10/19/2012 3:37PM

Frankel's connections concerned about wet course conditions for Champion Stakes


More rain fell at already sodden Ascot Racecourse on Friday afternoon, prompting the first statements of concern from the connections of Frankel, the undefeated superstar who is entered to race Saturday in the Champion Stakes.

The Ascot course has been listed as soft for several days, but after the area received a little more than a tenth of an inch of rain Friday, the clerk of the course downgraded the turf condition on the round course, over which the Champion will be contested, from soft all around to soft-to-heavy in spots. Saturday is forecast to be dry, but showers are again possible Friday night.

Faced with the prospect of a heavy course, the Frankel camp said Friday they’d have to evaluate turf conditions on race day before giving Frankel the final go-ahead to start in the Champion. Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, said Frankel’s connections “desperately want Frankel to run,” but that Frankel’s participation was contingent upon finding suitable going on Saturday.

“We are going to walk it and the intention is to run if we can,” Grimthorpe said.

It is not just the rain the course will have taken that would concern Frankel’s connections, but the fact that the Champion is the fifth race on Ascot’s card. Three of the four races preceding Frankel’s will have been run on the round course – the fourth, a straight-course sprint, utilizes the same homestretch – and in such wet conditions, the course figures to be chopped up by the time Champion goes.

There was no talk about what sort of backup plan might be put in place should Frankel be scratched from the Champion, the last race of any great significance during the European flat season. Juddmonte has been a regular participant in Breeders’ Cup races, but Frankel’s connections – trainer Henry Cecil in particular – have quickly shot down discussion of a Breeders’ Cup appearance throughout 2012.