Racing: Sham's shining talent for a total Eclipse

Greg Wood looks forward to a battle of the generations at Sandown today
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Smart backers everywhere are grateful for the thorough objectivity with which the Timeform organisation analyses British racing, the only drawback being that sometimes it can feel as if all traces of emotion are surgically removed from its writers as they clock on for work each morning.

It is, then, a considerable testament to Bosra Sham, hot favourite for the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown this afternoon, that her most recent appearance at Royal Ascot moved the authors of Timeform's Perspective to what is, by their standards, purple prose.

"Bosra Sham laid claim to her place alongside racing's greatest fillies with her scintillating performance," they wrote of her eight-length success in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. "We rate her the equal of all bar Allez France and Habibti, and she may well top even them."

In its way, this is as significant a tribute as Henry Cecil's comment in the Ascot winner's enclosure shortly afterwards that last year's 1,000 Guineas victor is the best horse of either sex to have passed through his hands.

John Gosden, who saddles the Derby winner, Benny The Dip, one of Bosra Sham's main rivals today, is another of this starlet's admirers. Gosden described her as "an Amazon with a sex allowance". "I think she will win. She's a champion, but if we run a good race behind her it would not do us any harm," he said.

Whether Gosden is playing mind games - if that is possible with a horse - is a moot point as he made a similar prediction before the Derby declaring Entrepreneur would triumph and the rest were in a fight for the place money.

But even if Gosden is trying to tempt fate for a second time the fact that Timeform, not to mention her trainer, are so enamoured with Bosra Sham means that the 4-6 appears to offer a route to easy money this afternoon. Yet little is certain on the turf, except that betting odds-on is the pathway to ruin, and this race does not, in truth, appeal as a betting medium.

Fortunately, though, it appeals on any number of other levels, and it is rare indeed to find the best middle-distance performers from three generations entering the same set of starting stalls. Benny The Dip and Pilsudski, the five-year-old who won the Breeders' Cup Turf at Woodbine last November, will be stiff opponents, not least because both may still be improving.

Pilsudski, in fact, has done little else since the day at Royal Ascot in 1995 when he somehow managed to finish 17th of 20 in the King George V Handicap with just 8st 4lb on his back.

Pilsudski's performance today will also offer an interesting guide to the relative merits of Bosra Sham and Helissio, last year's Arc winner, who beat Pilsudski into second place by a very convincing five lengths at Longchamp.

Benny The Dip will also demand plenty of attention, since no one wants to see the Derby form diminished any further following the poor runs of Silver Patriarch and The Fly in the Irish equivalent last weekend. Today's 10 furlongs with a stiff uphill finish should be ideal for Gosden's colt, and he undoubtedly represents the value, but the spectacle alone should be enough to satisfy all but the most compulsive of punters.

The Listed sprint is more interesting from a betting point of view, simply because the draw is so significant on Sandown's straight course, particularly when the ground has a little give. A high number is all but essential (the first two home in the Temple Stakes here in May, at 20-1 and 25-1, were drawn nine and 10 respectively in a field of 10), and Ya Malak (3.20), drawn 12 of 14, looks the one to be on. In the handicaps, meanwhile, Clan Ben (2.45) and Conspicuous (4.40) must both go close.