Popular beat combos and prizes for wearing clothes may have their place on the modern racecourse but, happily, the prospect of seeing a good horse is still at the heart of it all. More than 20,000, for instance, the biggest crowd in half a century, turned up at Doomben, Brisbane, on Saturday to see Australian wonder-mare Black Caviar take her unbeaten sequence to 13. And in these parts, when and if the clash between Canford Cliffs and Frankel happens, it will likewise keep the turnstiles clicking. "I expect," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to the latter's owner Khalid Abdullah, "that one or two might turn up to watch."
Neither camp – Canford Cliffs is part-owned by another of the sport's highest rollers, the Coolmore partnership – is likely to duck the showdown if it is on their horse's logical progression through the season. Each colt has proved his brilliance in the best company at a mile – three-year-old Frankel in the 2,000 Guineas earlier in the month, four-year-old Canford Cliffs in the Lockinge Stakes two days ago – but the trainers of both, respectively Henry Cecil and Richard Hannon, have indicated that a step up to ten furlongs in due course has been pencilled in.
Canford Cliffs' running style, to shadow and pounce, is in contrast to Frankel's trailblazing speed and the deployment of each on the same stretch of turf, over whatever distance, would be some draw.
If the pair are to meet over a mile, then Wednesday 27 July, when the Sussex Stakes is run at Goodwood, is the day to book off work, and if over a mile and a quarter, it's Wednesday 17 August, for the Juddmonte International at York.
"Now we've taught ours to settle," said Hannon, with characteristic fight in his talk, "I wouldn't be afraid of moving up. But we'll happily take Frankel, or any other horse, on at eight or ten furlongs. Anywhere, any time. They can certainly run, but they can't hide. Bring 'em on."
Both horses are scheduled to turn up on the same day at Royal Ascot next month, though not in the same contest; at elite levels the generations do not mix until later. But still, get Tuesday 14 June in the diary. "Canford Cliffs is impressive," acknowledged Grimthorpe, "but these things happen if they happen. We'll have to see where we are after Frankel runs at Ascot and take it from there, and presumably it will be the same for them."
Indeed. Canford Cliffs' first assignment will be to avenge the defeat 12 months ago in the Queen Anne Stakes of his erstwhile stablemate Paco Boy at the hands of another wonder mare, Goldikova, with his rider Richard Hughes confident. "I loved Paco," he said, "but Canford Cliffs is a hell of a horse. He was a bit rusty on Saturday but with that run behind him, he'll put the French mare in her place."
In truth, Frankel's task against his contemporaries in the St James's Palace Stakes was not looking hard, but may now be even easier after Wootton Bassett lost his unbeaten record at Longchamp yesterday as 2-1 favourite for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, the French version of the 2,000 Guineas.
The Richard Fahey-trained colt missed his date against Frankel on the Rowley Mile because of a setback but after being diverted to Paris was unable to overcome a combination of an unfavourably wide draw and his own freshness.
Rider Paul Hanagan kicked on from the start and was able to cross to the running rail ahead of his rivals but the move cost his mount energy and, after running keenly, he was swamped in the closing stages and finished fifth. The winner, Tin Horse – who had finished second when Wootton Bassett won the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on the same track last year but had the plum one draw yesterday – finished strongly to score by two lengths from Havane Smoker.
"We decided to lead after seeing the filly race earlier, when the first four were the same throughout," said Fahey. "It didn't come off, but we were always going to be against it from that draw. We'll get home and make sure he's OK before making any plans."
Tin Horse, a first Classic win for trainer Didier Guillemin, carries colours better known at Auteuil than Longchamp, those of the Marquesa de Moratalla. And a crack at Frankel at Royal Ascot is now in the grey's appointment book.
Wootton Bassett still did best of the raiders; Imperial Rome, Midsummer Fair and Hung Parliament came in with the ruck.
The Poule d'Essai des Pouliches also stayed at home with the André Fabre-trained 6-4 favourite Golden Lilac an impressive three-length winner from trailblazing outsider Glorious Sight and Ballydoyle's Wild Wind.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Soldiers Point (5.10 Wolverhampton) Changed stables since last term and the step up in trip – he is stoutly-bred on his dam's side – may enable him to show himself on a fair mark for his handicap debut.
Sea Odyssey (6.40 Leicester)
Showed plenty of dash on his debut and built on that when finding only one too good round tricky Chester.
One to watch
Sohcahtoa (Robert Mills) is easing down the ratings and produced a more than satisfactory performance on his seasonal debut at Ascot over a trip shorter than ideal and without his usual blinkers.Reuse content