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Dual Eclipse hero Halling hailed as ‘one of the best’ by Bin Suroor

Dual Eclipse hero Halling hailed as ‘one of the best’ by Bin Suroor
Dual Eclipse hero Halling hailed as ‘one of the best’ by Bin Suroor

For a man who during a 20-year period trained some of the best horses around, when Saeed bin Suroor says dual Coral-Eclipse hero Halling is one of the best he handled, it is no wild statement.

The Godolphin trainer was the dominant force in Flat racing during the 1990s and early 2000s, with a magnificent list of big-race winners.

Bin Suroor trained the likes of Dubai Millennium, Fantastic Light, Mark Of Esteem, Lammtarra and Sakhee but he rates Halling as right up there with the best of them.

Halling is one of only five horses to have won the Eclipse more than once, with Mtoto the only other since the 1920s.

He began his racing life with John Gosden running in the maroon and white Sheikh Mohammed colours before the switch to Godolphin blue, by when he had already won a Cambridgeshire. Three victories in Dubai followed for Hilal Ibrahim before former policeman Bin Suroor took over at the helm.

On his first start for his new trainer, he won the 1995 Eclipse under Walter Swinburn, a first Group One winner in the now famous silks in the UK, beating the ultra-consistent Singspiel by a neck.

“He is one of the best horses I have trained, quite simply,” said Bin Suroor.

“He showed up every morning and he was always easy to train. In his races, he always showed his class.”

His following race saw him easily win the Juddmonte International at York, after which it was decided he would have an ambitious crack at the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Halling and Walter Swinburn after his first Eclipse
Halling and Walter Swinburn after his first Eclipse (John Giles/PA)

However, he failed to take to the dirt surface, and proved that once and for all when trailing home in the Dubai World Cup the following March.

“The only times he didn’t run well were when he ran on dirt. We tried it twice, at the Dubai World Cup and in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but other than that he was brilliant, on turf he won five Group Ones,” said Bin Suroor.

“When he retired, he became a stallion and he went on to produce some very nice horses, Cavalryman and Jack Hobbs were both good for Godolphin and Norse Dancer was a very good horse for him too.

“To win as many top races in the UK as he did was something special, one of the best horses I have trained, definitely. To win five Group Ones is special.”

Following the experiment on dirt, Halling went on to win the Prix d’Ispahan, a second Eclipse and a second Juddmonte International.

His front-running style endeared him to punters and fans alike – and seemingly, his trainer too.

“I think I would put him up in my top five horses with the likes of Dubai Millennium, Fantastic Light and Daylami. One of the best I’ve had,” he said.

“He tried very hard and when you have a horse like him with class also, that makes them special.

“He started out with John Gosden and won the Cambridgeshire and progressed and progressed, he just improved with age.”

Bin Suroor only had to wait two more years to win the Eclipse again, with another of his stalwarts, the galloping grey Daylami.

Bought from the Aga Khan having won the French Guineas for Alain de Royer-Dupre, in two years with Bin Suroor he ran 14 times, only twice below Group One level.

His 1998 Eclipse win was a momentous one for the trainer, who also saddled the second and third, Faithful Son and Central Park

“I loved Daylami, he was one of my favourite horses. He won Group Ones in the UK, Ireland and the US and finished at the Breeders’ Cup in 1999,” said Bin Suroor.

“He was around for several years and I was very attached to him, he had lots of races at the top level.

“As time goes on, you realise how lucky you are to have horses like him, like Halling and Fantastic Light.”

Bin Suroor’s fourth Eclipse came via Refuse To Bend, a 2000 Guineas winner for Dermot Weld, and the trainer admits the 10-furlong Sandown trip stretched him.

“Refuse To Bend was a miler, he had more speed than the other two but he just lasted home that day,” he said.

The closest Bin Suroor has come since was when Farhh chased home Nathaniel in 2012 but with Wild Tiger a recent winner at Royal Ascot, from a much-reduced string Bin Suroor repeatedly shows he can still compete at the top table.

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