Racing: Eclipse in the sights of Weld's firepower

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The Independent Online
Dermot Weld, still flying after Zagreb's annihilation of the best Britain could muster in the Irish Derby on Sunday, may be gunning for the old enemy again at the weekend if Definite Article comes over for the Eclipse Stakes.

The four-year-old is among 10 declared for Sandown's summer showpiece. His rivals at this stage include the Derby hero, Shaamit, last year's Eclipse winner, Halling, and Pentire, the best 10-furlong three-year-old last season and put in as 5-2 favourite by the Group One race's sponsor, Coral.

Definite Article, who failed by a whisker to give Weld his first local Derby last year, beat Timarida and Annus Mirabilis in the Tattersalls Gold Cup over 10 furlongs in May, but is among Saturday's outsiders at 16-1. His trainer, however, warned against underrating the colt, saying yesterday: "If I send him - and he's 75 per cent likely to run, depending on his weight and blood picture later in the week - then he'll run a very good race. He's a big tough horse, and although the distance may be a shade short for him, he'll appreciate any cut in the ground and at 16- 1, he's cracking each-way value.''

After Dushyantor's defeat in Ireland on Sunday, Shaamit, rated an 11- 2 shot with William Hill for Saturday, will have a point to prove about the Derby form, but yesterday his trainer, William Haggas, said the colt was only 50-50 to run. "He missed a few days with his foot injury and blew a bit after he galloped on Saturday," Haggas said. "I'll know more after he works on Wednesday."

Haggas, while admitting he was mightily impressed by Zagreb's Irish Derby win, was still disappointed that his champion had to miss the race. "I didn't think Dushyantor ran his race; Pat [Eddery, who will be on board Shaamit on Saturday if he runs] seemed to be too hard at work too far out. Zagreb won like a good horse, but mine's a good one too and I would like to have had a crack at him."

You have to go back 13 years to find the last Derby winner not to start favourite on his next outing - Teenoso, second favourite to Caerleon when both were beaten by Shareef Dancer in the Irish Derby - but the perceived weakness of this year's Epsom form is such that Shaamit occupies only second or third place in the bookmakers' lists.

Halling, who disappointed when last behind Cigar in the Dubai World Cup, has since regained winning ways back on grass in the Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp in May. He is a definite starter, but his Godolphin stablemate Charnwood Forest, winner of the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, is not.

Godolphin director Simon Crisford said: "John Reid will ride Halling, but a decision about Charnwood Forest will be made later in the week. If he does not run, he'll go straight for the Sussex Stakes."

Another Royal Ascot mile winner, Bijou D'Inde, will try his luck over the extra two furlongs. His trainer, Mark Johnston, never one to duck a challenge, said: "The only place to find whether he stays or not is on the course. In the St James's Palace Stakes he looked as if he was staying on and could get further, but he is so versatile. We could drop him back to six furlongs and he'd take it in his stride.''

Pentire has had the Eclipse as his target since running a fine fourth in the Dubai World Cup, and though he has not been seen in public since, he has been sparkling in his homework. The other British-trained entries are Singspiel, beaten a neck by Halling last year and runner-up (for the third time in a Group One contest) in the Coronation Cup last month, and the outsiders Beauchamp King and Ela-Aristokrati.

The French have not won an Eclipse since Javelot scored in 1960 - although Trepan was disqualified after beating Wollow in 1976 - and will rely on this season's Prix Ganay and Harcourt victor, Valanour. The four-year- old, who will be bidding to give the Aga Khan his first win in Britain for nearly six years, was confirmed yesterday by his trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupre, a runner as long as the going remains good or better.

Eclipse Stakes (Sandown, Saturday) Coral: 5-2 Pentire, 9-2 Shaamit, 5- 1 Halling, 11-2 Charnwood Forest, 7-1 Bijou D'Inde, Singspiel & Valanour, 16-1 Definite Article, 25-1 Ela-Aristokrati & Beauchamp King.