ECLIPSE STAKES 2023

BROUGH SCOTT

SUNDAY TIMES SPORT

9th July 2023

Examination passed. The Eclipse Stakes is the first big test between the generations and at yesterday’s finish the three year old Paddington knew that the four year old Emily Upjohn had given his young career it’s sternest trial.

At the post he still had half a length to spare over the big mare who by dint of the long established weight for age scale was carrying 9 stone 6 lbs to his 8.13. She had also lost a couple of lengths at the start, slightly missing her kick from the stalls as Paddington jumped clean out into the lead.

But there could be no queries on the result and, perhaps surprisingly to outsiders, no real complaint about a field of only four as two of the most famous Eclipses ever run, Ard Patrick’s defeat of Sceptre in 1903 and Royal Palace’s inching out of Taj Dewan in 1968 were equally scant in numbers.

This was a race about intrigue, effort and inspiration. Debate over tactics was soon solved as Jamie Spencer took outsider West Wind Blows to the front and set a strong gallop which he committed to full intensity swinging into the straight. Ryan Moore had Paddington a couple of lengths away in second with William Buick following on Emily Upjohn and Tom Marquand and Dubai Honour completing the file.

Into the straight and this was thoroughbreds at full stretch. A quarter mile out Paddington took the leader and dared to Emily Upjohn to catch him. She is a magnificent stamp of athlete and will be a top Arc de Triomphe contender. Buick’s limbs were locked into her massive frame as he hurled her after the favourite. At the furlong pole she was a length down, 100 yards out it was half a length but Moore and Paddington would allow her no closer.

In extremis Paddington holds his head a bit high and to the right. That is often seen as a sign of weakness but is actually not dissimilar to the manner of Montjeu his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winning grandsire. Paddington still has a little way to go to match grandpa but an Irish Guineas, St James Palace, Eclipse Stakes treble is a pretty good way to start.

Aidan O’Brien was winning the race for a record 7th time but a memorable name came up as he did his usual listing of the staff involved with the victor. For Paddington’s rider of a morning is the now 52 year old Adrian Maguire, who in 1993-4 rode 194 winners only to come up three short of Richard Dunwoody and be forever dubbed as the unluckiest jump jockey never to be champion.

“You imagine what it is like having someone like Adrian riding for you every morning,” said O’Brien with that engaging whispered confidence of his, “people like Adrian are the making of horses like this.” Back home in County Mallow Maguire returned the compliment. “Aidan’s are all lovely animals and Paddington is a bit of a show off. He knows he is king of the castle.”

Brutal injuries brought an early halt to Maguire’s riding career and other pressures made his subsequent training operation unviable. Time at the “Ballydoyle Academy” has seen him pass an even more important examination than Paddington’s. It is one of life itself.

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