Racing: Shamardal's shine restored in Classic struggle

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The Independent Online

Take two champion two-year-olds, take two Classics, take two winners; if only it was that easy every time.

Take two champion two-year-olds, take two Classics, take two winners; if only it was that easy every time. Yesterday at Longchamp Divine Proportions and Shamardal triumphed in, respectively, the Poules d'Essai des Pouliches and Poulains, the Gallic equivalents of the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas. But the two could hardly have presented a greater contrast, either in the manner of their victories or the road to them. One was a lap of honour, the other a scrap with honour.

Life for the filly, Divine Proportions, has been sweetly serene; the aptly named white-faced Pascal Bary-trained bay is unbeaten, and barely extended, in seven runs and picked up her third Group One prize in the Niarchos family silks by five lengths with ears pricked, hardly needing to come off the bridle.

Things have been tougher, though, for Shamardal and yesterday, after an embarrassing flop of a return to action for Godolphin on dirt in Dubai in March, was make or break. And not for the first time, the colt showed just what a fighter he is, setting off in front and defying all comers. It was a close call, but where it mattered he had a head and a neck to spare over the Irish raider Indesatchel and the best of the home side, Gharir. "It was not plan A to make all the running," said rider Frankie Dettori, "but he jumped so well from the gates that I let him do his own thing. He got a bit tired in the last 100 yards but he had just enough left to hold on."

Shamardal, a US-bred son of Giant's Causeway, has been rather shunted from pillar to post in his short existence: diagnosed with a serious illness and returned to his vendor after being sold as a foal, treated with alternative therapy, resold as a yearling for a bargain $50,000 to a Maktoum associate, trained by Mark Johnston to win three from three last year, then transferred to Godolphin.

It was on his first run for the blues, while touted as a Kentucky Derby possible, that he finished ninth in the UAE Derby at Nad Al Sheba. "Everything that could go wrong in Dubai did go wrong," said the Godolphin racing manager, Simon Crisford, after yesterday's thriller, "but this is great and the most important thing is that last year's champion two-year-old has restored his reputation."

Shamardal is as low as 10-1 in bookmakers' lists for the Derby, but he is by no means a certain Epsom runner. "He is in everything, from the Derby to the St James's Palace Stakes," added Crisford, "but we will not decide anything yet."

Indesatchel, trained by David Wachman, thoroughly justified his supplementary entry, only just failing from a disadvantageous wide draw. Shamardal's victory was the third in the mile contest for Godolphin, after Vettori (1995) and Bachir (2000) and the second Classic, after Footstepsinthesand's 2,000 Guineas, from his sire's first crop.

Divine Proportions' display under Christophe Lemaire, bursting clear in the straight of two compatriots, Toupie and Ysoldina, with Ballydoyle's Silk And Scarlet fourth, was the more brilliant and, despite its ease was nearly a second faster than Shamardal's. She was the third Niarchos filly to win the Pouliches, after Miesque (dam of Divine Proportions' sire, Kingmambo) in 1987 and East Of The Moon 11 years ago. Bary rates her better than another distinguished distaffer in the shades-of-blue silks, Six Perfections, with whom he won three Group Ones. "She is a phenomenon," he said. "I have not trained a better filly. And she runs like one who will stay further." The Prix de Diane and Coronation Stakes are now under consideration.

Two putative opponents for Divine Proportions once the all-aged mile confrontations kick in later in the summer enjoyed varying fortunes at the weekend. Rakti romped home by five lengths in the Lockinge Stakes on Saturday afternoon, and was reported by trainer Michael Jarvis to have enthusiastically licked his manger clean overnight. Mark Johnson's Attraction was a disappointing 11th of 13 in the Champions Mile at Sha Tin, in Hong Kong, and pulled out stiff yesterday morning. A few hours later, at Kranji, the Australian raider Mummify denied the Andrew Balding-trained Phoenix Reach by half-a-length in the Singapore International Cup.

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