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Nashwan just one to carry famous Sheikh Hamdan silks to Eclipse victory

Nashwan just one to carry famous Sheikh Hamdan silks to Eclipse victory
Nashwan just one to carry famous Sheikh Hamdan silks to Eclipse victory

There is no question that 1989 was the year of Nashwan. Through a glorious spring and summer he won the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Coral-Eclipse and King George – and he remains the only horse to have won all four in the same season.

To show the versatility needed to win Group Ones over a mile, 10 furlongs and a mile and a half marked him out as a special talent and the only disappointment was that his career ended with a defeat in the Prix Niel.

In being prepared for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by his trainer Major Dick Hern, he took in the traditional French trial but could only finish third and never ran again.

The general consensus is that in Willie Carson having to chase down Opening Verse, the 200-1 pacemaker for Indian Skimmer in the Eclipse that none of the other runners managed to pass, Nashwan put in such a huge effort he never fully recovered. Opening Verse proved no ordinary pacemaker, either, as he went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile when switched to America.

While Nashwan did win the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes afterwards by a neck from Cacoethes, who was seven lengths behind in the Derby, he was never quite the same.

“Willie has been quoted as saying he thought that was the race where he ultimately paid for the effort that day,” said Angus Gold, long-standing racing manager to the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

“I have a photograph in the office of him floating to the start that day, he had such a beautiful action for such a big horse.

“The way the race went, with the pacemaker Opening Verse going off at 100 miles an hour and Willie suddenly realising going up the hill that he had to go and chase him by himself, wasn’t ideal.

“He got there, but I think it took its toll on the horse. He never missed a dance all spring and that was after he spread a splint in January that year. I remember being at the sales in Australia when Major Hern rang me to say he’d popped a splint and would need 10 days walking.

“He still managed to get him to win a Guineas and then go to the Derby, he did not miss a beat. By the autumn we saw how that had taken its toll, but what a thrilling horse to be around.”

The subject of much discussion at the time, some ratings did not have Nashwan as the leading three-year-old that season. In fact, in some lists he was only third behind crack miler Zilzal and Irish Derby hero Old Vic.

“That was when I realised never to pay attention to ratings!” said Gold.

“Nothing ever showed up after the Niel, but he never settled the night before. The late, great Buster Haslam, who was travelling head man, said he walked his box all night and I just think we put him through a lot early on and all of us are guilty of it at some stage – with a horse that good you start to think they are unbeatable, but at the end of it they are still flesh and blood.

“We asked an awful lot of him and he never once let us down, not just in races as he had to do a lot at home, so it was a brilliant bit of training, but there’s only so long they can exert themselves at that level.”

Just a year after Nashwan, Elmaamul came along and won the Eclipse for the same connections.

“Elmaamul had finished third in the Derby and pretty soon after the Major just said we’d head straight for the Eclipse,” said Gold.

“Talk about tough horses, I don’t think I’ve been around a tougher one, my goodness he was a real fighter.

“For what he lacked in sheer brilliance he more than made up for in fight and determination, he was a fabulous horse for us.

“He was around in a very good era, the likes of In The Groove, Terimon, Ile De Chypre, but he gave us lots of joy. I always admire horses just below the top notch who put their heart on the line and win the odd big race.”

The familiar blue and white colours were not carried to victory in the Eclipse again until 2014, when the William Haggas-trained Mukhadram gained a deserved victory at the highest level having been beaten a neck in the race 12 months earlier.

“Mukhadram was quite a big price (14-1) from memory. He was a very high-class horse, as we’d seen in Dubai (second in the World Cup), and he’d been pretty consistent throughout his career,” said Gold.

Mukhadram was a good winner of the Eclipse in 2014
Mukhadram was a good winner of the Eclipse in 2014 (Chris Ison/PA)

“He was a horse who just got better and better throughout his career and won it as a five-year-old.

“He was a warrior for us who progressed from handicaps, he was fancied for a Cambridgeshire at three, nearly won the Prince of Wales’s at four and was third in the Eclipse the year before he won it.

“We took him to Dubai the following year for the World Cup and he was second in that and then he was fourth in the Prince of Wales’s on what essentially was his first run back.

“That might have been why he was a bigger price in the Eclipse, but he deserved it. He was third in the King George after that which we didn’t mind quite so much as we won it with Taghrooda!”

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