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Ascot: Frankel likely to get soft ground for Champion Stakes
By Marcus Hersh
For months the plan has been to send the great Frankel to the breeding shed after his swan song in the Champion Stakes on Saturday at Ascot. Mother Nature, however, has no intention of seeing Frankel ride off into the sunset.
It was raining Wednesday in south central England, and as far as meteorologists could tell, it was going to continue to rain all the way through Champions Day, when Frankel is all but certain to make the final start of an already legendary career. The clerk of the Ascot course on Wednesday termed the going soft, and if the forecast holds, the ground – at least in some places – could be labeled heavy come race day.
There had been rumors that the Champions Day race order might be shifted to move Frankel’s spot nearer the front of the card, putting him on turf less chewed up by previous runners, but Ascot officials said that the Champion Stakes would go as planned, as the fifth of six races.
Frankel’s connections have expressed no strong reservations about course conditions. Frankel worked on soft going last week and, according to his exercise rider, got over it without incident. Thirteen of Frankel’s 14 starts – all victories – have come on turf ranging from good-soft to good-firm, but he did win his career debut over Champion Stakes rival Nathaniel running on soft ground at Newmarket, though his half-length margin of victory there was the smallest of his career.
More recently, Frankel has been thrashing foes by historic margins: His four Group 1 victories this season have come by 29 lengths combined. Stretched out to 1 1/4 miles for the first time Aug. 22 in the Juddmonte International, Frankel won by seven lengths.
While Frankel’s connections, owner Juddmonte Farms and trainer Henry Cecil, have yet to announce formally that Frankel won’t run again after the Champion, the race is widely expected to be his last. It could also prove his toughest. The wet going works in favor of Frankel’s strongest rival Saturday, Cirrus des Aigles, who won the Champion over So You Think in 2011. Cirrus des Aigles won the Oct. 6 Prix Dollar at Longchamp by nine lengths while racing over heavy going, and in April, running on a similar sort of course, captured the Group 1 Prix Ganay by eight lengths.
Nathaniel figures to be the third betting choice for the champion, while soft-turf-loving German invader Pastorius will receive a small measure of support.
The Champion is one of two Group 1 races on the Saturday program at Ascot. The other, the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, is headlined by Excelebration, the excellent Aidan O’Brien-trained miler who had the misfortune of being born the same year as Frankel. Excelebration, a Breeders’ Cup Mile candidate, will be joined in the QE II by established Group 1 milers Elusive Kate and Cityscape.
Who cares about Frankel if he is not coming out West to race against Americas best. May he enjoy his retirement going back into his cave that he hides in and continue to self proclaim himself the best in the world ? ? ? Whatever that means
I sort of smell a Zenyatta-like ending to Frankel's career win streak. Even though he won at ten furlongs, I still think he is primarily a miler, and Cirrus des Aigles is a SERIOUSLY good route horse that loves give in the ground. This is a risky test. By the way, Canford Cliffs went wrong in his race with Frankel, so Frankel never beat CC when CC was at his best. CC was one of the best turf milers in the world in years. Would he have beaten Frankel that day? Probably not, because Frankel was so brilliant in that race. However, CC would have finished a LOT closer to Frankel had he stayed sound and run straight in the stretch. So I'm sick of people's saying that Frankel showed how great he was by how easily he defeated CC. That was not the real CC and please don't forget it.
From England's own horsecapper Nick Mordin: "I've suggested several times that Frankel probably needs a long homestraight to make full use of his big stride. However he can't be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from unfavourable conditions forever. To fully justify his standing as an all time great he needs to show that he's not simply brilliant on great big tracks with homestraights of half a mile or more but can show the same form on any kind of course. Personally I don't think he can. But I'd love to see him prove me wrong."
Where we missed out on was seeing Barbaro as a 4yr old. The plan all along with him was to run in Europe at 4 with the ARC being the race the owners really wanted to win. The real issue is we tend to throw the word great around too easily. Every recent "great" horse of the recent past has some knock against them.
MAN O WAR wasnt bad to say the least
I for one will be looking for him to blow the field away even if it is a bog.
Its amazing how this horse gets no respect from americans,if you ask any european they will include secretariat amongst the best ever even though his record of 21-16-3-1 means he lost 5x and was off the board once.showing cleary that he had some kinks in his armour too.yet some of his races were so brilliant that there is no space to doubt his greatness,you woud have to be blind not to notice how extraordinary his belmont stakes victory was.yet when it come to frankel who is unbeaten in 14 races so far many are blind to some of the incredible displays of greatness he has shown.and dont start that nonsense of stating that the competion was suspect because its simply not true,he beat many extremely talented foes along the way ill start with st nicholas abbey the breeders up turf winner (just because he might be more known to americans) but theres nathaniel a gr1 winner,roderick o'cnell a gr1 in france and the gr1 irish 2000 guineas,excellebration a multiple gr1 winner who had it not been for the seconds to frankel might have been the top mier in europe himself,canford cliffs a 5x gr1 winner who beat 3x breeders cup mile turf winner goldikova she was 2nd in her 4th attempt,and many others.so whether he runs or retires right now comes to the us or not hes a great racehorse as it stands.
Secretariat was trained on steroids, so hardly to be taken serious at all, no matter which times he ran. Santa Anita will not stand on the wishlist from many europeans. The track is tide with small bends. They contra to how we race overhere. They are not agressively pre race medicated which the norm from the US top trainers. Just to mention a couple of remarks. Send the US horses over the prizemoney is high enough. Pastorius might be having a good chance, as is fond of heavy gooiing
While Frankel is no doubt a great horse, the greatest ever will always be a question. He has NOT beatten the greatest around the world at this point. Zenyatta beat the best in the world at Breeders Cup in 2009 and lost by a head in the following year going for her 20th straight win. Black Caviar flew half way around the world to callenge the best horses in the world and WON for her 22 straight win.
While I respect horse owners' decisions, I am very disappointed in this past year that the owners of Frankel and Black Caviar have turned down invitations to race in the U.S. These snubs cannot be reversed and their horses' greatness will be in question for all time.
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