10/18/2012 3:31PM

Ascot: Frankel to be challenged by distance, course condition in Champion Stakes

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Frankel, here winning the Juddmonte International, will try to improved his record to 14 for 14 in the Champion Stakes, which is likely to be his final start.

Anyone with even half an ear to the international racing scene might be experiencing cognitive dissonance late this week.

On the one hand, racing luminaries have lined up to sing the praises of the mighty Frankel, who will try to win his 14th race without a loss in the Group 1 Champion Stakes on Saturday at Ascot. Everyone is calling him the best in the world. Trainer Andre Fabre called Frankel the best he’s ever seen. Star jockey William Buick rides Nathaniel, the third choice in the Champion, and even he was quoted as saying Frankel “looks unbeatable.”

But then there are the voices murmuring that this will be Frankel’s sternest challenge as he makes just his second start in a race longer than one mile and likely the final race of his career. Frankel won the Juddmonte International over the same 1 1/4-mile trip he tries Saturday, but did so on good-to-firm going while beating a very nice horse named Farhh. But Nathaniel probably is better than Farhh, and Cirrus des Aigles, the 2011 Champion Stakes winner who returns to defend his title, certainly is.

Persistent rain throughout the week has left the Ascot course waterlogged. Frankel’s trainer, Henry Cecil, expressed confidence in Frankel running his race on a soft course, but went on to say, “If it’s heavy, we are in no-man’s land.” Came the news after another day of rain Thursday: The Ascot clerk of course had forecast Saturday’s going as soft, heavy in places.

Cue rising, dramatic music.

Frankel was one of six final entrants in the Champion Stakes, which is worth a little less than $1.2 million this year. Bullet Train, Frankel’s older half-brother, will take his usual position as a pacemaker for his illustrious stablemate. Besides Cirrus des Aigles and Nathaniel, Master of Hounds and Pastorius will have a go at the 4-year-old wonder horse who has captured the imagination of racing fans worldwide.

While Frankel’s owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, has left open a wisp of a chance that Frankel will race again after Saturday, the Champion is widely expected to end a career that began in August 2010 and has turned its author into a superstar. Frankel won four times at 2, when he was a champion, five times at 3, when he was champion again, and this year at 4 drove a stake into any skeptical sensibilities that might still have remained, winning his four starts by almost 30 lengths combined. The Juddmonte, his first distance test, proved routine, with Frankel winning by seven lengths.

Heavy going, though, might sap Frankel’s typically brilliant turn of foot and give Cirrus des Aigles a chance to end the procession of blowout Frankel wins. Cirrus des Aigles has relished the heavy ground that he has encountered throughout a career that has seen the 6-year-old gelding notch 16 wins, 16 places, and five shows from 44 starts. Cirrus des Aigles has been in dogfights before, while Frankel has not, though there remains the clear chance Frankel’s historic talent will again carry the day.

The Champion, the fifth of six races on the Ascot card, has a scheduled post time of 11:05 a.m. Eastern, and anyone who cares at all about racing is advised to find a way to watch.

Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
Owner of Frankel is not a sportsman. He's afraid to ruin this horses record.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You had 14 chances to beat him but you all stayed at home and hid
Elaine Parkinson More than 1 year ago
I just watched Frankel's replay at Ascot. He didn't break, took over a 1/2 a mile to find his rabbit, and none of it mattered. He just accelerated on what looked like very Heavy turf and dispatched the #2 horse Cirrus Des Aigles who went on and finished bravely. They could race that again and I don't think the results would change; #3 beats #2.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
How many times has Bullet Train run as a RABBIT for Frankel? Just curious.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
FRANKELbreaks slow looses 4 to 5 lenghts at the start and beats cirrus de anglees and nathaniel in hand.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
Frankel just won over in England. It was a good effort but he had a rabbit in there and he has avoided the Breeders Cup, Arc, and Dubai in his career. I cannot call him the best of all time.
Rodney More than 1 year ago
Are you for real, or a cardboard cut out.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
FRANKEL IN HIS CAREER: NO BREEDERS CUP, NO ARC, NO DUBAI.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
STEVEN SIMONOVIC: NO SENSE: NO BRAINS, NO CLASS
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
HAS WISE DAN WON ANY OF THOSE. just look at the company the two have faced.i feel like i am arguing against people that have really limited knowledge of horseracing.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
Did I call Wise Dan the "Best of All-Time?"
Andrew Moraghan More than 1 year ago
Steven - I'm curious as to who you think is the 'best of all time'? Clearly you can't have Secretariat according to your criteria - just wondering who you would choose for the accolade.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
It's not Frankel. That's for sure. I think that people calling Frankel the "best of all time" is a slap in the face to the many champions who have run over the last 100 years.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
I would LOVE to see Frankel run against Wise Dan. Won't happen.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
He's be 1-10 against Wise Dan. Cirrus would be 1-5, Excellebration would be 2-5 and half a dozen others even money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dan wise is that a horse?
russell More than 1 year ago
he is going to lose today. Bet nathaniel or cirrus de aigles. Bet them both to win at these odds. 1/5 on Frankel. This is the best bet of the day.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
guess you can tear those tickets up.
Elaine Parkinson More than 1 year ago
They're not running him if they feel he'll lose. If he's in, Frankel wins today.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
guess what he just beat those two horses after breaking 4 lenghts slow.and put them away in hand.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Some of these arguments are really silly.i mean people want this horse to beat everybody at every distance on any surface on every continentthen maybe he mght be considered comparable to the great secretariat whos 26-16-3-1 record means he lost 5x including one of the board. secretariat was the greatest because of how he did it and how fast he did it even if he only had SHAM as a worthy opponent.to ilustrate how silly this argument is lets take hussain bolt the jamaican sprinter,is he not one of the greatest athletes of all time?.well he doesnt take on lesser athletes at a mile or 2 miles or 5 miles or in the marathon.why ? because he would loose its not his thing,but at sprnt distances he is so superior that his greatness is not questioned.michael phelps is not expected to run hurddles or do the triathlon he does what he is best at,and does it better than any one else.thats greatness.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
It is a bit embarrassing that us arrogant Americans show our ignorance in demanding that Frankel come over here to run against our best in the BC mile. When in reality if he did, the Europeans would say, I can't believe he took the easy way out when he should have stayed here and ran against a better group of horses. Cirrus de Aigles would thump anything we got, and Nathaniel probably would too.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
and so would Excellebration as well as several others.
Steven Simonovic More than 1 year ago
If you skip the Breeders Cup, Arc, and Dubai.....you are not worthy. Run in at least one of the venues....My God!
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
What an idiot. And you can say that about any great horse then. Childishness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yanks, They were still racing buffaloes around in circles until some old European gave em the thoroughbred to play with
WILL More than 1 year ago
if FRANKEL is the best why not come destroy everyone in the BC.u sent your top filly 3 years in a row.afraid my hes another DANCING BRAVE?