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Paddington Hands O’Brien Seventh Coral-Eclipse Victory

Paddington  came to the July 8 Coral-Eclipse Stakes (G1) already a very good horse. He left a potential superstar.

In getting the better of a quality animal in Emily Upjohn , a dual group 1 winner herself in fine form, he rose in stature to something bordering on a bit special.

The margin between them may only have been half a length at the line, as it was for most of the final two furlongs—with the pair pulling well clear in a ripper of a duel—but there was an air that Paddington might just be playing with his food.

For all Emily Upjohn always appeared to be on close enough terms to win—and the reverberating volume reached by the captivated grandstand suggested plenty thought she might—Ryan Moore on Paddington never looked anything other than in total control.

Paddington traveled into the final two furlongs like the superior horse. When everyone else was hard at work, Moore waited, and when William Buick finally came to his girth he let out a bit of rein, and then a bit more, going through the gears and always looking on top as the two fought it out up the famous Sandown hill.

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There are few as good as talking up a horse after winning a group 1 as Aidan O’Brien. He gets vastly more practice than most as this was his seventh Eclipse and Paddington’s third group 1 success in six weeks. But what he said here was surprising, that Paddington is doing things no other horse he has overseen has done. And he has overseen some good ones.

That Paddington has surprised him this year is less remarkable. This is a colt whose season started back in March in a handicap off 97. But the manner in which he has surprised Ireland’s perennial champion trainer is fascinating.

“He’s put on a bit of weight since Ascot and it’s strange for a horse to do that,” O’Brien said. “He’s been progressing with every run and he’s getting heavier, stronger and quicker.”

Asked if he had a precedent for that sort of mid-season physical improvement, and if the son of Siyouni , already on his fifth start of the season, had any similarities with the great Giant’s Causeway, he replied: “He’s getting more confident, stronger, bigger. Mentally he’s more professional, and he came out of Ascot in an unusually good way.

“It’s very surprising what he’s doing. He’s a lot quicker than Giant’s Causeway, his constitution is amazing too. Giant always ran at the same weight, but this horse is getting heavier so physically he’s doing very well. He’s surprised us so much with every run. There’s something very different happening.”

Something very different and something very exciting. But O’Brien was not just full of praise for a horse who could next head to Glorious Goodwood for the Sussex Stakes (G1), as had originally been the plan after his Royal Ascot success, but also for the man on board.

O’Brien said: “We spoke to Ryan before the race and he had all the scenarios covered, his mind is lightning quick and he was very confident of what he was going to do regardless of what happened around him.

“Ryan’s getting better every year. Since he came to us, every single year he’s got better. That progress is still there, his focus, judgement, confidence, strength, knowledge, everything about him, his determination, drive, commitment, all those things are getting stronger and stronger. He’s incredible and we’re so lucky to have him riding for us.”

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