O’Brien on brink of Coral-Eclipse history
Should Aidan O’Brien triumph with Paddington at Sandown on Saturday, he will create yet another piece of Turf history as the trainer with the most Coral-Eclipse wins.
Currently he shares the record with Alec Taylor Jnr, famed as the ‘Wizard of Manton’ due to his success in the early 20th century, and Sir Michael Stoute.
O’Brien admitted the Eclipse – a race named after the horse whose footprint on the sport is still around today with his long-distance descendants – was vitally important in his early career.
His first winner, Giant’s Causeway, is regularly brought up in discussions of O’Brien’s best horses.
It was already his fifth race of the season and his first against older horses and 10 furlongs, having just won the St James’s Palace Stakes, and O’Brien is clearly keen to take advantage of the weight-for-age concession the Classic generation receive, given four of his six Coral-Eclipse winners have been three.
“The Eclipse is obviously a very prestigious race for a stallion. It’s the first time the generations really meet and everybody gets a feel of where they all are,” he said.
“The people gone before us have always got it fairly right with the weight-for-age scale. Obviously a three-year-old is not usually as mature as the older horses yet, but as the year goes on it levels up.
“The Eclipse is a very prestigious race to win, Sandown is a good track that is always very well maintained and you get a good picture of where you’re going after.”
“Paddington is a three-year-old and he’s running in a lot of the races that Giant’s Causeway ran in as well, but it’s just the way it worked out,” said O’Brien.
Another three-year-old to score for Ballydoyle two years ago was St Mark’s Basilica, who was also by the same sire, Siyouni.
“Paddington is out of a Montjeu mare whereas St Mark’s was out of a Galileo mare, but they are both by Siyouni,” said O’Brien.
“Paddington can quicken, he’s a miler that can quicken but then St Mark’s did that as well.
“I think he’s only the second Siyouni we’ve had this far among the colts, we’ve a few more two-year-olds by him but they are the only others.
“We’ve won the Eclipse with some of great horses. So You Think was an unbelievable horse really, and he’s still at stud now and doing very well.
“Hawk Wing was a big powerful horse who had run in the Guineas and Derby, St Mark’s was very good and obviously Giant’s Causeway (below) was very important to us.
“He was our first really good horse at that level and I remember George (Duffield) giving him an unbelievable ride. Pat Eddery was riding Kalanisi for Sir Michael and they were second, a great race.
“They are the days you don’t forget and they were very important days for us.”
When asked how early in the season he would identify a horse for the Eclipse, O’Brien said: “We enter them in all the big races. In Paddington’s case we were going to Goodwood (Sussex Stakes), but he was so fresh and well after Ascot, he started doing a few bits of work.
“The Eclipse is always an option. When the lads discussed it with us we said he could probably take it in with his well-being and when we spoke to Ryan (Moore) we decided to let him do it.”