There has been an upset or two in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park over the years, but in 1998 bookmakers were counting the cost after gallant grey Daylami claimed his first win on British soil.
Though the manner of victory may not have been as impressive as those he would record in the Irish Champion Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Turf the following year, it was a success which would help set him on the path to becoming a true champion.
Already a Group One winner in France, having claimed the French 2000 Guineas 12 months earlier when trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, the son of Doyoun made an instant impact on his first start for Saeed bin Suroor with victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
Although suffering something of a surprise defeat behind stablemate Faithful Son in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, it did not deter Bin Suroor from keeping faith in a horse that would help shape the path of his own career.
He remembered: “I was confident about Sandown because I remember two days after Ascot he was jumping at home like nothing had happened. About eight days before the race his work on the Limekilns (gallop in Newmarket) was unbelievable. He was flying in the mornings.
“I knew over a mile and a quarter at Sandown he would be hard to beat and he had the strong pace which he needed.
“Sometimes a horse tells you they are ready to do something special. The way he looked and the way he worked, it was different.”
With stablemate and eventual third Central Park deployed as a pacemaker, matters could not have worked out any better.
Sent off the 6-4 favourite to gain revenge on his Royal Ascot conqueror, the then four-year-old, under the control of Frankie Dettori, cruised into contention before reversing placings with Faithful Son to take the Group One prize by half a length.
Bin Suroor added: “The thing with Daylami was that he always tried hard in his races.
“Some horses show nothing in the morning, but then show it in the race, and some are the opposite, but horses like Daylami, Dubai Millennium, Fantastic Light and Swain – they showed it all the time.
“In the race he was in a good position and he needed a strong pace, which there was.
“He travelled into it on the bridle and he was doing everything well and finding it easy.
“In the last furlong he did it the way he loved it, by battling hard.
“The horse was a professional. He knew what his job was and he made everything easy for a jockey. If the jockey asked him a hard question, he would give it.”
Having had the luxury of being in the possession of many talented horses before and after Daylami, for Bin Suroor it is clear where the seven-times Group/Grade One winner sits among his all-time pecking order.
Bin Suroor said: “At Godolphin we have hundreds of good horses, but Daylami, he was something special to my heart.
“When you went to his box to check his legs in the morning, he was so kind. He never tried to bite or kick. He liked you to come into the box and see him.
“He gave me my first Breeders’ Cup winner and he won all over the world.
“Before the Breeders’ Cup I was asked two days before the race would he win, and I said ‘110 per cent’ he would win the race. I should not have said that, but his work was something special.
“There was something different about him. My favourite two horses I’ve trained are Daylami and Dubai Millennium.
“I know I’ve had some good horses, but he is something special in racing history and he will stay in my memory for a long time.”