Hawkbill continued his meteoric rise, with a thrilling success in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Now undefeated in his last six, the son of Kitten’s Joy had won a listed event in April, and followed up with victory at Royal Ascot a fortnight ago in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes. This looked a tough ask, but connections were spot on in supplementing. Their faith was rewarded with not only a classy performance, but one full of courage.
The pace was set by Time Test’s stable companion Countermeasure. As the field turned for home, it was a pair of three-year-olds that forged to the front. Hawkbill was joined in battle by Ballydoyle’s race favourite The Gurkha. The pair were stride for stride throughout the final two furlongs, with the Godolphin colt finally getting on top as the post drew near. Time Test battled on bravely for third.
The team’s chief executive John Ferguson, was quick to praise the ‘team’ currently enjoying a terrific period, when saying: “I love Charlie, Saeed and our own trainers but the important thing is for the team as a whole to be winning races worldwide, that's what Godolphin is all about. We are having a great time in Australia and America so it's very important to be winning big races here too whoever they are trained by.”
Charlie Appleby, who just last week took the Northumberland Plate, was clearly thrilled with this latest success, saying: “He has been a challenging horse but he has got some racing under his belt and mentally got stronger with each run. At Ascot he was very warm before the preliminaries but he did what we thought he could do.”
The trainer added: “After Newmarket (Listed win in April) William said we were dealing with a proper horse. Since Ascot one thing we noticed was how much he had grown up from there. Normally he would be awash with sweat at home but this past ten days he has not turned a hair and his rider has said he had come on again. He was being so good today I hoped it was part of growing up. He has arrived now.”
For Buick, the victory is a huge tonic as he prepares to serve a 30-day ban for a riding offence in France. He spoke to Channel 4 Racing: “What a lovely horse and what a call by the whole team to supplement him - this is fantastic. He goes in the ground very well and the future is very bright for him. His demeanour has changed a lot this year, he's grown up physically, he's grown up mentally. He's shown us all of the attributes of a great racehorse. I'm a little bit speechless - it's just great for the team.”
Aidan O'Brien was once again philosophical in defeat, saying: “It got a bit rough on the bend, he just came alive a bit early because of it. He showed a lot of speed and I wouldn't be sure if he stayed. He is by Galileo and you would imagine he would get a mile and a quarter, if it happened a little bit smoother for him, it might have happened, but he ran very well.”
The trainer went on: “I've always seen him as a fast Galileo and maybe we took the chance and maybe it was the wrong thing, but I'm not making any excuses. Originally the plan was to go from Ascot to the Sussex Stakes, but he was so well that we decided to run. We try to do our best, but we can't win every day. That's the reality.”
In fairness, The Gurkha ran a cracker in defeat. He bumped into a fast improving colt, that was probably better suited by conditions. A drop back to a mile looks on the cards, but another crack at 10 furlongs, especially on quicker ground, seems more than likely at some stage.
As for Team Godolphin, and in particular Charlie Appleby, it appears at the moment that they can do no wrong. Whilst Hawkbill was landing the day’s major prize, Endless Time was battling her way to victory in the Bet365 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock. When you’re hot, you’re hot.