Hail the victor, don’t dwell on the defeated. Ghaiyyath’s two length Eclipse Stakes victory over Enable was the finest performance of what is becoming a stellar four-season career. Enable’s return from a 273-day absence very much keeps the dream of alive of a third Arc de Triomphe in October.
William Buick’s front running ride was no opportunistic heist as Emmet McNamara’s in the Derby on Saturday, but a masterly piece of race control from the front on a colt who, at five, has become both physically and mentally the beau ideal of the thoroughbred. In the past, Ghaiyyath’s natural athletic exuberance would burn too bright. Twice last year a brilliant performance was followed by a lacklustre one. This summer, he returned with a record time Coronation Cup last month and here he was clocking 2 minutes 4.48 for the Eclipse, by far the fastest comparative time of the day.
Ghaiyyath and Buick didn’t break from the gates as quickly as Japan and Ryan Moore, but were soon at the head of the pack followed closely by the colt Japan and the powerful Japanese mare rejoicing in the name of Deirdre, with Enable and Dettori dropped a couple of lengths off them in fourth.
With the continuing and lamentable absence of in-running sectional times on many British tracks, one had to trust one’s eye, and Buick’s judgment as to just how high was the tempo. But the jockey had judged it right and when he upped speed swinging into the wind off the turn, his own body tightened on his partner’s back, Ghaiyyath’s hooves bit deep into the Sandown turf and suddenly his pursuers were in trouble.
Moore and Japan were first out after him and then Dettori and Enable closed on the outside. This was going to be tough. Dettori threaded and rethreaded his reins as he pumped Enable forward. As he got to Japan’s quarters, he had his whip up. Just twice it cracked but while the mare just had the legs of this rival neither of them could get to within even a length of Ghaiyyath’s streaming tail.
“He’s not a horse to be controlled or anything like that,” Buick said of his partner. “You just let him use his big stride and go when he’s ready. He’s a joy to ride and he’s a very, very good horse.” Delighted trainer Charlie Appleby confirmed that Ghaiyyath’s next target will be York’s Juddmonte International in August, whilst John Gosden will be sending Enable to Ascot for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the end of this month.
“I was very happy with the run, first time back since October,” said the trainer whose Mishref had won the French Derby earlier in the afternoon. “I said she would be only 85% and I was thrilled with the way she carried herself. She’s six now but she has retained all her attitude.”
Gosden is just about the best and most open ambassador racing has ever had, but even he was reluctant to detail just how much Enable was above her best racing weight. It may be an old hobby horse of mine but I cannot see that it would be any hindrance to trainers whilst of considerable interest to the public if every horse was put on the scales when it had its compulsory check on arrival at the racecourse stables.
But that anomaly is for nothing compared to the lack of sectional times on a consistent basis. At its core horseracing is equine athletics and to try and hold the public’s attention without the equivalent of lap times seems even more absurd than when Brendan Foster expressed his amazement to me a full 30 years ago. It’s a sorry truth that for all their horse spotting eloquence, today’s commentators on the Eclipse had no more data in front of them than Peter O’Sullevan would have had in 1960. Heck that’s 60 years ago.
It’s all very well celebrating the past. In this case racing needs to get up to speed with the present.