Coral-Eclipse Memories: When Derby Hero Sea The Stars Stormed To Sandown Glory

Sea The Stars was a sensational winner of the 2009 Coral-Eclipse
Sea The Stars was a sensational winner of the 2009 Coral-Eclipse

Steve Chambers goes down memory lane and looks back at the 2009 Coral-Eclipse Stakes, which saw Sea The Stars beat Rip Van Winkle in an epic battle at Sandown Park...

For a three-year-old to win the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, they must have speed, stamina and most importantly guts! As the Classic generation take on their elder rivals for the first time in their fledgling careers, they may benefit from a significant weight pull from their older adversaries, but they are coming up against battle-hardened rivals on the biggest stage of them all.

Well, one three-year-old that had all the above in abundance was the John Oxx-trained superstar Sea The Stars, who produced a scintillating performance to win the 2009 Coral-Eclipse and his victory duly enhanced his already burgeoning reputation.

Heading to Sandown Park as the reigning Epsom Derby hero, Sea The Stars, who had also claimed 2000 Guineas glory at Newmarket earlier in the season, was expected to land more Group 1 glory, and was duly sent off the 4/7 favourite for the 1m 2f 7y event.

But, all didn't go to plan for the Irish superstar, and veteran jockey Mick Kinane was forced to use all his brilliance to manoeuvre the son of Cape Cross out of a sticky situation, but this meant Kinane hit the front too early and Sea The Stars was made to battle.

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With three pacemakers in the field, there was sure to be no hiding place for Sea The Stars, who travelled serenely off the pace for the early part of the race. According to the betting there were two contenders that could potentially lay down a challenge to Sea The Stars. Aidan O'Brien's Rip Van Winkle had seen the backside of Sea The Stars in both the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby, but the Ballydoyle raider was primed for another crack at the dual Classic winner, while Sir Michael Stoute's four-year-old Conduit went into the event as the reigning St Leger hero, and had warmed up for the event with a second placed finish in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes.

However, it would only prove to be Rip Van Winkle that put any pressure on Sea The Stars, as Conduit was beaten a fair way from home, and it was down to the three-year-olds to do battle. Turning for home, Kinane spotted the imminent danger, as the pace began to fall apart on the front end, and as the pacemakers began to tire and were unable to maintain the gallop, Kinane swiftly made the decision to pull Sea The Stars to the middle of the track to avoid the back-tracking leaders.

As Oxx's raider breezed to the front, Jimmy Fortune on board Rip Van Winkle travelled sweetly in the slipstream of the red-hot favourite and looked ready to pounce on his old foe. As they passed the two furlong pole, the race was on! Kinane would've ridden the race many times in his head, and on every occasion you have to feel that he would not have wanted to hit the front so soon, but he found himself on the front end and the deadly duo had to battle together.

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Poll: Sea The Stars or Frankel! Who is the greatest Flat horse of the 21st Century?
Sea The Stars
33%
Frankel
33%
Vote
17 votes
Poll Ended

Of the big three, Conduit was the first to break, as Stoute's contender began to slip back as they hit the furlong pole, but out front Sea The Stars found himself being eyeballed by Rip Van Winkle, who was laying down a magnificent challenge to the hotpot. With Kinane and Fortune now ready to go to war in the closing stages, Sea The Stars managed to maintain a slight advantage with half-a-furlong to go. This was the point where Rip Van Winkle cracked under the pressure, and he edged slightly off a straight line and had been duly broken by Sea The Stars, who maintained the gallop all the way to the line and went on to win by a length.

Since the turn of century, Sea The Stars has been regarded as one of the finest Flat performers to grace the turf, and while Frankel supporters will feel that Sir Henry Cecil's unbeaten superstar is the star of the 21st century, that day at Sandown Park was where Sea The Stars showed he was to be the next heavyweight of the middle distance division, and his career continued to blossom in the future, as he went on to claim Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe glory in France.

But, it's his Coral-Eclipse performance that will live long in the memory, and we can only dream that we will see a similar performance this weekend in what shall be an epic renewal at Sandown Park.

Watch Sea The Stars storm to Coral-Eclipse glory back in 2009 below:

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