Racing: Brittain cool on Summer Triple Crown cash

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The Independent Online

Racing's very own big-money game reaches a crucial stage at Sandown on Saturday with the running of the 107th Eclipse Stakes. The 10-furlong contest is the second leg of one of the sport's recent marketing wheezes, the grandiosely named Summer Triple Crown, which offers a seven-figure bonus to any horse able to secure three of the season's top-level middle-distance races. Two of Saturday's contenders will turn up in Esher with the requisite Group One victory under their girths, Clive Brittain's Warrsan, hero of the Coronation Cup, and Prince of Wales's Stakes winner Rakti, prepared by Michael Jarvis.

Racing's very own big-money game reaches a crucial stage at Sandown on Saturday with the running of the 107th Eclipse Stakes. The 10-furlong contest is the second leg of one of the sport's recent marketing wheezes, the grandiosely named Summer Triple Crown, which offers a seven-figure bonus to any horse able to secure three of the season's top-level middle-distance races. Two of Saturday's contenders will turn up in Esher with the requisite Group One victory under their girths, Clive Brittain's Warrsan, hero of the Coronation Cup, and Prince of Wales's Stakes winner Rakti, prepared by Michael Jarvis.

The trainers' views on wanting to be a millionaire differ somewhat. Brittain, the idealist, said: "It may sound silly, but this horse is the pride of my life and the money is secondary." Jarvis, the realist, was more pragmatic. "Who doesn't ever need £1m?" he queried.

Rakti was offered at 7-2 for the Eclipse by its sponsor, Coral, before his imperious display at Royal Ascot. The ex-Italian five-year-old is now the even-money favourite and yesterday morning looked very much the star part as he took routine exercise at the head of his string of stablemates, striding purposefully up Warren Hill.

There is, though, just one grain of doubt niggling at Jarvis and the egg-laying domestic fowl corralled inside the gates of his Kremlin House stables remain untallied. Due to various circumstances, Rakti's races since he came to be trained in Newmarket last year have been well spaced apart but on Saturday it will be only 17 days since his Ascot exertions. "I'm not saying that will be a problem," Jarvis said. "But it is a different factor. He's done everything right since Ascot and is eating and training well. I wouldn't be running him if he wasn't, bonus or not. But one of the first things you learn to do in this business is not to count any chickens."

Rakti, a strong-headed, deep-girthed bay, is a horse with a mind of his own. He has had to learn, with the help of equine behaviourist Yarmy Dyble, respect for the wishes of humankind, particularly where starting stalls are concerned. He takes a fierce tug when galloping in anger and wears a leather-covered bit to protect his tender mouth from his excesses. But he was on his best behaviour yesterday under his devoted lad, Bob McGonagle, almost slouching round the historic yellow-brick stable yard (built 130 years ago by an Anglophile Russian prince).

"The horse is not easy," said Jarvis. "And when he looks at the stalls, and you can see him thinking about them, your heart stops. But he is settling down and becoming more relaxed, more professional. Bob has been absolutely invaluable, and refuses point-blank to take a day off. He did Morshdi, too, so maybe he's lucky. But I think lads like him make their own luck."

In the event of victory in the £409,000 Eclipse, Rakti will go to York in August in search of the big-bucks bonus in the International. In the event of defeat, he will not take in the next option in the summer series, the mile-and-a-half King George at Ascot. "He won the Italian Derby over 12 furlongs, but it was his class that got him home," Jarvis said. "We'll stick to 10 furlongs and I would not be averse to dropping him back to a mile. And I know everyone will think I'm crazy, but I think he'd win the Haydock Sprint Cup. He is seriously fast."

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