California Chrome, the 2014 American Horse of the Year, almost certainly did not do himself full justice from his wide draw when runner-up in last year’s $10m Dubai World Cup and he is berthed even wider at Meydan this afternoon. But his army of fans, encouraged by two easy victories this year and jockey Victor Espinoza’s confident assertion that the five-year-old is now “even better”, will not countenance defeat this time in the world’s richest horse race.
Charlie Appleby’s Tryster in the Dubai Turf and Roger Varian’s Postponed in the Sheema Classic spearhead a strong British challenge at a fabulously rich Meydan fixture featuring five Group One contests and three Group Twos.
Tryster was the breathtaking winner of last year’s Easter Classic, the centrepiece of Lingfield’s All-Weather Championships Finals day. Yesterday’s third running was won by the odds-on Grendisar, who recorded his seventh course win in front of a record crowd with a typical absence of fuss.
The Mile produced a more unexpected outcome, more emotional, too, as last year’s third, Captain Joy, partnered by Irish champion Pat Smullen, beat last year’s runner-up, Sovereign Debt.
In September Captain Joy, trained by Tracey Collins on The Curragh, was close to death, saved only by colic surgery. His return to full health was as much as connections could dare to hope for, his return to top form a wonderful bonus.
Holding up a horse at Lingfield is always a risky strategy and it is a good job that Moonrise Landing, backed for the Marathon as if victory were inevitable, has such a fine turn of foot. To be fair, jockey Jim Crowley seemed calmness personified after the fast-improving mare had overtaken most of her rivals in the short home straight. “It probably looked worse than it felt,” he said. “I had traffic problems, but I was always confident I was within striking distance.”
Sam Waley-Cohen and Nina Carberry, two of jump racing’s top amateur riders, are now free to take part in the Grand National a fortnight today after recent bans were adjusted on a technicality in a U-turn by the British Horseracing Authority.
Waley-Cohen, spotting a loophole in the small print, successfully challenged the part of a seven-day suspension that would have ruled him out of Grand National day after Carlisle’s stewards had last Sunday found him guilty of failing to obtain the best possible placing on his 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run, who was promptly retired.
The ambiguous wording of the banning rule has also benefited Carberry, who was hit with a seven-day whip suspension at Cheltenham last week.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies