Eclipse Stakes

The Eclipse Stakes is a Group One race run over 1 mile, 1 furlong and 209 yards at Sandown Park Racecourse, in Esher, Surrey, in early July. The race is open to colts, fillies and geldings aged three years and upwards an, as such, provides the first major opportunity for three-year-olds of the so-called ‘Classic generation’ to race against older rivals. The Eclipse Stakes was established in 1886, under the auspices of Leopold de Rothschild, proprietor of the Southcourt Stud, near Leighton Buzzard and, at the time of its inauguration, was the most valuable race in the country.

The Eclipse Stakes is named after Eclipse, a champion racehorse who, in 1771, retired from racing undefeated in all 18 starts – albeit including eight walkovers – and was declared the greatest thoroughbred since the celebrated Flying Childers, nearly five decades earlier. However, since 1976, the Eclipse Stakes has been sponsored by Coral, nowadays part of GVC Holdings plc, and is often referred to as the ‘Coral-Eclipse’.

The roll of honour for the Eclipse Stakes reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of middle-distance talent throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and, since 1970, includes the likes of Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Sea The Stars, Golden Horn and Enable. Five horses, including Mtoto in 1987 and 1988 and Halling in 1995 and 1996, have recorded back-to-back victories in the Eclipse Stakes.

Lester Piggott is the leading jockey in the history of the Eclipse Stakes with sevens wins, including on St. Paddy – erstwhile winner of the Derby and St. Leger – in 1961.  This was certainly something worth factoring in when looking to compare the odds. The so-called ‘Wizard of Manton’, Alec Taylor Jr., saddled six winners of the Eclipse Stakes between 1903 and 1923, including Lemberg, who dead-heated for first place in 1910, and Buchan, who won the race twice, in 1919 and 1920. Much more recently, veteran Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute saddled the latest of his six winners, Ulysses, as recently as 2017 and shares the position of most successful trainer in the history of the Eclipse Stakes.

Dewhurst Stakes

Established in 1875 and originally financed by Thomas Gee of the Dewhurst Stud in Wadhurst, East Sussex, the Dewhurst Stakes is a Group One race run over a straight 7 furlongs on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket. The race is open to two-year-old colts and fillies, but not geldings and, since 2015, has been staged on the second day of the Future Champions Festival in October. Indeed, with total prize money of £533,750 in 2019, the Dewhurst Stakes is the most prestigious juvenile race of the season. Almost invariably, the result of the Dewhurst Stakes has a marked effect on the ante-post for the Classics; the roll of honour includes such luminaries as Nijinsky, Mill Reef and, of course, Frankel, to name but three of the illustrious winners down the years.

Too Darn Hot, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes in 2018, went into winter quarters as favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, but missed the race after developing a leg problem. He was beaten of the first three starts of his three-year-old campaign, but won two Group One races – the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood – before being retired from racing after sustaining a further injury. The 2019 winner, Pinatubo, remains unbeaten in six starts as a juvenile and, officially rated 2lb higher than Frankel at the same stage of his career, is favourite, at just 5/4, for the 2,000 Guineas.

Legendary jockey Lester Piggott won the Dewhurst Stakes ten times between 1956 and 1982, including on three subsequent Derby winners – Crepello in 1956, Nijinsky in 1969 and The Minstrel in 1976 – and is the leading rider in the history of the race. John Porter, the most successful trainer of the Victorian era, won the Dewhurst Stakes eight times between 1884 and 1898 including with Ormonde, who subsequently won the Triple Crown and retired undefeated after 16 races. In the first half the twentieth century, Austrian-born Frank Butters also saddled eight winners of the Dewhurst Stakes, including Toboggan, who subsequently won the Oaks; he and Porter are, jointly, the most successful trainers in the history of the race.

Arkle Challenge Trophy

Named after Arkle, arguably the finest steeplechaser in the history of National Hunt racing, the Arkle Challenge Trophy is a Grade One steeplechase run over approximately 2 miles – 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 199 yards, to be exact – on the Old Course at Cheltenham Racecourse. Established in 1969, the race is open to horses aged five years and upwards that, at the start of the current season, had yet to win a race over regulation fences, a.k.a. ‘novice chasers’, and is the leading event of its kind in the National Hunt calendar.

Granted the nature of the race, the Arkle Challenge Trophy often serves as a ‘stepping stone’ to the two-mile championship race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, when participants step out of novice company the following season. Indeed, in recent years, Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Voy Por Ustedes, Sprinter Sacre and Altior have all completed the Arkle Challenge Trophy – Queen Mother Champion Chase double.

Veteran Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson has won the Arkle Challenge Trophy six times, with Remittance Man, Travado, Tiutchev, Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and, most recently, Altior, and is the most successful trainer since World War II. Barry Geraghty, stable jockey at Seven Barrows since the retirement of Mick Fitzgerald in 2008, was aboard Sprinter Sacre and Sprinter Sacre; he also won the Arkle Challenge Trophy on Moscow Flyer, trained by Jessica Harrington, and Forpadydeplaster, trained by Tom Cooper, for a total of victories, which makes him the joint-most successful jockey in the same period. Sharing that position, though, is the recently-retired Ruby Walsh, who won the race on Azertyuiop, trained by Paul Nicholls and Un de Sceaux , Douvan and, Footpad, all trained by Willie Mullins.

Indeed, Mullins, perennial champion jumps trainer in his native Ireland, has dominated the Arkle Challenge Trophy in recent seasons. The Co. Carlow handler has won four of the last five renewals, with Un De Sceaux in 2015, Douvan in 2016, Footpad in 2018 and Duc Des Genievres, ridden by Paul Townend, in 2019. Mullins’ winning streak was interrupted only by Altior, trained by Henderson, who subsequently won back-to-back renewals of the Queen Mother Champion Chase 2018 and 2019 and, at the time of writing, is 14-14 over fences and is rated 180p by Timeform.

Racing: A Year in Review

It’s been an exciting year in the world of racing, both at home and abroad. There have been a few stand out performances or progressions that have really caught my eye though. British thoroughbred Enable, who had already had massive success in 2017 (with wins in the Epsom Oaks, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe etc) took her ability to the next level with 2018 wins in both the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the ultra competitive Breeder’s Cup Turf. This display of excellence really sets the middle distance runner apart from the rest and highlights her as something special, and with £8,000,000+ already to her name in prize money, the future looks bright indeed.


Another horse that impressed in 2018 is Native River. This Irish born thorougbbred is a firm favourite with the betting public. He had experienced a stellar year in 2017 with wins in competitive races such as the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National (which he won at betting odds of 6/4) and third place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In 2018 he went one, or perhaps two (places) better, by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Due to his obvious ability he had started second favourite in the horse racing betting odds with bookmakers at 5-1, and didn’t disappoint. Fending off a challenge from Might Bite in quite some style really did endear Native River to the racing crowds and those who placed a bet on him. Might Bite was at betting odds of 4-1 with bookmakers, and so had been favoured to win.


In non UK news, 2018 was also a special year for Winx, trained by Chris Waller. The Australian thoroughbred had already done all there is to do in racing following a string of wins from 2015 onward in Group one races. In 2017 Winx had been indicted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. This year was the real record breaker though, when a win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick meant that Winx had equalled the record of 25 consecutive wins set by Black Caviar. Winx has since gone on to win four more races, the most recent of which was in the Cox Plate, held at Moonee Valley racecourse in Melbourne, and with prize money of a staggering $5,000,000 Australian dollars. What’s amazing is that this was the forth time Winx had won the race, the first horse to ever do so. It’s no surprise then that Winx is currently top ranked horse in multiple world’s best horse rankings.


I wonder what the story of Enable, Native River and Winx will be in 2019? You never can quite tell in racing, but if past form is anything to go by, it will take something quite special to mount a challenge against any of the three!