Racing: Daylami seeks total Eclipse

RICHARD EDMONDSON Nap: Danielle's Lad (Chepstow 3.00) NB: Rigadoon (Hamilton 4.45)
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The Independent Online
DAYLAMI ATTEMPTS to emulate Halling (1995-1996) by winning the Eclipse Stakes in consecutive years at Sandown on Saturday. The Eclipse, first run in 1886, offers the first chance to assess the relative merits of the three-year-old crop against their elders over 10 furlongs at championship level, but Fantastic Light and Compton Admiral, the representatives of the Classic generation left in at yesterday's acceptance stage, are not the cream of their age group.

They promise to be no match for Daylami, who beat Royal Anthem in the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting. That was over a mile and a half, but 10 furlongs remains Daylami's optimum distance and he looks the pick of Godolphin's three entries, which include Xaar, no longer the superhorse many imagined him to be after his astonishing victory in the 1997 Dewhurst Stakes. Coral offer 6-4 against Godolphin winning the race and 125-1 against them repeating last year's 1-2-3.

Croco Rouge, the Prix d'Ispahan winner, is a Gallic raider to respect, along with the filly Alborada, last year's Champion Stakes victor. But the one that catches the eye in the betting is Lear Spear, trained by David Elsworth. The man who won a Champion Stakes with In The Groove in 1990 sent out Lear Spear to win the Diomed Stakes at Epsom on Derby day prior to a head victory over Fantastic Light in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. Elsworth said his challenger was "in great shape" yesterday and, at 14-1, Lear Spear is worth a bet.

Brave Reward promises to be hard to beat in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Handicap over the Eclipse course and distance on Friday. Sir Michael Stoute's four-year-old finished strongly when a head runner-up to Monsajem at Epsom on Derby day and, set to meet the winner on 2lb better terms this time, is deservedly a top-priced 7-1 favourite with Stanley.

Ciaran Kennelly, the Senior Irish handicapper, yesterday confirmed that Montjeu, the brilliant winner of the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday, put up the best performance in the premier Irish Classic for seven years. Kennelly has rated Montjeu on 128, which makes his the best performance in an Irish Derby since St Jovite beat Dr Devious, the Derby winner, by 12 lengths in 1992. Kennelly, whose mental arithmetic is clearly impeccable, said: "Montjeu beat Daliapour by five lengths and Oath beat him by two lengths at Epsom. That makes Montjeu three lengths better than Oath; three lengths over a mile and a half is worth 5lb and Oath is rated 123 in England."

However, before he is hailed as the new Sea Bird II, it should be remembered that Montjeu, who is trained by John Hammond in France, has already exposed an Achilles' heel the size of Bournemouth in the shape of his inability to act on that quintessential Flat-racing surface, fast going. The ground did for Montjeu when he went under by a length to Gracioso - only fourth to Slickly in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp on Sunday - in the Prix Lupin at the same track prior to Montjeu's victory in Chantilly's Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby).

And, although Sunday's awesome display came on going no softer than good, Montjeu will surely duck the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July, where the going is usually on the firm side, and be rested until the autumn. The Prix Niel, at Longchamp in September, may then be used as a stepping stone to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over the same course on the first Sunday in October, which, apart from being the biggest Flat race in Europe, is usually conducted on an easy surface.

Bernstein is a top-priced 12-1 for the 2000 2,000 Guineas with Ladbrokes after his bloodless, 41/2-length victory, at odds of 2-7, in the Railway Stakes over six furlongs at the Curragh on Sunday. If Aidan O'Brien, Bernstein's trainer, opts to take the route favoured by Vincent, his legendary namesake, with his best two-year-olds, expect Bernstein to take in the Anglesey Stakes over the same course and distance next month on his inexorable march towards the Dewhurst Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket in October.