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Coral-Eclipse: City Of Troy delivers workmanlike win for Coolmore and Aidan O'Brien at Sandown

The short-priced favourite City Of Troy claimed the Coral-Eclipse in a workmanlike nature, being the first horse since Golden Horn in 2015 to complete a win in the Derby and this contest

City Of Troy landed his third Group 1 in the Coral-Eclipse
Image: City Of Troy landed his third Group 1 in the Coral-Eclipse

City Of Troy produced a hard-fought victory in the Coral-Eclipse, which didn't replicate the impressive nature in which he won the Derby as he lugged across the course.

The Derby winner City Of Troy, who bounced back at Epsom having failed to land a blow in the 2000 Guineas, was the 1-4 favourite under Ryan Moore.

For trainer Aidan O'Brien he stalked along in the slipstream of stablemate Hans Andersen, but when asked to quicken he did not produce the turn of foot perhaps expected.

He still took up the lead, however, and was able to hold off a late challenge from 11-1 shot Al Riffa to triumph by a length.

It proved a nervy watch for the master of Ballydoyle, who revealed after the race that the testing ground in Esher gave connections plenty of anxiety.

"We were very worried about the ground, we walked it before and it was very soft and tough deep ground, softer than it was in the Dewhurst," he said.

"He was pitched into unknown territory today and I remember before the Dewhurst we were very worried and took the chance but to walk it today, it was deeper, way deeper.

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"It is always tough to watch because the difference between winning and not winning can be massive and I'm delighted for everyone.

"In all fairness to the lads, 15 years ago they would have taken him out, they wouldn't have run him, but we're so lucky they enjoy their racing so much now that they wanted to be here and they wanted to run him.

"To walk it I was very afraid, but the lads made the right decision - it was a long discussion."

O'Brien felt the victory came in spite of the going, which would not be the obvious surface for a horse with an American dirt champion for a sire.

Ryan Moore takes in the adoration of the Newmarket crowd
Image: Ryan Moore partners the Derby and Eclipse winner

The trainer said: "He's a beautiful good ground horse, a real fast ground mover and he has won despite the ground. It would have been easy to take him out but the lads all came and they wanted to run him. It was tough because that is specialist ground and it didn't go to plan because of the whole thing.

"He won quite well in the end. Dylan (Browne McMonagle, on Al Riffa) said coming in that he had him and then he went again. He said he thought he had him, but he was always maintaining."

City Of Troy was unchanged in the market for the Juddmonte International and the Breeders' Cup Classic with bookmakers Paddy Power and Betfair, whereas William Hill eased him from 6-4 to 2-1 for the former race and from 6-1 to 8-1 for the latter.

On future plans, O'Brien said: "I don't know what the lads will do but I would imagine they will have a look at either the Juddmonte International Stakes (at York) or the Irish Champion Stakes.

"After that we will maybe look at America. Everything about him is good ground or better. I would imagine he could finish off in America in the Classic. That is what he is bred to be, his dad was a dirt horse."

Moore admitted he had expected the win to be more convincing and pointed to the going to echo O'Brien's assessment of the race.

He said: "I suppose in reality everyone was expecting him to win and probably be more impressive, and so was I. But the ground was an inconvenience for him.

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"I was happy enough with where I was but halfway round the bend the ground was a little bit loose and he just lost his action for a stride.

"Ghostwriter took a length out of me and I wasn't going as comfortably as I should have been, it just took me a while to organise him.

"I got to the two furlong marker and I had to go and I thought he did well because I wasn't really happy up until then. He found plenty and it never really felt like he was going to get beat.

"I still think we are learning about him and I thought the ground was an inconvenience so I'm happy he has won but I do think there is more there. I thought he would probably beat them by 10 lengths today and I wouldn't be surprised if he does it next time.

"These conditions are not what he wants, he has an extravagant action and slow ground into a headwind is not easy. I think he will be better in a higher-tempo race."

On the Breeders' Cup Classic, Moore added: "I've never ridden a Breeders' Cup Classic horse so I don't know what that takes. I think this horse has the engine and the ability but we have to work out if he has the right action for it."

Makorova went one better than last year
Image: Makorova went one better than last year

Makarova serves up Coral Charge success

Makarova pounced late to go one better than 12 months ago and land a deserved victory in the Coral Charge at Sandown.

Ed Walker's five-year-old has been a consistent performer in all of the major sprinting events but was registering her first success at Group level in the hands of Hector Crouch.

It looked destined to be the progressive Desperate Hero who would land the spoils when he went for home with just over a furlong to run, but he was reeled in by both Makarova and Andrew Balding's Purosangue late in the day, with the former keeping on best to register a three-quarter length success at 9-2.

Makarova was cut to 10-1 from 16s by Paddy Power for the King George Stakes after the race and Walker confirmed that the Goodwood sprint assignment would be on the radar.

He said: "This year she has been super consistent and she started off rated 67 or something. She was so laid back and never looked like a sprinter in the early days. She just kind of woke up and learned to sprint. She's a legend.

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"I wasn't confident at all she would get there today and not once did I get excited watching it. But you knew she would come good and the only time she hasn't come good is at Ascot with the blinkers on.

"In the blinkers she sat right on the tail of Big Evs at Ascot and paid the price at the end, it is the first time she has failed to finish off her race over five furlongs.

"I think they had the desired effect of sharpening her up a bit and today back in the cheekpieces she was back to her old self, just racing behind the bridle a bit and finishing strong.

"We've chanced our arm a lot and unfortunately she is only a Listed winner, so it is important we have now made her a Group Three winner and we will try and make her a Group Two winner if we can.

"She will probably go to the King George and maybe then another crack at the Nunthorpe or the race at the Curragh (Flying Five Stakes). After that there is the Prix de l'Abbaye and races like that.

"This will be her last season racing, especially now she is a Group Three winner. We'll try pick up some more black type this season and then she will go home."

Cicero's Gift landed more Saturday success for Billy Loughnane
Image: Cicero's Gift landed more Saturday success for Billy Loughnane

Cicero's Gift completes Coral Challenge comeback

Cicero's Gift provided a reminder of his quality when making a winning return in the Coral Challenge at Sandown.

Charlie Hills' four-year-old was last seen suffering plenty of interference when finishing down the field in the 2023 St James's Palace Stakes and was sent off 11-2 back down in handicap company after 382 days off the track.

Nursed into the race by young weighing room star Billy Loughnane, the class of the colt came to the fore in the closing stages as he secured a half-length verdict over Karl Burke's Holloway Boy.

Cicero's Gift's trainer was eyeing taking his charge to a conditions race at Goodwood next but now sights may have to be raised, with an ambitious tilt at the Sussex Stakes a possibility.

"He's a very special horse and on his second start he beat Docklands giving him 9lbs, he has tremendous ability," said Hills.

"It wasn't really my plan to come here and there was a perfect race for him at Glorious Goodwood over one-mile-one, a conditions race for horses who have never won a Group or Listed race. My dad (former trainer Barry) rang me up and said it might be very hard to win that race first time, so why not give him a spin at Sandown?

"The fact he has gone and won is full testament to this horse. He's not fully wound up and to win a race like this off top-weight is a tremendous achievement."

He went on: "We've some money in the pot now so we might have to supplement him for something. The main thing is to keep him on something with a bit of cut in the ground. If the ground came up soft we could supplement him in the Sussex.

"I just can't believe he has been able to win today with the work he has done, it astonishes me really."

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