An Eclipse Stakes of surpassing drama ended in the narrowest of victories for the 8-1 shot Ulysses and a timely boost to the status of his jockey, Jim Crowley. The reigning champion has been in the news for losing the ride on the 4-1 chance Eminent, unplaced behind him here as the winner barely resisted the late challenge of Barney Roy.
While the judge reached for his magnifying glass, the stewards began an inquiry that lasted until long after the next race. This was a rough Eclipse and while the best two horses probably came to the fore Cliffs Of Moher had his chance all but killed off by dramatic interference in the first half-mile.
Rubbing salt into the wounds of those who made Cliffs Of Moher the 7-4 favourite, the culprit was his stablemate and supposed pacemaker, Taj Mahal, ridden by Padraig Beggy. From a position in the middle of the track, Beggy manoeuvered his colt over to the rail when he was by no means entitled to do so, being about three-quarters of a length ahead of the next horse.
Eminent was reined back to avoid clipping Taj Mahal’s heels and then Decorated Knight was forced on to the rail, squeezing up Cliffs Of Moher so that Ryan Moore had to snatch up his mount, losing three lengths and valuable momentum. Had the offender been someone other than Beggy, Moore and the trainer, Aidan O’Brien, may have given free rein to their sentiments but instead they opted for gritted teeth.
O’Brien said: “I didn’t really get a good look at it but … listen, races always don’t go smooth.” He confirmed that Cliffs Of Moher was at least uninjured, having stayed on into fourth.
Beggy was banned for eight days, which might be nothing compared to the damage he has done to his standing at Ballydoyle. Since he delivered a stunning Derby success on a 40-1 shot a month ago, Beggy has been given only occasional race-rides by O’Brien and perhaps we gained an insight here as to why that is. The jockey hastened away without comment as he left the stewards’ room.
There was more trouble in the home straight as Silvestre de Sousa found himself in need of room aboard the hefty Eminent. Alongside, Olivier Peslier was trying to maintain a straight line on Decorated Knight but De Sousa opted to shunt him outwards, earning himself a two-day ban. Eminent perhaps picked up on his jockey’s aggression, leaning over to bite at his rival after bumping him.
Connections of Eminent felt the horse should have done better than fourth in the Derby and told Crowley on Monday that he had lost the ride. In the circumstances, his emotional punch of the air after the judge called Ulysses the winner was entirely understandable. “It’s got to be No1, hasn’t it?” he said when asked where this fitted among his career highlights. “I’ve had good winners at Ascot and things like that but this is one of the big ones.”
Sir Michael Stoute has now trained six Eclipse winners, matching Alec Taylor Jr’s record of a century ago. He described Ulysses as “an admirable horse, very game. He’s only had one blip in his career and that was in the Derby and they knocked him over twice”.
No immediate plans were offered for the first two. Asked about targets, Richard Hannon, trainer of Barney Roy, said: “Not right now. I’d like to run that one again, is that all right? Go and talk to Stoutey, he’ll be more upbeat.