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Hawkbill (William Buick) beats The Gurkha

William Buick celebrates winning the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse on Hawkbill

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Hawkbill eclipses The Gurkha after epic battle

Report: Sandown, Saturday

Coral-Eclipse (British Champions Series) (Group 1) 1m2f, 3yo+

THE starting prices strongly suggested it would be Coolmore who would be celebrating the joy of six in the Coral-Eclipse with odds-on The Gurkha.

Instead it was Hawkbill, a £30,000 supplementary entry at the start of the week, who made it six in a row in a meteoric rise up the ranks to give Godolphin a fifth winner of the £525,000 feature.

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Godolphin's previous four winners of the midsummer Group 1 showdown between the generations, all trained by Saeed bin Suroor, had started life elsewhere from Halling in 1995 through to their last winner Refuse To Bend nine years ago.

This made their first truly home-grown winner, and a first for their trainer Charlie Appleby in the race, that bit more special.

All involved were quick to highlight the "team" with chief executive John Ferguson cheerleading.

"I love Charlie, Saeed and our own trainers but the important thing is for the team as a whole to be winning races worldwide," said Ferguson.

"That's what Godolphin is all about. We are having a great time in Australia and America so it's very important to be winning big races here too whoever they are trained by."  

There was only half a length between Hawkbill and The Gurkha at the end of the one mile two furlongs and seven yards - with William Buick excelling on a three-year-old who had started his career wearing a hood and looking reluctant to warm to the racing game when tailed off at Newbury 14 months ago.

Challenging horse

Appleby said: "He has been a challenging horse but he has got some racing under his belt and mentally got stronger with each run.

"At Ascot he was very warm before the preliminaries but he did what we thought he could do."

He was following the third home Time Test in being an impressive winner of the Group 3 Tercentenary at Royal Ascot, but was rated second to the four-year-old in the Eclipse run-up.

Godolphin's confidence clearly got through to many as Hawkbill was backed to 6-1 from 8-1 to go off shorter than former second-favourite Time Test.

Hawkbill (William Buick) Charlie Appleby John Ferguson

Charlie Appleby (second right): "He has arrived now"

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Appleby added: "After Newmarket (Listed win in April) William said we were dealing with a proper horse. Since Ascot one thing we noticed was how much he had grown up from there.

"Normally he would be awash with sweat at home but this past ten days he has not turned a hair and his rider has said he had come on again.

"He was being so good today I hoped it was part of growing up. He has arrived now."

Testing nudge

Everything looked to be going to plan as Countermeasure did his front-running role with The Gurkha, Hawkbill and Time Test watching on warily.

That changed when The Gurkha took a nudge from Time Test off the home bend to allow the following Hawkbill first run past the pacemaker.

The favourite still ranged up two furlongs out to join battle and even look the likelier winner.

Buick, who has 30 days to bask in the glory with his holiday imposed by the French stewards, switched his whip in a heartbeat halfway through the final furlong just as The Gurkha hesitated for a stride and in that instant the winning margin was gained and nothing Moore could do from there was going to rest the prize back.

Time Test, a big market drifter after the ground turned soft and against him, stayed on for third ahead of his pacemaker Countermeasure who kept the race's big disappointment My Dream Boat out of the frame.

In doing so Countermeasure covered all bar £1,860 of his supplementary entry but it was the other late entrant who took the headlines.

 
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