The skeleton of Eclipse is on display in Newmarket's Horse Racing Museum and could do with being brought back to life, like the dinosaurs of Steven Spielberg's movie, to ennervate Sandown's most prestigious Flat race.
In the middle of the last decade only champions such as Pebbles, Dancing Brave and Mtoto were allowed to win the Eclipse, but since Nashwan's victory in 1989 the scroll has seen the addition of lesser figures in Elmaamul, Environment Friend and Kooyonga. It is almost enough to make Eclipse turn over in his glass cabinet at Headquarters.
While we could do with the likes of him around today, it is perhaps fortunate that the first of the great racehorses is in the record books at all. A grandson of one of the turf's foundation sires, the Darley Arabian, Eclipse also had among his ancestors a horse called Squirt, who was being led off to a dog kennel for execution before a begging groom persuaded his owner to reprieve him.
Bred by William Duke Of Cumberland and foaled in 1764, Eclipse was so headstrong that he was nearly gelded, which would have deprived us of three of the first five Derby winners.
After the death of the Duke, he was bought for 75 gns by William Wildman, a Smithfield meat salesman, which may explain why he learned to run quickly at an early age. By the time he hung up his plates he had established an unbeaten record in 18 races, a career further embellished by his charismatic owner, the Irish gambler Colonel Dennis O'Kelly.
This afternoon's Eclipse Stakes at the Esher course would also be featuring an unbeaten horse had Tenby not failed so dramatically when odds-on for the Derby last month. There have been so many theories for his demise at Epsom it seems that answers on a postcard have been landing in the Warren Place mailbox of the colt's trainer, Henry Cecil.
Perhaps the least plausible excuse was that Tenby failed to get the trip in the Derby, which is highly improbable as he was a spent force before Tattenham Corner had been fully negotiated. Yet the horse now finds himself back over 10 furlongs, a distance over which he will be vulnerable to anything with speed.
Among those who will be attempting to exhibit that acceleration are two horses which ran here last year, Opera House and Arcangues. The former had the soft ground he needs to perform when runner-up 12 months ago and will now find conditions against him, while the latter goes into the event with a similar build-up behind him.
Last season, Arcangues was second favourite here, having finished second on his previous start to Zoman in the Prix d'Ispahan. Andre Fabre's horse has been well supported, much as he was last year before his first visit to Britain ended in an ignominious eighth.
The one undoubted speed horse in the race is Barathea, who got closer to Zafonic than any other runner in the 2,000 Guineas. The colt all but collapsed under Michael Roberts in the closing stages of the Derby, but the South African clearly believes this 10 furlongs is the ideal trip for BARATHEA (nap 4.05), whom he has chosen in front of Opera House.
After the Eclipse, the most interesting racing is at Haydock, where the progressive Rainbow Lake runs in the Lancashire Oaks and Highflying, last Saturday's Northumberland Plate winner, contests the Old Newton Cup, but the demands of Wimbledon and Trent Bridge mean they can be watched only by those on course and in the shops.
That leaves a couple of handicaps at Sandown and one of those Carry On sprints, which features the same old faces pumping out low-level entertainment. The ones to follow for those bored with Graf and Gooch are Spectacular Dawn (next best 2.45), Gymcrak Premiere (4.40) and Lucky Parkes (3.20).
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