06/30/2004 11:00PM

Rakti the class of Eclipse

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Rakti puts his impressive credentials on the line in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park on Saturday, just 17 days after soundly beating nine Royal Ascot rivals in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Rated by Timeform as the best horse in the world at the Eclipse distance of 1 1/4 miles, at 131, Rakti appears to have a clear edge over his 12 foes in the $725,000 race.

Trainer Michael Jarvis, however, has cautioned that the Eclipse may be coming too soon after the Prince of Wales's, in which Rakti defeated Powerscourt by two rather handy lengths in his seasonal debut. This may be gamesmanship on Jarvis's part, for if Rakti, a 5-year-old son of Polish Precedent, merely repeats his Royal Ascot effort, he will prevail.

Powerscourt, who had previously taken the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, will try Rakti again, as will the Prince of Wales's third, Ikhtyar. More dangerous is Godolphin's revivified Refuse to Bend, recent winner of the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Refuse to Bend, however, will be making his first start at 10 furlongs and may find Sandown's half-mile uphill stretch more than he bargained for.