07/01/2009 11:00PM

Sea the Stars challenges Conduit


Dual classic winner Sea the Stars will make his first start against older horses at Sandown Park on Saturday when he takes on Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit in the $823,700 Eclipse Stakes.

Scratched from last Sunday's Irish Derby due to the yielding ground, Sea the Stars, winner of both the 2000 Guineas at a mile and the Epsom Derby at 1 1/2 miles, will be cutting back to the intermediate distance of 1 1/4 miles in the Eclipse, but that should not present a problem to the versatile Sea the Stars.

With the ground expected to be good to firm on Saturday, Sea the Stars should be in his element. Possessed of tracking speed, an admirable turn of foot, and plenty of stamina, he should relish the half-mile uphill stretch that makes every race at Sandown a test of endurance. Michael Kinane will have the job of steering him around the single right-hand turn halfway through Sandown's 10-furlong circuit.

In Conduit he will be facing a horse who is once again running at a distance at least two furlongs short of his best. Prior to his 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup victory, the Michael Stoute-trained Conduit had won the 1 3/4-mile, 132-yard St. Leger Stakes. In his May 28 seasonal debut, Conduit lost a bob of the head to Cima de Triomphe in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes over the Eclipse course and distance. While he should improve from that effort, 1 1/4 miles is probably just too short for him at the Group 1 level.

Trained by Luca Cumani, Cima de Triomphe will try Conduit again but does not appear to be in the same league as Sea the Stars. Twice Over, who led to the sixteenth pole in the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales's Stakes, might not quite get up the hill.

Rip Van Winkle is easily the most dangerous of the three Aidan O'Brien runners. The 3-year-old Rip Van Winkle was fourth behind Sea the Stars in both the Guineas and the Epsom Derby, but made a sharp move at the quarter pole before flattening out at Epsom, suggesting he will prove best at 1 1/4 miles. In a surprise move, O'Brien has named Jimmy Fortune to replace Johnny Murtagh in the saddle.

The Eclipse will go without the Mike de Kock-trained Archipenko. Last year's unlucky Arlington Million runner-up is suffering from a swollen fetlock and is sidelined indefinitely.

* HRTV will televise the Eclipse Stakes live. Post time is 10:15 a.m. Eastern.