Weekend Round-up: Does California Chrome have the metal?

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There is plenty to look forward to in the coming months in the world of racing, and this weekend’s action certainly provided us with more questions than answers.

With the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, the Breeders Cup, not to mention the start of the National Hunt season just weeks away, we take a look at the main talking points both on and off the track on Saturday and Sunday.

Chrome doesn’t shine on return

His owners’ outburst may have overshadowed his failed attempt at a historic Triple Crown attempt last season, although there was no doubting California Chrome’s ability in defeat.

But his return from a four month break left more questions unanswered about the chestnut colt.

A one-paced sixth of eight was all Victor Espinoza could manage aboard last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner in the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx.

Nevertheless the jockey was quick to point out that the race was far from run to suit the three-year-old:

“I knew I was in trouble as soon as I hit the first turn. The other horses slowed down in front of me, and everybody slowed down. Some things, you can’t do much at that point.”

A tilt at the Breeders Cup Classic remains the big target with Art Sherman’s horse a 7/1 shot. The market is headed by last season’s Champion Two-year-old Shared Belief (7/4) who is currently enjoying a six race winning streak.

Rising sun over Chantilly

The Japanese have come agonisingly close in the search for a first Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe victory.

El Condor Pasa went down by ½ length in 1999, before Nakayama Festa and Orfevre (twice) in more recent years have seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

They are triple-handed this time round as Just A Way (6/1), Harp Star (7/1) and Gold Ship (10/1) all arrived at their Chantilly base over the weekend.

The former, officially the world’s highest racehorse looks to silence any doubts about his ability to stay a strongly run 12f at Longchamp, but his compatriot Harp Star received a welcome form boost on Sunday.

Beaten into second in the Japanese Oaks by Nuovo Record back in May, trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda would have been pleased to see their conqueror go on to run out an easy winner of the Grade 2 Rose Stakes at the weekend.

And with fillies taking the last three European showpieces, maybe she could spell a bit of value.

Nakayama Festa got the closest Japan has come to an Arc…

Sacre out to reclaim his crown

“Sprinter hasn’t given up his crown, it was lent”.

Those were the words of Nicky Henderson at his stable open day, as the three-time champion trainer prepared his eight-year-old for what promises to be a bumper season.

The ‘Black Aeroplane’ saw his unbeaten chasing record ended in dramatic style back in December, when a subsequently discovered heart complaint forced Barry Geraghty to pull his up at Kempton.

Nine months on and its apparently all systems go, as they prepare to go toe-to-toe (or hoof-to-hoof) with Sire De Grugy who took full advantage of Sprinter Sacre’s absence to mop up a number of the top chasing prizes.

A meeting in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on December 7th has been mooted as a starting point, and we cannot wait.

Let’s just hope he is back in the same kind of form as this…

All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.