Falling for Halling again

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The Independent Online
When Hwfa Williams, the first of racing's impresarios, founded the Eclipse Stakes back in 1886 as the first great clash of the generations, he must have had in mind just such a contest as yesterday's 99th renewal. In a most stirring finish up the legendary Sandown Park hill, the five- year-old Halling beat the three-year-old Bijou D'Inde by a neck, with the four-year-old Pentire an honourable length and threequarters back in third.

Halling's brave, determined victory made him only the fifth dual winner in the race's history, following such celebrated names as Orme, Buchan, Polyphontes and Mtoto into the record books.

He did it in what is usually referred to as the hard way, from the front; but for Halling, it is clearly the easy way. John Reid, riding the son of Diesis for the first time in public, had him two lengths clear as the seven-strong field swept into the home straight and tracked over to take advantage of the better ground on the stands' side.

The rain during the week, coupled with Sandown's watering, had produced softish going, and, as Michael Hills brought the favourite Pentire to challenge on the outside, his famed finishing kick was missing.

It was left to Bijou D'Inde, who was trying 10 furlongs for the first time, to take on the leader, but though he strained every sinew of his powerful frame Halling was always his master.The winning distance was the same as his margin over Singspiel last year.

Reid said: "He is simply a horse who is in love with racing. The only slight worry in tracking to the stands side was the lack of rails to run against on the first part of the hill, but he has tremendous guts, and stuck his head down and battled to the line. He gave me everything, and it is such a thrill to ride a horse like him."

Jason Weaver, on the runner-up, was equally full of praise for his partner, saying: "He was just paddling a little on the ground on the turn in, but he ran his heart out."

The first two are on course to clash again in the second of the season's mile-and-a-quarter Group One events, the Juddmonte International at York in August, which was also won by Halling last year. Pentire, running for the first time since his fourth place behind Cigar in the Dubai World Cup in March, will step up to the 12 furlongs of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot later this month, in which he was narrowly beaten by Lammtarra last year. His jockey Michael Hills reported: "On this ground, he just needed the race."

Ela-Aristokrati, the outsider of the field, stayed on to deprive the Irish raider Definite Article of fourth place, five lengths behind Pentire but, as feared, the softened going put paid to the chances of the French challenger Valanour, who beat only Beauchamp King.

There was the suggestion of interference as Halling, who runs for Sheikh Mohammed's all-conquering Godolphin team, drifted slightly to his right towards Bijou D'Inde a few strides from the post, but a brief stewards' inquiry rightly upheld the result.

Bijou D'Inde flew the flag for the Classic generation with honour at Sandown, but there were tamer eclipses at Haydock. The finish of the Lancashire Oaks concerned the four-year-olds Spout and Phantom Gold, in that order. Spout, last-stride winner of the John Porter Stakes earlier in the season and hampered when sixth in the Curragh Cup a week ago, again left it late for victory, but Tim Sprake's beautifully -timed run from off the pace in the final half-furlong landed the filly a comfortable length and a half in front at the line. Later, the Derby third Shantou suffered his second reversal since Epsom against the lightly raced Royal Court.

The Oaks runner-up Pricket, who has been working poorly since her Epsom effort, was announced yesterday as a definite non-runner for the Irish Oaks at the end of the month.