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Ghaiyyath strikes in Eclipse as Enable goes down fighting at Sandown

Ghaiyyath sees off Enable (pink cap) and Japan in Sunday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown
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If the Derby was all about a winner who was allowed to stealthily go beyond the reach of his rivals to conquer Epsom, the Coral-Eclipse was a demonstration of raw power, precision and determination from the front-running Ghaiyyath.

It was these attributes that had worried those closest to last year’s winner Enable, running for the first time since her agonising defeat when pursuing a historic third win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and with the race gone jockey Frankie Dettori nursed his beloved partner home in the final yards to take second.

What had unfurled before that point was a performance from the front that once again pointed to Ghaiyyath, a gorgeous individual with a reputation that has never dipped below the highest levels, having finally reached the peak of his powers.

Watch back another scintillating running of the Coral-Eclipse

Where before his aggression and willingness up top had at times been his undoing, making him an easy target or taking its toll on his constitution post-race, it is now able to be harnessed to its fullest capacity by his tactically astute and attuned rider William Buick.

The tactics were known to everybody but that did not mean the other riders had any ability to stop Ghaiyyath running the finish out of the legs of those beneath them. And after breaking a little casually from the stalls, Ghaiyyath and Buick surged through to lead – a position he would never release.

No doubt the other riders appreciated the Godolphin five-year-old going on into the teeth of a howling headwind in the straight, one so strong champion jockey Oisin Murphy had joked he was nearly blown off an earlier winner when angling out from behind cover, but Ghaiyyath pierced the wind.

Ghaiyyath strides out to Coral-Eclipse success at Sandown

Relentlessly he went on in front, Buick pushing him to dig deep as he had done when downing last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck and Gold Cup star Stradivarius in the rearranged Coronation Cup at Newmarket last month.

Behind him Japan and Enable tried, as horses of their calibre and brilliance always do, but this was Ghaiyyath’s time. 

“He’s got a high cruising speed and he knows how to use it,” Buick said. “He’s a horse that you go with what he wants to do. He’s not a horse who wants to be controlled, you’re best sitting against him and letting him use his big stride and then go when he’s ready. He’s a joy to ride and he’s a very good horse.

“I think it will be a mile and a quarter [where he’s best] as he’s very fast and has a high cruising speed. Sometimes when you ride him over a mile and a half you’re worried that last furlong is going to be a long one, although he always keeps going.”

Ghaiyyath’s victory was further vindication of trainer Charlie Appleby’s belief that he finally has a horse fully able to realise the potential he has always possessed. What more could a man want on his birthday?

“I’m delighted,” he beamed. “I wondered, when they came to him in the straight, how much he'd done early, but he wears his heart on his sleeve and was never going to lie down. It was a great battle and I thought it was a great race, which is what racing needs.

“I felt he gained a lot of respect after the Coronation Cup as a lot of people hadn’t seen him do that. He’d been an emphatic winner in France, Germany and out in Dubai this winter, but for the British public to see his Coronation win I think he gained a lot of fans and support.

“He’s the finished article now. The one thing we learned from Dubai this winter is that he’s been taking his racing better and it was the same after the Coronation. This was a success this horse is entitled to have based on what we’ve seen in the past. I’m very pleased for him.”

John Gosden and Charlie Appleby in the Sandown grandstand before the Coral-Eclipse

There was also some pleasure in defeat too for Enable’s trainer John Gosden, who had warned his champion was not at her fittest, an opinion he had formed with his hand and his eye as well as from the inflated number on the scales when she was weighed.

Asked what that weight was, Gosden replied: “When a famous woman, Dorothy Parker I believe, was asked her age, she said: ‘My age is just a number and it’s not listed.’” 

The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, sponsored by Qipco, is the next stopping point for Enable, whereas the race sponsored by her owner Khalid Abdullah, the Juddmonte International, is where Ghaiyyath is being steered towards before the Arc.

Appleby said: “He’s had a race on his hands there as you don’t beat Enable and have an easy run, so we'll see how he is next week and consider whether we head to York or wait a little bit longer.

"Our plan was to work back from another crack at the Arc and if Enable’s there then we’ll take her on again. I felt it was a good spectacle today and I’m very proud to have been a part of it."

Read more big-race reports from a superb weekend:

Donnacha O'Brien outdoes his dad to land a Classic in first year as a trainer

'He had it won in two strides' – Gosden's Mishriff powers home in French Derby

Serpentine stuns Derby rivals for O'Brien to win a race as strange as the day

'She couldn't have been any more impressive' – Love a class apart in the Oaks

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He's not a horse who wants to be controlled, you're best sitting against him and letting him use his big stride and then go when he's ready
E.W. Terms