In California Chrome’s absence, Spielberg and Criterion will add lustre to Prince Of Wales’s Stakes

Japanese horses have never won a race at Royal Ascot, but last season horses from the Asian country had success and it seems only a matter of time before they make a major breakthrough in Europe, writes Geoffrey Riddle.
Jockey Hugh Bowman rides Criterion, left, shown here racing in Hong Kong, will be one of the top horses to challenge favourite Free Eagle at the Prince Of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday. Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images
Jockey Hugh Bowman rides Criterion, left, shown here racing in Hong Kong, will be one of the top horses to challenge favourite Free Eagle at the Prince Of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday. Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images

ASCOT // The royal meeting has lost its box office horse in California Chrome, but a strong international challenge promises to keep the turnstiles clicking ahead of Wednesday’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

America’s Horse of the Year was officially scratched from the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes after he picked up a foot abscess on Tuesday morning.

Although the Group 1 race will not now be chrome plated, it still has a definite international lustre with Japanese star Spielberg and Australian colt Criterion making for a strong foreign challenge to favourite Free Eagle.

Read more:

– Less shiny if California Chrome does not run, Royal Ascot scene will still be like no other

– Royal Ascot Day 2: Acapulco, Cladocera, Rizeena and other horses to watch

Japanese horses have never won a race at Royal Ascot, but last season horses from the Asian country won two races on Dubai World Cup night in addition to the All Aged Stakes and Caulfield Cup in Australia. It seems only a matter of time before they make a major breakthrough in Europe.

Longchamp and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October still top the bucket list, but Wednesday’s 2,000-metre contest is a much better fit for the Japanese raider, who will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon.

Japan have sent some top-class racehorses to Europe these past few seasons, with the likes of Orfevre, Harp Star and Kizuna all running with credit in Paris.

Spielberg may not be of their calibre, but he still has a fan club ready to descend on this regal corner of Berkshire.

“We’ve had such great horses these past three years in Japan, he is not up there with them but I think he is the best mile-and-a-quarter horse (2,000 metres) in Japan at the moment,” said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager to owner Hidetoshi ­Yamamoto.

“The race will be shown live at home and I’ve heard there are a lot of fans coming from Japan. Spielberg hasn’t shown us his limitations. He could be a super horse.”

Spielberg will have to be at his best if he is to get the better of Free Eagle, trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, and The Grey Gatsby, who was second to Solow in the Dubai Turf at Meydan in March.

Free Eagle has not raced this season, but has proved in four career starts that he has the potential to go to the highest level.

Jockey Kevin Manning certainly thinks so.

“He’s in tremendous form and everybody knows what I think of him,” Manning said. “Let’s hope we have a good run round and whatever happens, I think we’ll have a lovely season with him.”

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Published: June 16, 2015 04:00 AM

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