The Eclipse Stakes, not the Irish Derby, and a four-year-old career are the latest plans for Derby winner Sir Percy. According to his trainer, Marcus Tregoning, the colt is more likely to be seen at next month's home fixture against his elders over 10 furlongs at Sandown than the away match against his contemporaries over 12 at the Curragh.
"I'm 60-40 in favour of the Eclipse," he said yesterday, "And while our minds are still open, I can see a lot of advantages in running him in a Group One over a mile and a quarter, rather than travelling him in order to take in another mile and a half race. And I've been struggling to think of any obvious older horses that would be taking him on. But nothing is yet set in stone."
Before inching out Dragon Dancer, Dylan Thomas and Hala Bek on Saturday, Sir Percy had beaten all bar George Washington in the 2,000 Guineas, the first defeat of his career. He and Hala Bek have been vying for favouritism in the early market for Ireland's richest contest but Tregoning sounded a warning to punters. "I would advise anyone wanting to back him for Ireland to wait," he added.
Only eight Derby winners have progressed to victory in the Eclipse Stakes, from Flying Fox in 1899 to Nashwan 17 years ago. Since Nashwan, only three Epsom victors have tried their luck at Sandown: Erhaab, third in 1994; Benny The Dip, second in 1997; and Motivator, second last year. But perhaps significantly, of the octet to bring the prestige double up, seven had either run first or second over the mile of the Guineas.
Sir Percy's owners, Anthony and Victoria Packenham, are keen to further their pleasure in their pride and joy by racing him as a four-year-old and in view of that, Tregoning warned that less, rather than more, may be seen of the son of Mark Of Esteem this term.
"If we keep him going for next year then we would not race him massively for the remainder of the season," the trainer said. "After his next run, wherever that is, we could save him for the end of the year and a race like the Arc."
Yesterday was Sir Percy's first photocall since his thrilling 6-1 success. But although he was well-fancied on the day, getting him there had been an against-the-odds venture after the gallant bay's effort on the Rowley Mile left him battered and bruised.
Most trainers freely acknowledge they are nothing without their staff and Tregoning singled out the backroom team at his Kingwood House stables, near Lambourn, for especial praise, naming vet Nicole Jones, physiotherapist Sarah Pilkington, work rider Fred Storrer, assistant trainer Patrick McEwan, travelling head lad Peter West and the colt's proud lad, John Kennedy.
"I can't thank them enough," Tregoning said. "When you consider what happened to the horse in the Guineas it was incredible that he was able to win the Derby. He pulled a shoe off, wrenched a joint and pulled muscles in his back and was lame for a week after Newmarket. But owing to a huge effort from my staff he made it to Epsom. They are all great team players."
Before Sir Percy reappears, there is the small matter of Royal Ascot, which launches back at its new old home 13 days hence. Plans are beginning to harden; Tregoning himself nominated the filly Makderah in the Sandringham Stakes as his best chance; Barry Hills will drop Red Clubs, unplaced in the 2,000 Guineas, in class for the Jersey Stakes; and Peter Chapple-Hyam is to step Dutch Art, a debut winner at Windsor on Monday, up in grade for the Norfolk Stakes.
* The disgraced former trainer David Flood, found guilty in March of a variety of charges surrounding the withdrawal of Mossman Gorge by the stewards at Newmarket last year, has had his sentence marginally reduced on appeal. His two-year warning-off, which starts today, still stands, but the Horseracing Regulatory Authority ruled yesterday that he can seek employment in racing after a year, rather than 17 months. He had been assisting Kevin McAuliffe while waiting for the appeal to be heard.
SEDGEFIELD: 2.30 Return Home 3.00 From Little Acorns 3.30 Bafana Boy 4.00 Prince Among Men 4.30 Lord Baskerville 5.00 Sams Lad 5.30 Campli
Nap: Young Mick
NB: Greek Secret
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