Racing: Shantou has Classic stamina

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The Independent Online
There is no place for the faint-hearted up the long, gruelling, Doncaster straight. And here yesterday Shantou put to the sword those who had doubted his courage by beating Dushyantor by a hard-fought neck in the 220th St Leger.

The race, run in glorious sunshine, provided the biggest crowd for 20 years with a tremendous spectacle as the Derby second and third fought out the finish of the world's oldest Classic with no quarter given on either side. It was a second successive St Leger for Frankie Dettori, and a first Classic winner for John Gosden since he was head- hunted from California by Sheikh Mohammed to train in Newmarket eight years ago.

In the Derby, Dushyantor finished ahead of Shantou as they chased Shaamit home, but the extended 14 furlongs on Town Moor provides a different test, and it was Shantou who came through it best. Three furlongs out Pat Eddery cruised towards the front on the favourite and, as Sharaf Kabeer weakened, Dushyantor went two lengths clear a quarter of a mile from home, with Dettori hard at work.

But neither the Italian nor his gallant little partner gave up, and under forceful driving Shantou put his head down and caught his rival five strides from the line. It was four lengths back to Samraan, who was followed by Mons, St Mawes and Wilawander.

The finish was racing at its best as two gallant colts unflinchingly answered every demand. However, two hours after the race it was announced that Dettori - who hit Shantou 14 times - had been banned for four days, from 23 September, and Eddery two days. The suspensions took some of the gloss off the race, but it must be stressed that it is the wording of the whip rules, rather than the stewards' interpretation of them, that is flawed.

Any further whip misuse will put Dettori in line for a lengthy holiday, yet according to Gosden, it was his jockey, who had chosen to ride Shantou instead of Sharaf Kabeer, who made the difference. He said: "The horse is not an easy ride, but he runs for Frankie. He has a wonderful empathy with horses, and certainly brings out the best in this one. But when I saw his elbows at work two out I thought we were in trouble. He rode a phenomenal race, but all credit to the horse for digging so deep."

Shantou had to overcome severe problems as a youngster. He was diagnosed a wobbler - prone to incoordination and paralysis in his hind quarters - and it was touch and go whether he raced.

Dettori, who delighted the appreciative Yorkshire crowd with his trademark flying dismount and uninhibited hug for Sheikh Mohammed (technically a breach of the rules), deliberately brought Shantou wide of Dushyantor as he made his final thrust. He said: "The one thing I wanted to do was keep away from the other horse, give him nothing to race with, because he is so tough. I wanted so much to win the race for John."

Plans for Shantou are fluid, but Dushyantor reverts to 12 furlongs in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, for which he is 25-1 with Hills.

If Doncaster provided a vindication of the Derby form, Leopardstown did not. Shaamit finished a tame fourth in the Irish Champion Stakes and is out to 20-1 for the Arc. The winner Timarida, who won going away from Dance Design, has been cut to 16-1 for the Paris race, for which she would have to be supplemented.

The Arc focus switches today to the three televised trials at Longchamp, where the market leaders Helissio and Pentire are in action. The three- year-old colts, including Peter Chapple-Hyam's Polar Flight, put their case in the Prix Niel, in which Helissio, who met his only defeat under a bad ride in the Prix du Jockey- Club, cannot be opposed.

Swain, who beat yesterday's Goodwood winner Singspiel in the Coronation Cup, is the most dangerous of the four rivals Britain's best middle-distance horse, Pentire, will face in the Prix Foy. The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner should prevail even in the absence of an obvious front-runner to ensure a truly-run race.

The fillies, mostly closely matched on their best form, take the stage first in the Group One Prix Vermeille, where British hopes lie with Bint Salsabil (John Dunlop), Papering (Luca Cumani) and My Emma (Rae Guest), but Andre Fabre's Tulipa, who has had a break since winning the Ribblesdale Stakes and is reportedly sparkling, may keep the Group One prize at home.

In the day's other Group One contest, the Prix de la Salamandre for two- year-olds, Zafonic's much-touted baby brother Zamindar can redeem the reputation he tarnished in the Prix Morny at the expense of Peter Chapple- Hyam's Revoque.