The Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday looks like being one of the races of the season and Eminent can make his age allowance tell to win the Group 1 contest. The all aged race is over one mile and two furlongs and features horses placed in the Derby and who won at Royal Ascot. The conditions give Eminent a great chance to provide the trainer, Martyn Meade, with his first success at the highest level.
The race formerly known as the Eclipse Stakes has traditionally been sponsored by Coral and is now known as the Coral-Eclipse. That bookmaker has merged with Ladbrokes and they are not an Authorised Betting Partner. Firms that have not signed up are not welcome as race sponsors so Coral’s involvement could end after this year’s renewal. The issue of race sponsorship has led Ladbrokes to end their association with the St Leger which will now be sponsored by William Hill.
Bookmakers have been great investors in British racing through sponsorship. Obviously they don’t back a race for altruistic reasons and some of the most competitive handicaps have bookmaker’s names in their titles. The Cheltenham Gold Cup was sponsored by Betfred as part of their deal with the Tote but that association has ended. Stan James still put their name to the Champion Hurdle at the Festival.
The Eclipse is open to horses aged three and older so in theory there could be multiple winners. In fact five horses have won the race twice but not since Halling obliged in 1995 and 1996. Lester Piggott is the leading jockey with five wins between 1951 and 1977. The span of 26 years illustrates how long Piggott was riding in the best races and his nine Derby victories were from 1954 to 1983. Frankie Dettori won the Eclipse in 1998 so has some years to go to match Piggott’s range of Eclipse winning years.
Dettori is the regular jockey on Jack Hobbs but missed the ride at Royal Ascot through injury and he is still on the sidelines. The horse was second in the Derby in 2015 and won the Irish equivalent but was disappointing at the Royal Meeting. Jack Hobbs was eighth of eight horses in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. However, he was only about 5 lengths adrift of the winner, Highland Reel in the Group 1 feature. A rating of 123 makes Jack Hobbs not a forlorn hope for the Eclipse.
The leading trainer won his six Eclipses between 1909 and 1923 and four owners have the record with five wins. They include Coolmore and Godolphin who have won 10 of the last 22 renewals. Cliffs Of Moher is the ante post favourite and the horse is trained by Aidan O’Brien for Coolmore. He has won the race five times so would become the joint leading trainer if one of his runners obliged on Saturday. On odds and ratings Cliffs Of Moher is his best chance.
The Derby runner-up has been backed for the Eclipse this week having been narrowly beaten by his retired stable mate Wings Of Eagles at Epsom last month. O’Brien had a positive report on his charge when quoted in the Racing Post:
“Everything has gone well with Cliffs Of Moher since Epsom and we’ve been very happy. We still have quite a few in at the moment but Cliffs Of Moher is the horse we are looking at for the race.”
The trainer won the Eclipse with Hawk Wing in 2002 and Oratorio in 2005 after defeat in the Derby. The race sponsors believe Cliffs Of Moher will be the SP favourite. The horse has been the best backed in the week before the race.
Cliffs Of Moher ran to a Racing Post Rating of 119 in the Derby while Eminent’s best figure is 117 in the same race. The former is the worthy favourite as both horses are running off the same weight. Eminent was nudged entering the final furlong in the Derby and was unable to quicken. The horse had no luck in running and 10 furlongs could be his optimum distance. That factor could see Eminent winning the 2017 Coral-Eclipse on Saturday.