Racing: Chapple-Hyam pursues Eclipse cash

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The Independent Online

Despite Rakti's dominance of the betting lists for tomorrow's Eclipse Stakes there is no shortage of volunteers to take him on. The size of the field declared yesterday for the Sandown showpiece - 13 - has been exceeded only twice in 106 previous runnings: in 1975, when Star Appeal beat 15 rivals and last year, when Falbrav accounted for 14.

Despite Rakti's dominance of the betting lists for tomorrow's Eclipse Stakes there is no shortage of volunteers to take him on. The size of the field declared yesterday for the Sandown showpiece - 13 - has been exceeded only twice in 106 previous runnings: in 1975, when Star Appeal beat 15 rivals and last year, when Falbrav accounted for 14.

The reason for the scramble for stalls places is not difficult to fathom. The purse for the Coral-sponsored 10-furlong contest stands at £409,000, with £237,000 to the winner and prizes down to sixth. "Exactly," said Peter Chapple-Hyam, trainer of one of the outsiders, African Dream. "Ours is probably not good enough to win, but we'll have a crack at the money and a good fun day out." In another life Chapple-Hyam trained Dr Devious to win a Derby but tomorrow will be his first involvement in Group 1 company since returning during the winter to Britain from Hong Kong. And he is under no illusions about the task facing African Dream, who has made fairytale strides up the talent ladder since being claimed for £20,000 after winning a Class E event at Lingfield in February, but is still something of a Buttons at the ball.

The three-year-old has won all four of his starts since arriving at his current Newmarket base, most recently Group 3 Derby trials at Sandown in April and Chester in May. He was barred from the premier Classic because of his status as a gelding but such unsexed beasts are eligible for the Eclipse. None, though, has prevailed since Epsom Lad in 1901.

"This will be a massive step up in class and it will be tough," said Chapple-Hyam. "A horse like Rakti will be very, very hard to beat. But ours has definitely improved since he last ran. His work recently has been fantastic, better than ever before, and we thought we'd give it a go and see what happens. We'll sit in midfield, bide our time and just hope that they go too fast and we can pick them off."

African Dream, a first Group 1 ride this year for journeyman Jimmy Quinn, has been unflatteringly likened to Jake The Peg by his trainer. "You'd swear when you see him walking round that he has one leg longer than the others," he said. "But he cost us nothing and he owes us nothing and we'll soon know exactly where we stand." There are even more pages of history for another of tomorrow's contenders, Warrsan, to overturn.

The six-year-old has, like Rakti, the chance for a £1m bonus should he win tomorrow and then add another leg of the so-called Summer Triple Crown, either the 'King George' at Ascot later in the month or the York International in August. But the only other of his age group to have won an Eclipse was the inaugural hero, Bendigo in 1886.

Should either Rakti or Warrsan triumph tomorrow and take the summer series to a finale, the British Horseracing Board may well feel its expensive initiative justified, for there is no doubt that the presence of a charismatic horse is a powerful draw. Attraction, the season's distaff star, is one of nine entries in Tuesday's Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and advance sales for the July fixture's opening day were reported yesterday to be 30 per cent up.

Sprinters from six foreign countries are likely to take on the home side in next week's other top-level feature, the July Cup. Australian speedster Exceed And Excel is expected to confirm his recovery from a recent illness with a gallop tomorrow morning and other declarations of intent were announced yesterday from those connected with Seeking The Dia (Japan), Cape Of Good Hope (Hong Kong), Lydgate (USA), Porlezza (France) and Antonius Pius (Ireland).

ECLIPSE BETTING (Sandown, tomorrow, 3.15) : Coral: 11-10 Rakti, 11-2 Salford City, 7-1 Refuse To Bend, 8-1 Powerscourt, 12-1 Ikhtyar, Warrsan, 16-1 Kalaman, 20-1 Kaieteur, Norse Dancer, 25-1 African Dream, Imperial Dancer, 50-1 Chancellor, 80-1 Maktub.

Ladbrokes: Evens Rakti, 6-1 Refuse To Bend, 7-1 Salford City, Ikhtyar, Powerscourt, 12-1 Kalaman, Warrsan, 25-1 African Dream, Imperial Dancer, 28-1 Norse Dancer, 33-1 Kaieteur, 40-1 Chancellor, 100-1 Maktub.

William Hill: Evens Rakti, 6-1 Salford City, 7-1 Powerscourt, Refuse To Bend, 10-1 Ikhtyar, 14-1 Kalaman, Warrsan, 25-1 African Dream, Imperial Dancer, 28-1 Norse Dancer, 33-1 Kaieteur, 66-1 Chancellor, 80-1 Maktub.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Kathology

(Sandown 2.05)

NB: Great View

(Warwick 5.30)

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