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David Egan out to land domestic Group 1 on Mishriff in Coral-Eclipse

1 Jul 2021

Mishriff one of four in select field at Sandown

Mishriff wins in France, David Egan will be back in the saddle on Saturday

Jockey David Egan maintained a dignified silence while others partnered Mishriff on the days that mattered most last year, and his patience and understanding have already been gloriously rewarded success in two of the world’s most valuable races.

Now he David Egan a major chance of adding a landmark first domestic Group 1 in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park this Saturday on Mishriff, the latest leg in the middle distance category of this year’s QIPCO British Champions Series.

Covid-19 restrictions denied Egan the chance to ride Mishriff last year when he won the Prix Du Jockey Club in July and an unfortunately-timed suspension cost him the winning ride in a Group 2 at Deauville in August. Then, to the surprise of many, Frankie Dettori, who rode Mishriff at Deauville, was preferred at Ascot in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, even though Egan is owner Prince Faisal’s retained rider.

That won’t happen again though after David Egan proved himself a world-class jockey in his own right with superb rides on Mishriff in the Saudi Cup at Riyadh and the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.

“Being able to prove that I’m able to ride at the top level and get the job done under pressure has filled me with confidence,” he said. “Riding a horse like Mishriff makes the job very easy, but to be known as a big-race jockey after winning the richest race in the world for Mr Gosden and Prince Faisal, then coming back to win the Sheema Classic as well, has been massive.

“I beat Mike Smith in Saudi and that was an extra thrill, as he was a role model and an idol for me growing up. They call him ‘Big Money Mike’ for a reason, but he was an absolute gentleman and he was the first person to congratulate me.”

Besides his obvious class and natural ability, Mishriff has distinct qualities that ought to make him hard to beat in Saturday’s big race, which has attracted what Egan has described as a “boutique field” of four. 

David Egan explained: “Mishriff is a fresh and enthusiastic horse who can be ridden any way you want. I rode him very differently in the Saudi Cup and at Meydan, and having been able to lay up over nine furlongs (just behind two top American specialists) on dirt, for which you need a lot of speed, he then switched off at the back of the field over a mile and a half on turf at Meydan.

“Not many horses can win at the highest level on dirt and turf, let alone over trips as varied as that, so it was a tremendous achievement. I think the stiff ten furlongs at Sandown will be ideal for him. He’ll enjoy that climb and he should be doing his best work at the end, so I’m very excited.

“With his naturally low head carriage he’s easy to spot in a race, and he’s a privilege to ride. I’m just lucky to have been on board for those last two victories, and hopefully there will be many more to come this summer.”

Success at Group 1 level is what all of the top jockeys are striving for, and Egan is no different. The Coral-Eclipse is a particularly significant race even by Group 1 standards however, and Egan appreciates its importance.

He said: “I think the Eclipse is the first middle-distance Group 1 of the European season open to both sexes in which the classic generation meet their elders, so that always makes it very exciting. It’s a small field, but it’s what you might call a boutique field, as they are all very good, and what makes it even more interesting is that it’s a clash between the last two French Derby winners.

“Mishriff has to give St Mark’s Basilica a bit of weight and it should be a very exciting race to watch, but I think he’s got what it takes. It should be a terrific race and I hope everything goes smoothly.”

At 22 Egan hasn’t had that many opportunities in domestic Group 1s, and he’d love to win one. His father John, who is still riding, registered his most recent Group 1 wins on the sprinter Les Arcs in 2006, and while the family have enjoy many more top level wins since, thanks to his mother Sandra Hughes, his late grandfather Dessie Hughes, and his uncle, the three-time champion jockey Richard Hughes, it would plainly mean a lot to land one of his own.

He said: “It would be very special for me, and it would be good for Mishriff too, as his biggest wins so far have all been abroad. I was born in 1999, but I remember when Les Arcs won what was then the Golden Jubilee and then followed up in the July Cup, as his owner Willie McKay had a big party at his home in Doncaster which I went to. I might not remember the races too well, but I can still remember the party!”

While Egan would be enjoying Eclipse success for the first time, trainer John Gosden has won the race four times in the last decade, with champions Nathaniel (2012), Golden Horn (2015), Roaring Lion (2018) and Enable (2019).

Gosden had intended to run Lord North too, but having missed his opportunity of a second win in Royal Ascot’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes owing to the quick ground he has now unfortunately been forced to miss the Coral-Eclipse with a throat infection.

While Gosden’s four wins are impressive, Aidan O’Brien has won the Coral-Eclipse five times, although it has been ten years since he last won it with So You Think, having previously won with Giants Causeway (2000), Hawk Wing (2002), Oratorio (2005) and Mount Nelson (2008).

The stable’s 16 runners since So You Think have met with frustration after frustration, Declaration Of War, The Gurkha, Saxon Warrior and most recently Magical all finishing second. However, Ryan Moore’s mount St Mark’s Basilica, O’Brien’s sole representative after he chose not to confirm Armory and Japan, looks to have outstanding credentials.

Having concluded his juvenile campaign with success in the Dewhurst Stakes, St Mark’s Basilica preceded his Prix Du Jockey Club defeat of Sealiway with a comfortable win in the French 2,000 Guineas, so he has won Group 1 races on his last three starts.

The other main contender on paper is Addeybb, the QIPCO Champion Stakes hero at Ascot last October, when Mishriff ran the first disappointing race of his life, and of three Group 1s in Australia.

Addeybb needs give underfoot and so the rain at the weekend, and again at the start of the week, was just what trainer William Haggas wanted. Having side-stepped Royal Ascot, he has not raced since beating the top Australian mare Verry Elleegant in the Longines Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Randwick in April, but he reportedly delighted connections in a racecourse gallop at Newmarket last week.

No horse of Addeybb’s age has ever won the Coral-Eclipse in a history stretching back to 1886, but Addeybb is no ordinary seven-year-old and his four Group 1 wins, each of them with Tom Marquand in the saddle, have a similar effect on his rider’s career as Mishriff has had on Egan’s.

Marquand, who like Egan is a former champion apprentice, said: “That spell down under last year was a huge help to my career, for while I was doing quite well already it took everything to a different level for me.

“As we know, Addeybb is entirely ground dependent, and any more rain will help, but provided it’s suitable for him to run then he ought to have every chance. It’s a small field, but it’s good horses against good horses and that’s just what you want in a race like the Eclipse.”

The field is completed by the Roger Varian-trained El Drama, who was a smart winner of Chester’s Dee Stakes but then finished well beaten behind St Mark’s Basilica at Chantilly.