Shaamit's sharp shot

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The Independent Online
THE Epsom Derby winner, Shaamit, is set to run in the Irish Derby a week today after coming through a gallop at Newmarket yesterday morning in fine style. The final decision will be made this morning after the colt canters, but his trainer, William Haggas, said: "He is very likely to run. I was pleased with his work and he has thrived since Epsom."

Shaamit's owner, Khalifa Abdullah Dasmal, must pay pounds 60,000 to supplement his star to race at The Curragh, where there is prize money of pounds 600,000 for the big event. Haggas added: "I am happy with the horse and Mr Dasmal is keen to run. It seems as if it's all systems go."

Of the Derby runners to reappear so far, third-placed Shantou was narrowly beaten by the 66-1 shock winner Amfortas and Desert Boy in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday, and Acharne, who was eighth, went under by a whisker to Astor Place at the Heath fixture yesterday. The form of the premier Classic comes under further scrutiny this afternoon when Paul Kelleway's fourth-placed Glory Of Dancer contests the Group One Grand Prix de Paris over ten furlongs at Longchamp. Unbeaten Farasan, who had Shantou back in third when the pair made their debuts at Newmarket in April, is the other British challenger.

In yesterday's Milcars Stakes it took Astor Place - who, coincidentally, had finished eighth to Ragmar in the Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby) on his last run - every yard of the mile-and- a-half to reel in Acharne, who looked to have stolen the race when he went three lengths clear off the final turn. John Reid gave the favourite's supporters some heart-stopping moments as he came into the straight last of the four runners, but the Sadler's Wells colt stayed on gamely under strong driving to land the spoils on the nod.

Astor Place has the St Leger as his long-term target. "He needs a mile- and-a-half minimum, and that was a good performance," said his owner, Robert Sangster, who will unveil a major new sponsorship at his Manton stables tomorrow. "He's a nice horse, and he might have been closer in the French race if he hadn't had such an unlucky run."

Farasan's trainer, Henry Cecil, had some slight compensation for his first blank Royal meeting for 23 years when Khaled Abdullah's progressive filly Dawna took the opening Fern Hill Rated Handicap. The daughter of Polish Precedent quickened well inside the final furlong to score by a cosy three-quarters of a length from Miss Riviera. Cecil, never one to let life's reverses depress him unduly, left the winner's enclosure for an immediate date with a lobster while the filly has the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket's July fixture on her menu.

Chris Wall had some doubts about running Midnight Escape, winner of the Palan Handicap, after he went off his food earlier in the week. The gelding's owner-breeder, Mervyn Ayres, a Norfolk baker, was up late the previous night preparing yesterday's bread, but made sure he picked up the dough at Ascot.