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Royal Palace snatches crown.

Byline: JOHN RANDALL

ROYAL PALACE was not a great champion, but few could match him for toughness, courage and consistency, and his battling qualities enabled him to win one of the most famous renewals of the Eclipse Stakes, in 1968.

As in the historic 1903 Eclipse, two outstanding four-year-olds beat the champion three-year-old, with two no-hopers completing the five-runner field.

The race featured a rare clash of Derby winners, as it pitched Royal Palace against the year-younger Sir Ivor. Both colts had also won the 2,000 Guineas, although Royal Palace had done so only narrowly from the French raider Taj Dewan, who reopposed him here.

Royal Palace, trained by Noel Murless for Jim Joel, had meanwhile landed the Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales's Stakes, but Sir Ivor started 4-5 favourite even though he had suffered a shock defeat by Ribero in the Irish Derby seven days before.

Yves Saint-Martin sent the early leader Taj Dewan to the front again early in the straight and made the best of his way home on the far rail.

Royal Palace came under hard driving from Sandy Barclay two furlongs out and, with both colts responding gamely to pressure, the gap slowly closed until they passed the post locked together, three-quarters of a length in front of Sir Ivor.

Taj Dewan's connections were sure he had held on and they could hardly believe it when Royal Palace was announced the winner by a short head, exactly duplicating their 2,000 Guineas form.

Sir Ivor was given a lot to do by Lester Piggott and might have won with a more judicious ride, although Piggott and trainer Vincent O'Brien both blamed the firm ground. Three weeks later Royal Palace confirmed his championship status by winning the King George, despite breaking down in the closing stages.

The best horse did not win the 1968 Eclipse, for Sir Ivor did not give his true running.

Indeed, after Epsom he lost his next four races before bouncing back to land the Champion Stakes (with Taj Dewan fifth) and the Washington DC International.

At his best Sir Ivor would have won the Eclipse decisively. But then it would not have been such a memorable race.

CAPTION(S):

Taj Dewan (left) is pipped by Royal Palace, with Sir Ivor back in third
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:384
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