Halling keeps rivals in the shade

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The Independent Online
THE Godolphin desert storm shows no signs of abating. Halling, winner of the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket last October, coped with a massive step up in class to take the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes here yesterday. The chestnut son of Diesis made every yard of the running under a perfectly judged ride from Walter Swinburn to hold the persistent challenge of Singspiel by a neck and take the pounds 116,000 prize.

Like the others who race under Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin banner, Halling spent last winter in Dubai. But unlike most of his stable-mates, he was in action there, winning three races at Nad El Sheba. There had been nothing in his previous form to indicate that he was capable of taking even a sub- standard Eclipse like yesterday's, but the magic of the sun and sand worked a treat.

The four-year-old, who looked outstanding in the pre-race parade, must have felt at home in yesterday's sweltering heat, and became the 10th European Pattern winner this year from the Godolphin operation, which transfers its horses, under the care of Saeed Bin Suroor, from Dubai to Newmarket for the summer season. The first colours were carried yesterday by the third-placed Red Bishop, a winner in Hong Kong and California in April, but those closest to the horses judged there was not much between them.

Swinburn rode a race that was instinctive rather than minutely planned, setting a steady pace and quickening away in the straight. He said: "We knew he was an ideal type to ride from the front, but there was no definite strategy. I took the race as I found it, but once I asked him to go he felt really special." The shock of Halling's acceleration caused Swinburn to shift his grip on the reins and drop his whip a furlong and a half from home, but his partner had enough in hand for it not to matter. He ran on strongly to hold the Grand Prix de Paris runner-up, for whom Michael Kinane reported the ground too lively, and deny Michael Stoute a third successive Eclipse.

Red Bishop stayed on at one pace three lengths adrift, with the 1991 winner, Environment Friend, running on to snatch fourth on the line from the disappointing favourite Eltish. The colt was held up at the back of the field for much of the way and was left a lot to do when the leaders quickened. His market rival Muhtarram finished sixth but had a genuine excuse; the game six-year-old faltered as he launched his challenge and left the course in a horse ambulance, having suffered a fractured off- fore pastern.

It was Halling's first run since winning the Maktoum Challenge at Nad El Sheba in February, and a delighted Sheikh Mohammed said: "When he won that race we felt it was a good omen, because Cezanne, who had won it the previous year, improved enough to come to Europe and win a Group 1 race." Halling's departure to Dubai last autumn was delayed to allow him to run in the Cambridgeshire, for which he had been heavily backed and ultimately won easily. In retrospect, not a bad bet.

The eight Eclipse Stakes runners had won races in as many countries, reflecting the truly global nature of modern racing. Halling looks a natural to defend the honour of Dubai in Sheikh Mohammed's latest brainchild, the World Cup, a $4m international event scheduled in his homeland for next March.

Five of the seven races were won from the front, and in the Listed five- furlong sprint Bunty Boo bounced back to form with a 20-1 shock. The six- year-old mare had won five times previously, but not since she scored in Sweden in September 1993, and had been out of the frame in her last seven runs. But yesterday she showed all her old enthusiasm and was never headed.

She was allowed to take her chance after sparkling in a home gallop during the week. Her trainer Richard Hannon said: "There was no way she could win on the book, but she suddenly seemed to blossom and we had to have a go."

As a result of that gallop her stablemate Caramba, unplaced in last month's Prix de Diane, was rerouted from yesterday's Lancashire Oaks to the Falmouth Stakes over a mile at Newmarket on Wednesday.