Frankel: Qipco Sussex Stakes – Preview, race updates and live blog
Frankel shows he is the world's best at Royal Ascot in 2012 (AFP).
World champion thoroughbred Frankel steps out against three competitors tonight in the Group One Sussex Stakes at Goodwood over a mile. Join us for live race updates and a blog in the lead-up to the 12:10am start time.
Glorious Goodwood is probably only second to Royal Ascot in English horse racing and just like at June’s Royal meeting, Frankel will again be the star of the show.
Sir Henry Cecil’s four-year old colt will be aiming for his eighth Group One victory – seven of which have been over the mile – at his 12th start before stepping up to longer journeys in the back half of the European season.
Frankel is a ridiculously short 1/20 ($1.05) favourite for this race. The colt will be out to defend his 2011 Sussex crown, when he was a five-length victor in a field of four.
And like last year, Frankel will once again line-up as part of a quartet. The main difference this time around is that Cecil has entered a pacemaker for Frankel. Bullet Train, a three-quarter brother to the undefeated champion will lead the Sussex field, just as he has done in Frankel’s two other seasonal appearances in the Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Anne.
Frankel exited the 2011 season as the most exciting horse in the world but he has returned an improved figure. In the Lockinge at Newbury he relaxed better than he ever has in early stages before coming away to destroy his rivals by five lengths, only weeks after injuring a leg in morning trackwork.
With a month between runs, Frankel’s next appearance was in the opening race of Royal Ascot. On that occasion he produced a breathtaking 11-length victory that won the horse the sort of global accolades saved only for the greatest of champions.
If Frankel improves again, he could well be winning this race by as much as 20 lengths. Not since June 2011 has Frankel entered a race that didn’t include a star miler. There is no appearance from Excelebration, and Canford Cliffs is long retired.
Along with Bullet Train, the two other entrants are Farhh – whose best performances to date have been over 2000 metres in quality Group Ones – and three-year old Gabrial, a horse that finished fifth in what has been largely described as a weak St James’ Palace (one mile, Group One) at Royal Ascot.
While Farhh has never won at Stakes level, he has shown plenty in his first five starts. He was heavily backed before finishing third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting.
In the lead-up to the event, jockey Frankie Dettori told all who cared to listen about the quality of the unheralded Farhh and he performed brilliantly. Racing without much room in the final two furlongs, Farhh charged late to finish third behind So You Think.
Farhh followed that performance with a good second to the world-class Nathaniel in the Eclipse Stakes. Farhh loomed up to win at the 200 metre mark but couldn’t match the strength of the 2011 King George winner in the run to the line.
In my opinion, Farhh is going to be suited by getting back to the mile. In a race where he is the only possible threat for Frankel, I think he can run a very strong race.
Cecil’s decision to enter a pacemaker for Frankel in this event is a mistake as far as I’m concerned. I understand that the intention is to have the champion follow Bullet Train in an attempt to help the colt settle, but in a small field of four, I can see Frankel being placed in a position of vulnerability.
Last year, in the absence of a pacemaker, Frankel led the Sussex and jockey Tom Queally was able to control proceedings from the front. His effort to completely destroy the spirit of Canford Cliffs will live in my memory as an outstanding show of dominance and strength.
I expect the field to race in Indian file tonight. Bullet Train will lead, Frankel will follow him. Farhh will probably settle in last place with Gabrial possessing enough tactical speed to position behind the champion.
This predictable situation will give Dettori an opportunity to make the first move. I expect Frankie to move Farhh to the outside of Bullet Train before the home turn with the intention of pocketing Frankel.
The Sussex is run on a downhill, relatively tight, turning track and should Frankel be hemmed in, he may struggle to find clear galloping room until late in the race.
It is for this reason that I don’t expect Frankel to prevail by a record margin.
But while I suspect he could find himself in some trouble at the 600, Queally should be able to weave a passage for Frankel in the straight. Alternatively, Queally may choose to shoulder Frankel into the open when Dettori comes with his run.
Even though a tactical battle could play against the interests of Frankel, it shouldn’t make much of a difference to the result. Frankel’s turn of foot at Ascot was unprecedented. He would only need to appear at the 100 metre mark to bridge a significant gap.
I hope the race turns out to be just as action packed as I envisage.
Tips: Frankel to win but by not as far as many expect. Let’s say by less than seven lengths. Farhh will finish second, Gabrial third and Bullet Train fourth.