Those preparing Cirrus Des Aigles for his showdown with Frankel on Saturday will hardly be complacent. Even so, the most authoritative testimony available in their own professional community yesterday made the French raider's task, in the Qipco Champion Stakes, seem more intimidating than ever. Just a couple of furlongs up the road from the stable housing Cirrus Des Aigles, André Fabre could be found watching his own string at work – and his succinct tribute to Frankel fully corroborated the verdict of many less seasoned observers.
"He's probably the best horse ever bred," said the record-breaking trainer, who identified Mill Reef as the previous benchmark in his long experience. "It's just like looking at a museum piece. He seems to have this combination of power and charm, a great personality. He's just an extraordinary animal."
It is this kind of thing that places an impossible burden on Morpheus, Frankel's half-brother by Oasis Dream, who makes his debut at Nottingham today. Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to their owner, Khalid Abdullah, is discouraging undue expectations. "There will never be another Frankel," he said. "But though Morpheus's work has not been spectacular, it has been very pleasing. He's a very different type to Frankel. He's taller, lengthier, racier, perhaps not as robust physically at this stage but certainly more straightforward mentally."
Fabre will not just be a bystander at Ascot, where he saddles La Pomme D'Amour in the Qipco Champion Fillies' and Mares' Stakes. Having improved to win at Deauville in August, she disappointed on her Group One debut in the Prix Vermeille. "But that was her only bad run of the season, and it was a rough race," Fabre explained.
His neighbour, Alain de Royer-Dupré, saddles an outsider for the same prize in Jehannedarc, who outran similar odds when second at Goodwood in August. "The ground was a bit firm for her at Newmarket last time," Royer-Dupré said. "She should love the going at Ascot."
He added that Shareta, who detested testing conditions in the Arc after winning the Vermeille, might now proceed to the Breeders' Cup. Bayrir, his other Arc disappointment, is likely to head to Hong Kong in December.
In the longer term, he is excited by the arrival of the Aga Khan's yearling colt by one Arc winner, Sea The Stars, out of another, Zarkava. "The horse has plenty of bone and looks very interesting," Royer-Dupré said.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Light From Mars (5.45 Lingfield) Rated much higher in his youth and promised to continue his revival for his new trainer last time.
Representation (4.05 Lingfield) May be typical of the stable's well-bred, lightly raced handicappers, on his way to better things after being held up early in his career.