Diary Of A Rivalry – Race To Immortality
Part One – The Juvenile Season
In all sport there is rivalry, competition based upon talent and a desire to win. Throughout the years, RaceClubs.com has spawned many virtual rivalries but none have been as intriguing as the current thoroughbred match-up between Darley Arabian and Gentleman Earl. Some would compare the challenge between the pair to the 1938 rivalry of the great Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Several match races where penned between the pair, more often than not, one or the other scratched, questioning whether or not the two would ever meet.
In 1938, the race finally came to fruition, with the media dubbing it the “Match Of The Century”. On, November 1st 1938 at the Pimlico track in Baltimore, Seabiscuit versus War Admiral took place in a Pimlico Special contested over an extended one mile one furlong. The buzz of the race jammed the race track with over 40,000 spectators and a thousand times more, listened on the radio. Seabiscuit won the race by four lengths, immortalising horse, trainer and jockey.
This season marks a fascinating return to the challenge final arena for both horses. They stand proud at the head of both, The Nunthorpe and The Derby qualification standings. The pair are already Challenge Final victors; but it is the rivalry of this season that will finally come to a head when they tackle their ultimate goal to be crowned a three year old champion. It’s fair to say that both will stand extremely good chances to claim a victory but to become a true legend and cement a famous victory, nothing but championship glory in The Derby will suffice. The pinnacle of virtual racing is within reach for the talent and nothing short of something very special has pundits salivating at the thought of two racing greats squaring up to proclaim, “I am The Derby Champion!” Although, not a foregone conclusion that one or the other will win the race, RaceClubs.com’s greatest race will arguably be something to remember. This two part anthology pays tribute to both horses and their dynamics, the head to head battle for supremacy began during their juvenile season and it is here we will begin our focus.
|Sprinters Challenge Qualifier||The first meeting of the pair didn’t really set the scene for the battles that wait ahead. Both horses had already tasted success, although, Gentleman Earl came into this race already a champion. In his previous race he had secured victory in a Ladbrokes Challenge Final over the ever consistent, Dusk Til Dawn. In this race though, there was to be no sound of popping corks as both horses failed to make an impression. Darley Arabian came home in 5th ahead of his nemesis, Gentleman Earl, who could only manage 8th.
Darley Arabian 1-0 Gentleman Earl
|Classic Challenge Qualifier||After an unsuccessful outing over the trip, Gentleman Earl was once again returning to tackle a distance that would stretch even the best of horses. With the conditions less than ideal, Darley Arabian was venturing into the unknown. A test that would prove a little too stiff for the pair. Not regarded as the staying type, 2400m against far better-in horses was always going to require a super effort. Earl showed up the better, claiming a bite of the prize pool in fourth place, streets ahead of Arabian, way down the field in 11th.
Darley Arabian 1-1 Gentleman Earl
|Sprinters Challenge Qualifier||In a blanket finish, Gentleman Earl was outgunned to the line by Charlie Waffles. The race developed and after his customary slow break, Gentleman Earl made strides on the outside but the line came a little too soon. Charlie Waffles had enough in hand to hold off the late surge of the second placed Earl. An uncharacteristic run by Darley Arabian had punters and experts alike, scratching their heads. The colt never got into the race and recorded a forgettable last of fourteen, a position he has since avoided, to date.
Darley Arabian 1-2 Gentleman Earl
|Classic Challenge Qualifier||After a very disappointing outing in their previous match-up, Darley Arabian bounced back in emphatic style! He didn’t just beat a high class field, he annihilated them! With everything in his favour, the two year old bay ate up the yielding ground on his way to a length and a half victory over second place horse, Maroon Spirit, putting to rest all the conspiracy theories that surrounded his poor effort before. His main adversary, Gentleman Earl struggled to come to terms with the sticky ground and finished a six length thirteenth.
Darley Arabian 2-2 Gentleman Earl
|Classic Challenge Qualifier||Carrying 126lbs and conceding weight to all and sundry in this qualifier, Darley Arabian continued his impressive recent form and despite not winning the race, his second behind the very tasty Soulquake System was admirable. Racing side by side throughout it was Arabian over Earl swinging off the turn into the straight, showing the better turn of foot. Earl struggled to go the pace that Arabian had injected and once again found the Squeaky Clean Stables colt a little too good on the day.
Darley Arabian 3-2 Gentleman Earl
|Classic Challenge Final||It was already evident before coming into the Classic Challenge Final that both the horses engines would be severely tested. Both had struggled in the past to conjure any solid form over the trip and the pinnacle of the juvenile season was to prove 200m too far for the pair. Not even the trusted hands of Heinz Huber could shunt Darley Arabian’s hefty weight any closer than 11th place, a disappointing end of season finale for the classy colt. The same fate awaited Gentleman Earl (13th) and both trainers looked towards the next season.
Darley Arabian 4-2 Gentleman Earl
The juvenile campaign for both Darley Arabian and Gentleman Earl had ended without a championship trophy to put on display. Gentleman Earl did manage a 4th place finish in the Sprinters Challenge Final but both horses and their trainers had aspirations of success and failure to capture glory would only manifest determination to succeed at three. The Nunthorpe and The Derby qualification races of the next season to come would offer a level playing field, a chance to go head to head, with all guns blazing. Darley Arabian had come out on top in the six races they did battle as a two year old, getting the better of Gentleman Earl on four of the six occasions they met. The evidence presented in these races would only fuel the excitement for the three year old challenge assault and that is where our story will continue….
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