Oisin Murphy claimed his first British Group One victory after Roaring Lion survived a stewards’ inquiry to take a thrilling renewal of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
While the 10-furlong prize may have lost some of its gloss following the withdrawal of Derby winner Masar on Friday evening, it still served up a finish to savour as the John Gosden-trained son of Kitten’s Joy finally came good on his fourth outing at the highest level.
Forced to come round the entire field after being shuffled wide, the 7-4 favourite joined Saxon Warrior, who had beaten him in both the Racing Post Trophy and 2000 Guineas, inside the final furlong to get up and deny his old adversary by a neck.
Murphy was given a four-day ban for careless riding following a lengthy review by the stewards, but felt his mount was a worthy winner.
He said: “It’s a relief. I’m pleased for my family. My mum and dad will be proud as it has taken me six years.
“I was on the best horse in the race and I just had to get it right and not get there too soon. John always asks me how I want to ride him and he is always happy with that. That gives me confidence before you start.
“I’m delighted I’ve got the done job for them because the horse was good enough.
“Sheikh Fahad (of owner Qatar Racing) buys and breeds horses that are supposed to be brilliant, but as we all know from the other big organisations, they are hard to find and we have one now. I’m just lucky enough to be part of one.
“This is at the top (of my achievements). This is what I wanted to be achieving.”
Gosden, who was celebrating his third success in the race following the victories of Nathaniel in 2012 and Golden Horn in 2015, now has his sights set on the Juddmonte International at York on August 22.
Gosden said: “If you watch the race, it was fascinating tactics as usual. It got us in trouble and it got us three wide and further back than we wanted. They were tempting us to drop in, but if you drop in someone goes and puts you in the box.
“He ran beyond his trip (in the Derby) and we stood on the Downs right there and then and said ‘this horse goes for the Eclipse and comes back to a mile and a quarter’. Others seemed to join us on the idea late.
“It was very sad that the Derby winner wasn’t here as it would have been a phenomenal race if you had the Guineas and Derby winners and us.
“It would have been a right old ding-dong over a mile and quarter. He (Masar) wasn’t here, but we still got a hell of a race.
“We will freshen up and go to York. I’m sure we will see the second there and, with some luck, we will see Masar there. That will be some horse race.”
As for O’Brien, who also saddled third-placed Cliffs Of Moher, he believes a break will now be on the cards for the runner-up, who also finished third in last weekend’s Irish Derby, ahead of an autumn campaign.
He said: “The head on looks like they did come together. It was not an advantage as he is a big horse rolling at that time of the race. It was a very good run though and I’m delighted.
“It was a very big ask after a tough race in the Irish Derby. We can really look forward to the autumn.
“We will take him home and give him a nice break. I’d say we can go back (to a mile) any time he wants. It was always going to be a big ask wheeling him back quickly.
“Cliffs Of Moher ran a very good race and I’m delighted with him.”