much what I thought of her, it was more what I thought of the colts - with all due respect to my neighbours!" Bolger quipped.

He was being facetious, of course, but he was espousing a commonly held viewpoint at the time that the 2015 crop of three-year-old middle-distance colts looked a bit suspect.

Bolger wasn't the only one hinting that there might be value in launching a metaphorical grenade their way in the shape of a filly.

How things have changed in the space of a month since the Derby. The cream of the distaff ranks on either side of the Irish Sea - the likes of Legatissimo, Star Of Seville, Qualify, Lucida, Diamondsandrubies and Found - have struggled to stamp any real authority on the campaign, with France's Ervedya the only one of her generation to win two Group Ones.

Granted, Diamondsandrubies and Legatissimo accounted for their elders in the Pretty Polly. However, their older rivals weren't up to much, and the sense of musical chairs at the top level remains.

The elite colts, in contrast, have bloomed. Gleneagles always looked a serious miler, but Jack Hobbs and Golden Horn are now tearing up the 10 and 12-furlong division.


Golden Horn was entitled to be vulnerable in Saturday's Eclipse Stakes, dropping to a mile-and-a-quarter on fast ground with the absence of pace in the race threatening to complicate matters. In the end, he rose above it all in the manner of a serious animal.

Frankie Dettori boldly took his destiny in his own hands. John Gosden had suggested that they would make the running on the Cape Cross colt, but Dettori was handed a convenient kop-out when his mount missed the break badly.

It was a readymade excuse to bide his time and not leave himself exposed, but Dettori didn't want to know. He drove Golden Horn up the inside to lead, a ballsy call in the heat of the moment that only a handful of jockeys would have made in the same scenario. It was probably the winning of the race, albeit he had a capable partner.

The Grey Gatsby kept him honest, with Jamie Spencer eyeballing him all the way. Two furlongs down, it might have gone either way, only for Golden Horn to produce that little bit of extra quality when he briefly looked in the most trouble that he has done since denying the Derby third Storm The Stars, on his Nottingham debut last October.

Dettori's role in the triumph should not be underestimated, but it was also a brilliantly complete performance from a maturing horse, one that showcased his class, temperament and courage.

In a way, it offered a further damning verdict on the notion that last year's three-year-olds were an above average delegation, but The Grey Gatsby also enhanced his reputation in defeat. He will surely plunder another Group One soon.

We've been privy to some incredible equine talent in recent years, from Kauto Star, Sprinter Sacre and Hurricane Fly over jumps to Sea The Stars, Frankel and Treve on the Flat. It would be premature to place Golden Horn in that bracket yet, but he is on his way.

He is the first horse to do the Dante-Derby-Eclipse treble, which is telling. Dante winners tend to need a mile-and-a-half to progress, in contrast to a 2,000 Guineas winner. For example, Sea The Stars - also by Cape Cross - was hardly going to want for toe when he went to Sandown in 2009, whereas Golden Horn might have. He didn't.

Maybe most importantly, as was the case with Sea The Stars and Frankel, in Gosden and Anthony Oppenheimer he has a trainer and owner willing to campaign him in a manner that will give him the chance to fulfil all of his potential.

Gosden spoke frankly last week about not being worried about his star colt getting beaten, a refreshing attitude at the root of their approach. Sea The Stars mightn't have raced beyond his Classic campaign, but he danced every dance, running once a month for six months, climaxing with a spectacular Prix d l'Arc de Triomphe success.

Frankel was never tested at 12 furlongs, but he wasn't spared, evolving into the finished article that defied deep ground in the Champion Stakes to confirm his status as one of the game's equine deities with a 10th Group One. Both became immortals of the game because they were given the opportunity to do so, as was the late, great Kauto Star (below).

We are not in that realm yet with Golden Horn and his window of opportunity might be limited given that the Derby was his first Group One and Oppenheimer has indicated that he might not race on in 2015. Still, the King George VI & QEII Stakes on July 25 is high on the agenda.

York's Juddmonte International is an alternative if Ascot were to come too soon, and the Irish Champion Stakes could enter the fray if he makes Ascot and skips York.

The Arc is the long-term plan should conditions not get too soft at Longchamp, with the Champion Stakes at Ascot a fall-back option. It is an ambitious schedule that few would have envisaged for any of the colts' class of 2015 prior to Epsom.

Shock as Elliott not among wins

Ger Lyons and Colin Keane were the men to follow at Fairyhouse yesterday, Ainippe (3/1) knuckling down well to complete a double for the duo in the Group Three Brownstown Stakes.

The Tracey Collins-trained Majestic Queen, running in Godolphin blue for a first time, went down fighting in second, just as she did in 2014.

It was Ainippe's first try at seven furlongs and Lyons, whose Trinity Force had justified 7/4 favouritism, hinted that she might yet be a Group One horse.

"She's a little diamond," he said of the Qatar Racing-owned filly. "If she stays in training next year she could step up to a mile and aim for something like the Matron Stakes."

Lyons' other jockey Gary Carroll took the opening maiden on Joe Murphy's 11/2 shot Fit For Function, while Carroll's old boss Mick Halford and Conor McGovern combined successfully for a second time in six days when Paddy The Celeb (9/1) prevailed later on.

Lyons' fellow Co Meath man Gordon Elliott saddled no winner. That's news in itself. On Saturday, Elliott collected with Tempo Mac at Bellewstown.

The 9/2 favourite was his 10th winner in four days, following a stunning nine wins across Wednesday and Thursday.

Elliott leads Willie Mullins in the trainers' championship, with 27 domestic wins to Mullins' 11 and a prize money advantage of €190,000 on €302,795.

He is adamant that Mullins will mow him down come the autumn and he might be right, but it is worth noting the sort of horses that he is excelling with right now - as he always has done.

Of Elliott's 10 July winners, Romany Ryme is a nine-year-old that he acquired for £3,500 in May. An Capall Mor is a nine-year-old that cost £1,500, while Broughtons Bandit is an eight-year-old that cost £2,000 having not won since 2012. The Absent Mare cost him £3,800.

There won't be too many glory days for any of those, but they are washing their faces in a way that they mightn't have been doing before, giving their owners excellent value for money and no end of sport across both codes. You'd struggle to name a more efficient operator.

Tempo Mac's jockey Jack Kennedy was among the winners at Limerick yesterday aboard Michael Hourigan's Dawerann (12/1).

However, there was no joy for Barry Geraghty on his return from injury and his first day in the job as JP McManus' number one. Hourigan's Hash Brown fared best for him when second to Sizing Platinum (3/1, Henry De Bromhead and Jonathan Burke) over fences.

Irish run out of luck in New York

Outstanding fared best of the Irish in New York on Saturday night.

Aidan O'Brien's filly was third behind the easy Belmont Oaks winner Lady Eli, while Dermot Weld's Postulation was outclassed in the Derby behind Force The Pass.

Tweet of the weekend

Adrian Keatley (@adrian_keatley)

Cliften Miss gets her head in front under @corby_sean @ayrracecourse.That's 4 from 10 in Ayr for the yard. Hopefully improve that stat 2moro.

The shrewd up-and-coming Kildare handler wins with the only cross-channel raider yesterday and he has three more runners at Ayr today.

Numbers Game

9 Number of days that Oisin Murphy was banned for after barging his way through in Saturday's sprint at Sandown. His mount Wind Fire was just denied by Waady but might have won had she got a clear run, though Murphy manfully accepted the ban was "fair".

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