Princess ready for her Derby

Racing
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The Independent Online
The focus may be on the Curragh on Sunday, but the big Irish race is not the only Derby on the weekend agenda. The greyhounds have their moment of glory at Wimbledon on Saturday night, and before that the Pitmen's version - the Northumberland Plate - will be run at Newcastle.

The Gosforth Park race - a two-mile handicap - is a Derby in nickname only, but if Snow Princess can win it, her popularity with the public could approach that of Shaamit. The bay filly is going for a six-timer, and has been installed 3-1 favourite to achieve the feat.

The Weinstock family's progressive four-year-old, trained by Lord Huntingdon at West Ilsley and to be ridden by David Harrison, is officially one of the most improved animals in the country, having risen 23lb in the weights since she won at Chepstow last October.

Bookmakers and punters agree that she is still ahead of the handicapper. Her trainer is not so sure, though he admitted: ''She is lightly-raced, but having said that, the handicapper has had plenty of opportunities to look at her and she did face a big rise after winning the November Handicap at Doncaster last year."

Snow Princess, who will work today and tomorrow in preparation for her task, had her first test over Saturday's distance at Doncaster in May and came through with flying colours, beating subsequent Ascot Gold Cup fifth Latahaab by four lengths on her seasonal debut. Lord Huntingdon added: ''Once she'd proved she stayed two miles, this race was always her target.''

Willie Carson's mount Celeric, who was touched off by Corradini at York last time, is second choice in the ante-post skirmishes at 4-1, with Orchestra Stall and Istabraq - not yet confirmed as a runner - at 10-1.

The man in form, Kieren Fallon, on the mark for Michael Stoute at Royal Ascot with Dazzle and second only to Pat Eddery in numbers of winners this year, will team up again with the big Newmarket yard when he rides Fujiyama Crest, currently quoted at 12-1.

Neil Kennedy, who inched Philidor home in the Schweppes Golden Mile for James Eustace and Jeff Smith three years ago, gets his chance to shine for the same connections on Invest Wisely.

It was confirmed yesterday that the racing public has lost one of its heroes with the sale of last year's Gold Cup winner Double Trigger to Saudi Arabia. The horse's trainer, Mark Johnston, described the imminent loss of the popular five-year-old from his Middleham yard as ''devastating'', but would not criticise the chestnut's owner Ron Huggins.

"This was an offer that Ron could not have refused. It was just too good to turn down,'' Johnston said. ''But it is obviously going to leave a huge gap and, although we do still have his full-brother Double Eclipse, that, I can tell you, is no consolation for losing this fellow."

Double Trigger, beaten by Classic Cliche in this year's Gold Cup, cost just 7,200 guineas as a yearling and has won 10 races and more that pounds 300,000 in prize money.

On the Irish Derby front, the Godolphin pair Don Micheletto and Sharaf Kabeer will be ridden by Richard Quinn and John Murtagh respectively.

The Dubai-based operation field one of the four intended British challengers for Sunday's big race in France, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, in the filly Russian Snows.

Paul Cole's dual Group One winner Strategic Choice, David Loder's Derby Italiano hero Bahamian Knight and Paul Kelleway's Hardwicke Stakes fourth Lear White make up the raiding party.

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