In some ways, Henry Cecil is the marketing man's dream. His resurgence in the face of personal and professional adversity towards the top of a business he for so long dominated making him especially so. But one aspect of the modern approach to this sport is an anathema to the semi-aristocrat; experience over more than four decades has taught him to give hype short shrift.
So when Cecil describes a performance as "very satisfactory" that is praise indeed. Not that Frankel, one of last year's top juveniles, reallyneeded any further recommendation but, in the wake of his own successful seasonal reappearance in yesterday's Greenham Stakes and his trainer's post-race comments, Khaled Abdullah's colourbearer is now as short at 4-9 favourite for the 2,000 Guineas 13 days hence.
"He'd really be only 80 per cent fit," said Cecil after Frankel had landed odds of 1-4 by four lengths in the seven-furlong trial. "I know he'll improve a lot from this, physically and mentally, but it was just a matter of getting him out and a race into him. He had a good blow but was not distressed and another couple of bits of work and we should have him 100 per cent for the Guineas."
Given the venue, it could be considered poor taste to describe Frankel's victory as electric, but there was a crackle in the air both before and after his first test of talent and temperament as a three-year-old. The colt with the brilliant-cut white diamond on his forehead could be a true jewel.
Aided by two handlers, the security blanket of his stablemate Picture Editor and many soothing pats and chats from jockey, Tom Queally, Frankel kept his high-mettled tendencies pretty well in check during the preliminaries with just a hint of sweat eventually darkening the hide on his neck.
In the race, Picture Editor could not go fast enough to properly fulfil his pacemaking duties and Queally let his mount, keen early, stride to the front before halfway. Frankel dealt with the only challenge, from 25-1 shot Excelebration, summarily as he lengthened and quickened away through the final furlong. And his impetus not only took him well clear of the runner-up and drew that one six lengths ahead of the third home, but also carried him round the bend towards the back straight before his jockey could persuade him the race was over. "The biggest problem I had was pulling him up," said Queally.
In the Scottish Grand National at Ayr, Beshabar, trained by Tim Vaughan, gave the Findlay family colours a last hurrah as he produced a courageous front-running performance under Richard Johnson to repel last year's winner Merigo. But, just as last week's original at Aintree, the contest was marred by two fatalities, Minella Four Star and Regal Heights.