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City Of Troy digs deep to claim Coral-Eclipse glory

3 minute read

Aidan O’Brien’s latest star was made to work to complete the Epsom Derby-Coral-Eclipse double.

CITY OF TROY winning the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in Esher, England.
CITY OF TROY winning the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown in Esher, England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

City Of Troy ensured Aidan O'Brien would land a record-extending eighth Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday, although perhaps not in the manner many viewers would have expected.

The Epsom Derby hero was made to pull out all the stops by Al Riffa and gave punters of the 1/4 market leader a bit of a scare, but O'Brien's charge ultimately had enough in the locker to fend off the challenge by a length in the closing stages.

Defections of both Stay Alert and Jayarebe meant City Of Troy would face just five rivals in his bid to become the eleventh horse to complete the Epsom Derby-Coral-Eclipse Stakes double, one of whom Hans Anderson, as expected, went off to set the pace for his stablemate.

Ryan Moore tracked his pacemaker for much of the ten-furlong Group 1 prize before bringing his mount to challenge towards the middle of the track. The son of Justify was driven to the front as the field went past the two-furlong marker, but the warning lights quickly appeared as City Of Troy hung right-handed down towards the rail.

Joseph O'Brien's Al Riffa continued to edge closer to the multiple Group 1 winner and although he briefly looked a sizeable threat, Dylan Brown McMonagle could never quite close the gap on a post-race critical Ryan Moore, who was winning the prize for the fourth time in his career.

"I thought he'd win today but the ground is slower than what he wants. I got it wrong; I took him up the middle and then he wanted to go back to the fence. I never really got it out of him until I really had to," explained the winning rider to ITV Racing.

"There's a lot more in there. Coming back in now he doesn't feel like he's had a race. He still got the job done. The second horse is the only other Group 1 winner in that field and handled the ground. I'm delighted he got it done."

The Clive Cox-trained Ghostwriter ran on well to finish back in third while Dancing Gemini trailed in a disappointing last of the six runners.

Aidan O'Brien certainly knows a thing or two about winning the Coral Eclipse, but past victories by no means made this afternoon's watch a more straightforward task, with the master of Ballydoyle admitting testing conditions gave connections plenty of anxious moments leading up to and during the race.

"We were very worried about the ground, we walked it before and it was very soft and tough deep ground, softer than it was in the Dewhurst," explained O'Brien.

"He was pitched into unknown territory today and I remember before the Dewhurst we were very worried and took the chance but to walk it today, it was deeper, way deeper.

"It is always tough to watch because the difference between winning and not winning can be massive and I'm delighted for everyone.

"In all fairness to the lads, 15 years ago they would have taken him out, they wouldn't have run him, but we're so lucky they enjoy their racing so much now that they wanted to be here, and they wanted to run him.

"To walk it I was very afraid, but the lads made the right decision – it was a long discussion."

O'Brien felt success came in spite of ground conditions. He said: "He's a beautiful, good ground horse, a real fast ground mover and he has won despite the ground. It would have been easy to take him out, but the lads all came, and they wanted to run him. It was tough because that is specialist ground, and it didn't go to plan because of the whole thing.

"He won quite well in the end. Dylan (Browne McMonagle, on Al Riffa) said coming in that he had him and then he went again. He said he thought he had him, but he was always maintaining."

Paddy Power remained unchanged at 6-4 for the Juddmonte International at York next month, with the same firm going 6/1 for City Of Troy to land the Breeders' Cup Classic in November. The former looks the likely option going forward, although O'Brien was also keen to stress the Irish Champion Stakes remains a possible target.

He added: "I don't know what the lads will do but I would imagine they will have a look at either the Juddmonte International Stakes (at York) or the Irish Champion Stakes.

"After that we will maybe look at America. Everything about him is good ground or better. I would imagine he could finish off in America in the Classic. That is what he is bred to be, his dad was a dirt horse."

Coolmore chief John Magnier, who was making a rare visit to the Esher venue, said of the performance: "It wasn't what we were expecting to be honest with you.

"We're not making excuses; you don't need to when a horse wins a race, but a quarter of the field was taken out because of the ground, and he really is a good moving horse. We posted a video of him working in the last few days and it's quite extraordinary how he moves.

"There's no point us talking any more about him as this horse has to do it himself. It's like his clothes are off and he's in the bed so it's up to him.

"The year is long, and I'd just really like to see him run on his ground. He's only been beaten once in his life and we're complaining, so that will tell you what we think of him.

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