Racing: Blues And Royals in front line after Shamardal's flop

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The Independent Online

Sheikh Mohammed has decreed that the Kentucky Derby must be his one day, and, for once, that day has been suspended for the Dubaian prince of money and self-appointment.

Sheikh Mohammed has decreed that the Kentucky Derby must be his one day, and, for once, that day has been suspended for the Dubaian prince of money and self-appointment.

Before the 1999 running of America's most prestigious race the Sheikh was at his most forthright, issuing a statement as laughably heartfelt as his occasional poems from behind the dunes. "We will," the great man said, "win the Derby within four years."

Money, as the Sheikh has proved, can buy most things, but boasts are never on the shelves of even the most upmarket halls. The Sheikh, and latterly Godolphin, have never finished better than sixth in the chase for the floral mattress trophy, the one they call the Run For The Roses.

Still, Sheikh Mohammed proceeds with the strategy he thinks will consolidate his part of the Emirates as a major training centre. Instead of participating in the maze of trials Stateside, Dubai's crown prince likes to winter his Churchill Downs horses lazily in the Gulf, with perhaps one run in his UAE Derby. It is a strategy which meets with little accord in the United States.

"All he's doin' is makin' a pretty darn tough task a lot tougher," Jack Van Berg, the trainer who won the 1987 Derby with Alysheba, once said. "But, hell, it's his money." Being Sheikh Mohammed means never having to say you are skint, but a few more dollars seeped through the sand on Saturday when Shamardal, the major acquisition of last season, dribbled home a tame ninth in the UAE Derby. The unbeaten monster of 2004 looked to be going as far forward as a hamster in a wheel.

Far ahead of last season's champion juvenile his stablemate Blues And Royals was posting a 12-length victory. He has now been supplemented for the first leg of the US Triple Crown. However, plans for Parole Board, acquired by the Dubai team following his third on Saturday, have been put on hold, though he has also been supplemented for Kentucky.

Still, such is the faith and capital invested in Shamardal, that his tortoise effort has not yet ruled him out of the world's second most significant Derby. "Everything seems fine with Shamardal this morning and nothing has come to light. We will let the dust settle and just wait and see. There is no rush to make any plans at this stage," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said.

"Blues And Royals is fine. The plan will definitely be to take him to Kentucky. The Run for the Roses is a very good race and if he keeps to this form anything can happen."

Preparations for the 7 May Classic at Churchill Downs have not gone to plan for American trainers Bobby Frankel and Nick Zito. They are shipping many their horses from Palm Meadows, Florida, to Kentucky after an outbreak of the disease strangles, which could result in a ban on horse movement.

A field of 27 goes to post for today's Irish Grand National, including Point Barrow, who was fifth in the the four-miler at Cheltenham, and What Odds, who was yesterday the subject of a large wager by his owner, Mike Futter, who brought off a gamble when his Monty's Pass won the 2003 Grand National.

* Stewards at Towcester yesterday allowed the result to stand after all 12 finishers took the wrong course in the hunter chase. The runners ran on to the hurdles track when they bypassed the final ditch where ambulance crew were attending to Andrew Hickman, who had taken a fall on the first circuit.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Alderney Edge

(Kempton 2.45)

NB: Sunley Future

(Plumpton 5.30)