Cirrus clouds Frankel Champion horizon
Friday 19 October 2012
Frankel's team admit the threat he faces in the Qipco Champion Stakes will be his toughest test to date when he comes up against last year's winner Cirrus Des Aigles.
The prospect of soft ground at Ascot has put strains of fear into many of Frankel's huge army of followers, especially as the French raider is at home in testing conditions.
Whereas Frankel only ran for the first time over 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York, Cirrus Des Aigles is as battle-hardened as they come - a fact which has not escaped Teddy Grimthorpe, owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's racing manager.
He said: "Cirrus Des Aigles has proved himself after the last two or three years. He's the defending champion and he came out at Longchamp and was very impressive in the Group Two. Certainly he's going to be a horse to be reckoned with."
Frankel does have one piece of form on soft ground, however, and whilst it was only in a maiden on his racecourse debut, he did beat John Gosden's subsequent multiple Group One-winner Nathaniel, who renews rivalry on Saturday.
"He did it on soft first time out and has run on a variety of conditions. He worked the other day on the racecourse at Newmarket, it could be described as soft that day, Shane (Fetherstonhaugh, work rider) got off and said he handled it very well," said Grimthorpe.
Frankel's trainer Sir Henry Cecil has been fighting cancer throughout the summer but he has barely missed a morning on the gallops. Perhaps ominously for his rivals, the 10-times champion trainer thinks the best horse in the world may be still progressing.
"I was very pleased with Frankel's final piece of work. He gives the impression that he is better than ever and still improving. I could not be happier with him. He seems full of himself and, considering the time of year, he is really good and healthy in his coat. He eats everything put in front of him," said Cecil.
"It will be a far from easy race with Cirrus Des Aigles and Nathaniel in the line-up. They are two good horses who will go in the ground and get the trip really well. They have to be really respected."
The one burning question after Saturday's race is whether Frankel will race again, and Grimthorpe said: "It is entirely Prince Khalid's decision, he will make it in his own time. He know this is a very public horse - he shares the horse with the public - but the decision is one he will make when he's ready."