Racing: Eddery in a triumph of timing

ROYAL ASCOT: The champion jockey clinches a memorable Gold Cup victory with a perfectly delayed challenge on Celeric

There have been many outstanding rides in Pat Eddery's 28-year career but hardly ever have they been accompanied by a flash of emotion. The Gold Cup changed that yesterday. The Irishman executed a ride of such skill and timing on Celeric that he even managed to satisfy his greatest critic, himself. When he came to a stop, his face covered in a rash of mud spots, Eddery smiled at connections and raised a clenched fist in front of him. The mission had, gloriously, been accomplished.

The huge personality of Frankie Dettori dominates racing today, but he is not champion jockey. That honour belongs to the man who has won the championship 11 times, ridden around 4,000 winners, 67 of them at the Royal meeting.

Pat Eddery's first, and previously only, victory in the Gold Cup was on Erimo Hawk 25 years ago and, as his prowess and longevity remain closely entwined, Celeric should not be the last. He will, however, be the most memorable.

It is the gelding's nature that he must be brought to the front with only fractions of his journey remaining. Thus it was no surprise to see Eddery and his partner ambling out of the stalls yesterday. As anticipated, the outriders were Grey Shot and Double Trigger, who carried wide-cupped blinkers which lent the impression he was wearing sunglasses. Behind them, the order changed but not the position of Celeric, who was glued in last place.

Down the far side, Eddery crept as unnoticed as ivy up brickwork, and by the time the straight was breached the final push was under way. Celeric slid through the bookends of Double Trigger and Samraan and then had just Classic Cliche in front of him. So well was the five-year-old travelling, that his passenger could afford to take a cheeky tug before striking out for the post. At the line there was three-quarters of a length of space behind him.

"The horse loves to be ridden like that and I just went out there with so much confidence as the owner and trainer let me do what I wanted," Eddery said. "It was marvellous."

That David Morley managed to send out such a positive message was a tribute to his stagecraft. He actually felt dreadful. The trainer heard rain spattering against his bedroom window in the dark hours and felt like climbing out on to the ledge for a closer inspection. "I was in the depths of despair this morning with all that rain having fallen," the Newmarket man said. "I was awake from 4.15am listening to the rain and the more it came down the more despondent I got. I thought he had no chance."

Celeric should be Celeriac, a turnip-rooted variety of celery, but somewhere in the transmission to Weatherbys an "a" went missing. He was bred, appropriately enough, in the back garden of his owner, Christopher Spence. "The small stud we have is literally in the garden at home," he said. Celeric's mother, Hot Spice, has produced a greengrocers' shelf of offspring as her progeny also includes Sesame, Myrrh, Camomile, Turmeric and Zucchini.

Elsewhere, there were victories for figures who do not have to ask for directions to the winners' enclosure at the Royal meeting. Yashmak was devastating in the Ribblesdale Stakes for Henry Cecil, while Paul Cole's Central Park provoked a quote of 25-1 for the 1998 2,000 Guineas from Coral with his success in the Chesham Stakes. But perhaps the most warming success was that of Cole's former assistant, Kevin McAuliffe.

The only people who fancied his Tippitt Boy in the Norfolk Stakes were probably those who liked the name or devotees of the system of backing the outsider of six. Tippitt Boy, however, seemed to be unaware that he was a 33-1 option as he caught and passed Hopping Higgins inside the final furlong. "This is the best day of my life," McAuliffe said. "I've always thought he was a good horse, the best two-year-old I have ever trained." To be fair, that particular race does not require much winning.

McAuliffe has been training from Delamere Cottage stables in Lambourn for four years, employing the expertise he collected at Whatcombe. "Paul [Cole] is a very good trainer of two-year-olds and he taught me the bottom line is buying young horses," he said. "He taught me that if you buy a selling plater, it will always be a selling plater."

There were plenty who thought Tippitt Boy was not much above that class before yesterday. After his defeat at Redcar in May one of the trade papers opined that he "might be capable of winning a seller on a small track". They were right.

Royal Ascot set an attendance record for the third successive day yesterday. The Ladies' Day crowd of 77,543 beat the previous best of 76,640, set in 1986.

Almaty may be a late withdrawal from today's King's Stand Stakes if the rain-softened ground is deemed unsuitable.

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