Paddington saw off the tenacious challenge of Emily Upjohn in a thrilling Coral-Eclipse as the highly anticipated match-up and this season’s opening clash of the generations very much delivered in a memorable Group One highlight at Sandown Park.
Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old began the season in handicap company, but he had already successfully stepped up to win both the Irish Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes subsequently.
Upped in trip to 10 furlongs for the first time, Ryan Moore rode him as if there were no doubts about his stamina and so it proved.
His solid temperament allowed Moore to put him where he wanted in the race and, having broken smartly, he found himself in front on leaving the stalls.
The field then raced in single file, with West Wind Blows and Jamie Spencer leading Paddington, Emily Upjohn and Dubai Honour.
Spencer tried to steal a march turning into the straight and took two lengths out of the others.
However, Moore breezed up on Paddington and went into the lead, although Emily Upjohn would not leave him alone.
With half a furlong to run it briefly appeared that the greater stamina of Emily Upjohn may prevail, but she could not quite get on terms with her younger rival who was in receipt of 7lb from the four-year-old filly.
Paddington’s half-length verdict was O’Brien’s seventh Coral-Eclipse triumph, making him the most successful trainer in the history of the race.
Moore says Paddington wasn’t seen to best advantage either.
“It went to plan but I don’t think we saw the best of my horse either,” the rider told ITV Racing.
“He brought me there very comfortably and then I felt a bit vulnerable in the middle of the track and exposed. It was like I was there waiting and a very good filly came running at him – she is seriously top-class.
“He has got an awful lot of pace and gears – he’s all class really. He has done nothing wrong and for Aidan to freshen him up and bring him here shows he is a tough horse.
“We had very little doubt about the trip and he could get further because he is a very good horse. Class always exposes anything else.
“As a three year old, he has a very profile to Sir Mark’s Basilica as he has come here from a Guineas. This is a top-class colt and we’ll enjoy him.”
Aidan O’Brien said: “It went perfect and exactly like Ryan said. He said he would break early as Jamie’s horse (West Wind Blows) can be slow, and he said if he is he will probably take it off him after a little bit, but if he doesn’t, he would be happy to make his own running.
“One thing Ryan said was he was surprised how easy he went through the race and how easy he was doing it. When he gets there, he waits a little bit but Ryan is very excited about him. He is a good bit heavier today than he was at Ascot which was a little bit of a surprise to us, but he didn’t look it (heavier). Everyone was delighted with him since Ascot and that is why we came here.
“He is getting quicker when he is getting heavier like that. Ryan gave him an absolute peach. There were three others in the race but he was very confident going out as he knew what he was going to do, whether he was going to be in front or behind or whatever.
“I’m absolutely over the moon really. She (Emily Upjohn) is a very good filly and we saw in Epsom what she did. We know an older filly like that wasn’t going to lie down and we knew she was going to be following us. Ryan probably got there earlier than he wanted but he didn’t want to break his rhythm or disappoint him. It was the 100 percent perfect thing to do.
“He has progressed with every single run. He is a serious horse.”
As to the future, an outing back over a mile in the Group One Qatar Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on August 2nd could be next.
The master of Ballydoyle continued: “The lads will decide (where he goes) and we will have a chat after a week. The lads will chat amongst themselves then they will talk to Ryan. I’d say there is a good chance he could be back there (Sussex Stakes). The plan after Ascot was to go for the Sussex Stakes but because he came out of the race so well that is why he was here.
“We don’t look at that ever (trainers’ championship). It is always about the horses and to do the right things by them. Whatever will be will be and that is how we approach every year. We make plans per horse.
“I never believe any horse wins until they are past the post, but Ryan was very confident.
“Ryan is getting better every year. Since he come to us every year has he got better and that progress is still there. He is an incredible rider as you can see. His focus, judgement, confidence and strength, everything about him, his determination, his drive, his commitment, all those things are getting stronger, and stronger, and stronger. He is an unbelievable fellow.
“Who knows where he will end up. We are just so lucky to have him riding for us.
“I’m in a great position looking in on teams of people working around these horses every day. I like to listen and observe them all but it is the lads that put all these teams together.
“We thought he was very good when he went to Ascot first time. He really was a baby, and we gave him a lot of time to recover. Then we went to the Curragh, and he won very impressively in a maiden. Seamus (Heffernan) said he was very good that time, so we decided to leave him alone. We had other horses in those other brackets so we decided to leave him alone and let him winter and start him in as lower grade as we could start him and that is what we did. I suppose the surprising thing about him is the progress he is making from race to race.
“He is getting more confident. He is getting stronger and bigger physically. Mentally, he is getting more professional. It is amazing what he is doing. He was a lot heavier today than when running at Ascot two weeks ago, which is unusual in a good way. It is very surprising what he is doing.
“The big thing is the lads love their racing and that is rising above everything else now. They love going racing and thinking about those horses. It is becoming more of a love and a passion than it has ever been before. I can’t tell you how passionate they are about the racing.
“He is quicker than Giant’s Causeway, but his constitution is amazing too. Giant always ran at the same weight, but this horse is getting heavier. Physically he is doing very well.
“He has surprised us so much with every run. Seamus (Heffernan) rides him work every day and the last day he rode him he got off him and couldn’t talk. When those fellows that have ridden that many horses are getting that way it takes you back a little bit.”
“A superb performance from both horses,” John Gosden tells Lydia Hislop
John Gosden, joint trainer of runner-up Emily Upjohn alongside his son Thady, told ITV Racing: “She was a little slow from the gate which wasn’t helpful. We sat in third and we had the whole length of the long straight to get to Paddington.
“It was a superb performance with top, top class horses. Let’s face it, she was giving seven pounds to the winner and her best distance is a mile and a half so she has run a blinder.
“The Arc will be her main aim at the end of the year.”
Gosden went on to say: “It was a superb run. It was what the race needed. You didn’t want one of these horses not firing so it was good for racing as it is disappointing when you only get four runners in a race of this class, and nature.
“She was a little slow out of the gates, so we settled into third. She had every opportunity up the straight. Obviously, she had to make the length and a bit to get to him. It was a superb race, and we are thrilled with her.
“She hasn’t run over a mile and a quarter since the Musidora so it was a super run and we know she is a mile and a half filly. Full marks to the winner. He is very laid back and did it well. We are giving the seven pounds and that would tell. It is a four-year-old to a three year old. Lester (Piggott) always said the three-year-old has the edge in the Eclipse and the King George.
Watch the replay here
“I wouldn’t mind (having another crack at the winner) but we are going back to a mile and a half, and I don’t think he (Paddington) will run a mile and a half, I would be very surprised.
“His dam stayed well, and Aidan is capable of doing anything. We are more likely to see Aidan’s Derby winner in the King George.
“The races (for her) are the King George, Yorkshire Oaks and the Arc. Those are the three races for her. I’d be very happy with her run, and he (William Buick) rode her perfectly.
“Jamie (Spencer on West Wind Blows) wisely stayed off the rail to get the fresh ground and by staying off the rail there was going to be no one getting boxed in which makes a big difference. We are delighted with her.”