By Nicholas Godfrey
GB: Extra Japanese spice will be added to the showdown of the summer with news that popular globetrotting mare Deirdre will take on Enable and Ghaiyyath in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, rescheduled for Sunday July 5.
In a bumper weekend, the track’s G1 showpiece – restricted to four-year-olds and above this year – comes just 24 hours after the Investec Derby card just down the road at Epsom. The Oaks takes place on the same card, while the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and Prix de Diane (Oaks) are both scheduled for Chantilly on July 5.
Champion jockey Oisin Murphy, set to ride the Derby favourite Kameko, will maintain his partnership with Deirdre in the Eclipse after connections ruled out another crack at the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, where she was sixth in 2019. Sunday’s Prix Ganay was also a non-started owing to coronavirus restrictions on travel to France.
Seiko Hashida Yoshimura, owner Toji Morita’s racing manager and daughter of trainer Mitsuru Hashida, confirmed the plan. “We thought about many aspects, and we went to Sandown to walk to the course, then we thought we want to challenge,” she said.
“We can’t go to France because international runners are not allowed but it was still a hard decision because we love Ascot as well.
“We understand Deirdre will be the first Japanese runner at Sandown and we are looking forward to the challenge,” she went on. “Hopefully she will get the fast ground she likes and we will try our best because we know there are some very good horses likely to be there, for sure.”
Chief among them will be last year’s winner Enable, set for her seasonal debut in the Eclipse, plus stunning Coronation Cup victor Ghaiyyath.
The Eclipse is on a list of 31 races worldwide to be simulcast by the Japan Racing Association – but such broadcasts are contingent on there being a Japanese horse in the race.
“I hope Japanese fans will be watching as well,” added Hashida. “It is very exciting for us and I hope the race can deliver something joyful.”
World traveller Deirdre became the first Japanese-trained horse since Agnes World’s July Cup in 2000 to win a race in England last year when she collected the G1 Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
Second in a race on the inaugural Saudi Cup card on her seasonal debut, the mare is currently housed at her overseas base at Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Newmarket yard while her trainer Hashida maps out a route towards the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“She is doing well in Newmarket – she’s in good shape and [workrider] Yuta [Komiyama] is very good at keeping her well. She is very happy,” reported Seiko, who has been locked in Newmarket with Deirdre since April.
“It’s really good to concentrate on Deirdre and there’s nothing else to do anyway! But we are very grateful to British racing that we can run here.”
• Find out more about Sandown Park at the Jockey Club website