Hopes that Frankel might further stretch his repertoire as well as his unbeaten record next time out were quashed yesterday as the horse's trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, and owner, Khalid Abdullah, decided to stick to Plan A. After the four-year-old made it 13 from 13 on his step up from a mile to an extended 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International at York last month, there was a frisson of anticipation when a tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, over a mile and a half, was not immediately ruled out.
But Longchamp is now officially off the agenda, with Frankel's next and final outing confirmed as the one originally mooted by Cecil, the mile-and-a-quarter Champion Stakes at Ascot on 20 October, 13 days after the Arc. "Following discussions with Sir Henry Cecil," said Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, yesterday, "Prince Khalid has decided that Frankel's next race will be the Champion Stakes."
The colt, already as short as 1-10 for the Ascot contest, had been trading at 1-3 with a run for the Arc, so his absence in Paris will presumably be a relief for those with candidates for the middle-distance showpiece. Tomorrow afternoon, last year's heroine Danedream, bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since Alleged in 1978, will complete her preparation on home turf in Germany, in the Grosser Preis von Baden.
There is nothing remotely of her calibre competing on the domestic circuit this weekend. Today's programme is based on potential in the youngest generation at Sandown and some valuable and competitive handicaps at Beverley and Chester.
If your racing bag is minor celebrities, a heaving crowd and clowns on assorted sides of a microphone, then Sandown is the place for you. Today is now billed as "Family Fun Day" after the occasion's long-time supporter, the Variety Club, decided that, as a fund-raiser, the sums no longer made sense. If, on the other hand, you prefer to concentrate on horses and relish the opportunity to confine star-spotting to those with four legs, then the Esher track might also be the place to be.
The seven-furlong Solario Stakes can occasionally highlight outstanding future talent, as it did notably with the winner five years ago, Raven's Pass. Of today's seven runners the unexposed Fantastic Moon made a pleasing debut, but preference is for the experience of the Royal Ascot winner Tha'ir (2.50), who acquitted himself well in a higher grade at Goodwood last time.
Chris McGrath's nap
White Coppice (1.55 Chester)