Connections of the two most lauded racehorses on the planet, Frankel and Black Caviar, have been given a carrot of £1m to square up in a showdown that would command attention far beyond the sport's regular audience, even during the Olympics. With an aggregate of 28 wins from 28 starts between them, Frankel and Black Caviar have hitherto seemed unlikely to meet, even though the latter is being sent from Australia this summer to run at Royal Ascot. But Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, who has invested heavily in the British Turf, has now raised the stakes to a level both camps may find hard to resist.
As sponsors of the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on 1 August, the Qatari sheikh and his brothers have promised to underwrite the prize-money up to £1m from £300,000 should both Frankel and Black Caviar line up.
The bigger challenge, unmistakably, is to the Australian mare. Frankel included the Sussex Stakes among a series of superb wins on home soil last season; Black Caviar, in contrast, would be running over a new trip, at a mile, as well as in a different hemisphere. So far 18 of her 19 starts have been at sprint trips, albeit she won at her leisure when tried over seven furlongs in February. She is being aimed at the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, over six. While Goodwood is a sharp mile, and would make less demands of her stamina than any option at the distance before the Breeders' Cup, the Sussex Stakes would represent a heroically sporting risk on the part of her owners.
Nicky Henderson is, meanwhile, lining up a formidable squad for Aintree next week, even with Long Run and Bobs Worth both set to be put away for the season. Sprinter Sacre, Finian's Rainbow, Simonsig, Oscar Whisky and Darlan are all set to defend Henderson's narrow lead at the top of the trainers' championship, with Burton Port now likely to tackle the Betfred Bowl rather than the John Smith's Grand National – in which Shakalakaboomboom is the stable's intended runner.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Marescsou (3.50 Ludlow) Fairly treated for a Grade 2 winner in France. Shaped well on British debut.
Upham Atom (4.00 Wincanton)
One to watch
Montaser (David Simcock) is capable of surpassing his current rating.
Where the money's going
Evan Williams' Cappa Bleu is 12-1 from 14-1 with Ladbrokes for the John Smith's Grand National.