Racing: Lochsong team try luck with Poker: Another fast filly attempts to recoup losses, as French contenders begin to take aim at the Arc

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The Independent Online
AFTER the chaos and disappointment of Thursday's Nunthorpe Stakes at York, the connections of Lochsong might have chosen to spend the weekend in an isolation tank. Racing can play some nasty tricks, though, and today's richest race, the Great St Wilfred Handicap at Ripon, includes in its cast list a filly called Poker Chip.

Owned by Jeff Smith, trained by Ian Balding and ridden by Lanfranco Dettori, Poker Chip will not be a popular choice for any punters who believe that bad turns come in threes. On Thursday, Smith saw Lochsong fail dismally after bolting to the start, and his Nunthorpe second-string, Blue Siren, disqualified from first place in favour of Piccolo. If Dettori is superstitious, he may weigh out a pound or two overweight thanks to the horseshoes and rabbits' feet in the pockets of his breeches.

One of the few consolations for Smith et al is that the cameras which recorded their misery two days ago will be at Sandown, for what must be the poorest afternoon's televised racing of the season (three handicaps and a two- year-old stakes event). Nor, or course, will their runner be expected to parade, which might have pushed all three past their breaking point.

Whether Lochsong will attempt to redeem herself in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp in October may be delayed until nearer the time. 'She has come home well and it may be that she will race in the Prix de l'Abbaye,' Balding said yesterday. 'But it may be a month before we make a decision on her future.'

Post-race scrutiny of the rules on parades implied that Lochsong might have been allowed to go to post first had that been requested by her connections, but Balding admitted that even he was taken aback by Lochsong's over-exuberance. 'To be honest, Frankie and I didn't think she would get quite as het up as she did,' he said.

The British Horseracing Board will discuss the question of big-race parades, which since April have been mandatory for Group One races, at the next meeting of the race-planning committee. That is likely to take place before next month's Haydock Park Sprint. Paul Greeves, director of operations, said: 'I would be very surprised if there is a major change. But it is a subject about which there are very different views and we will want to know exactly what happened at York.'

Should Smith and Balding decide to contest the French prize, the opposition is likely to include Mistertopogigo, a close third in Thursday's race.

As the European season's showpiece meeting approaches, French-trained animals for whom the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has always been the prime target will begin to emerge from their summer break. One such is Hernando, last year's French Derby winner, who makes his belated seasonal debut in the Prix Gontaut-Biron at Deauville. His nine rivals include four from Britain - Beneficial, Scribe, Blush Rambler and Lucky Lindy - as well as Andre Fabre's highly regarded Richard Of York, another for whom the Arc is clearly the main aim.

With so little to aim at in this country, British stables are mounting a full-scale invasion of the Normandy course this weekend. In tomorrow's most significant event, the Group One Prix Morny for two-year-olds, Hoh Magic (Michael Bell), Flowerdrum (Peter Chapple-Hyam) and Silca Blanka (Mick Channon) will be in action, but the home defences look formidable. Francois Boutin, who has won the Morny five times in the last six years, will saddle Expelled and Batista, while the likely favourite - and at tight odds too - is Fabre's Tereshkova.

A British success looks more probable in the Group Two Prix Kergorlay, in which Arcadian Heights, the Gold Cup winner, and Clive Brittain's Shambo take on apparently inferior opponents.

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