The Summer Festival, currently sponsored by Coral, is a two-day meeting staged annually at Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, Surrey in South East England in early July. Day one, a.k.a. Ladies’ Day, on the Friday, features a seven-race card, which includes two Listed races, the Dragon Stakes and the Gala Stakes. The Dragon Stakes, which was inaugurated in 1992, is run over 5 furlongs and 10 yards and restricted to two-year-olds. The 2018 winner, Well Done Fox, trained by Richard Hannon, also won another Listed contest, the Julia Graves Roses Stakes at York in August, before finishing second in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes at the Doncaster St. Leger Meeting.
The Gala Stakes, on the other hand, is run over 1 mile 1 furlong and 209 yards and open to horses aged three years and upwards. In 2018, Sir Michael Stoute, renowned for his prowess with older horses, saddled the 5-year-old Mustashry to readily hold off Spark Plug, trained by Brian Meehan, who had won the race in 2017, despite returning from a lengthy absence.
Day two, a.k.a. Coral-Eclipse Day, on the Saturday, is really all about the feature race, officially the Eclipse Stakes, but sponsored by Coral since 1976 and widely known as the Coral-Eclipse. Inaugurated in 1886, the Coral-Eclipse is run over 1 mile 1 furlong and 209 yards and open to horses aged three years and upwards. It is, in fact, the first race of the season in which the current Classic generation – in other words, the three-year-old generation – has the opportunity to compete against the older horses at the highest level.
The roll of honour for the Coral-Eclipse includes such luminaries as Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard and Dancing Brave. Worth £790,625 in prize money and, since 2011, part of the British Champions Series Middle Distance Category, the Coral-Eclipse is one of the most prestigious, and informative, races of the season.
The supporting card for the Coral-Eclipse also includes the Sprint Stakes, run over 5 furlongs and 10 yards and open to horses aged three years and upwards. Promoted to Group 3 status in 2004, the Sprint Stakes has been sponsored by Coral since 2009 and is run, for sponsorship purposed, as the Coral Charge.