O’Brien’s make it a 1-2 in the Coral Eclipse with dad saddling City Of Troy to victory

By Peter Moore at Sandown Park Saturday 6th July 2024

City Of Troy became the 11th horse to land the prestigious Coral Eclipse-Derby double in the same season after beating Al Riffa to give Aidan O’Brien his first Derby winner to follow up in the Eclipse.

Despite the soft ground not playing to his strengths, City Of Troy had to work hard for his win, eventually getting the better of Al Riffa trained by Aidan’s son Joseph by a length with Ghostwriter a further length back in third.

The three-year-old took his winning record to five wins from six starts after coming off the bridle two furlongs from home with him tending to drift to the right. However, under Ryan Moore he found the far rail and always looked like having something in hand over Al Riffa who at one stage looked like spoiling the party.

“We were very worried about the ground,” revealed O’Brien, who puffed out his cheeks before continuing his assessment. “We walked the track before and it was a lot softer than it was in the Dewhurst or anything else. It was soft, tough, deep ground and, in all fairness to the lads [owners the Coolmore partners], 15 years ago they wouldn’t have run and would have pulled him out, and I knew that. 

“We’re so lucky they enjoy their racing so much now and they wanted to be here and they wanted to run him but, having walked it, I was very afraid about it. He’s a beautiful, good-ground horse and has obviously won in spite of the ground.”

Winning rider Ryan Moore told ITV Racing: “I thought he would win today but the going was slower than what he wants.

“I got it wrong by taking him up the middle and he wanted to go back to the fence.

“I never really got it out of him until I really had to and I think there was a lot more in there. Coming back now, it doesn’t feel like he has had a race.

“The ground was wrong for him but he still got the job done.

“He was the only Group One winner in the field. He wants nicer ground but the trip I wouldn’t be too worried about – 10 or 12 furlongs is fine.”

Makarova went one better than last year to register the first Pattern win of her career in the Group Three Coral Charge over five furlongs.

The five-year-old came with a strong run inside the final furlong to overhaul leader Desperate Hero before fending off the challenge of Purosangue to win by three quarters of a length under Hector Crouch.

Successful trainer Ed Walker said after the race “She wore blinkers for the first time at Royal Ascot last time out and she paid the price, as it was the first time ever that she didn’t get home over five furlongs. So, we took them off but I think they have had the effect of just sharpening her up and she was back in cheekpieces today. She was more her old self today in that she got behind the bridle and finished strongly.

“We have chanced our arm with her a lot, but before today she was only a Listed winner. Being homebred by Jeff and Phoebe Hobby (Brightwalton Bloodstock), it was so important to make her a Group winner.

“She’ll go now to Goodwood for the King George Stakes before possibly the Nunthrorpe or Flying Five at the Curragh. This will be her last season racing and it will be great if we can get some more black type for her. She started off with a mark of 67 and is so laid back. She never looked like a five-furlong sprinter in her early days.

“I wasn’t confident that she was going to get there today until the last 20 yards but you know she’ll come good.”

Cicero’s Gift defied a lengthy absence of 382 days to come home the winner of the Coral Challenge Handicap by half a length from Holloway Boy under top weight with youngster Billy Loughnane aboard.

A winner from four of his five starts, winning trainer Charlie Hills said “It wasn’t really my plan to come her as there is a perfect race for him over 1m 1f at Glorious Goodwood but dad (Barry Hills) rang and said that race would be difficult first time out so why not give him a spin around here today.

“To go and win today is testament to the horse as he wasn’t full would up. The soft ground is important to him and he had bone bruising on all four fetlocks last year.

“We have a bit of money in the pot now so we may have to supplement him for something.”

Loughnane bagged a double on the card when Blake was victorious in the Coral Racing Club Handicap to beat Midnight Rumble by a length and three quarters.

There was a big surprise in the Coral Distaff run over a mile when Spiritual made all to win by a length and a quarter for John & Thady Gosden at odds of 25-1.

Ridden by Richard Kingscote, who revealed afterwards that this was only the second time he had ridden for the Gosden’s.