Hannon confident miler Cliffs will hit new highs

This season's standards for performance, anticipation, excitement and stupefaction were certainly set by Frankel on the Rowley Mile 10 days ago. And although the last is unlikely to be surpassed and the first may not be, it would be a poor campaign if there was going to be little more to stimulate the neck hairs.

The next buzz on the agenda is the reappearance in four days' time of a horse who may, further down the line, prove one of the chief obstacles on Frankel's route to the pantheon. So far in his career the 2,000 Guineas winner has disposed only of his contemporaries and, though his surreal Classic performance may on its own be enough to guarantee the elite place in the ratings that he has already achieved in the memory, the perceived wisdom is that to achieve true immortality he must face down different generations.

Chief among those lying in wait for him in the mile division are the peerless French six-year-old Goldikova and the four-year-old Canford Cliffs, one of the 11 acceptors named yesterday for the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Canford Cliffs is the highest-ranked of last year's three-year-old milers still around (and, arguably, the best of them anyway) and, with Richard Hannon as his trainer, is in the care of a man who will not fight shy of a showdown. Though Hannon has already admitted that he would be loath to take Frankel on again with his Guineas runner-up Dubawi Gold, he regards the more mature Canford Cliffs as a whole different kettle of fish.

The powerful son of Tagula is already three times a top-level winner, twice against his contemporaries in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes and then when he signed off last year by beating the high-class four-year-old Rip Van Winkle in the Sussex Stakes. "He has done exceptionally well from three to four," said Hannon yesterday, "and he's had a couple of racecourse gallops, so he'll be straight enough for Saturday. He will, obviously, improve for the run, but he's done plenty of work and is fit enough and ready to roll."

Canford Cliffs, in whom the Coolmore partners acquired a stake last year, has been installed the 4-5 favourite to take the first older-horse Group One of the domestic season, with his stablemate and old rival Dick Turpin, match-fit after winning at Sandown last month, second choice at around 4-1. It will be the fourth clash in public for the pair, with the score actually 2-1 in the supposed second string's favour, his wins gained early last season before Canford Cliffs came to his full powers.

"I'd rather keep them apart for now," said Hannon, who won the Lockinge 12 months ago with Paco Boy, "but Dick Turpin's owner quite justifiably makes the point that his has met Canford Cliffs three times and come out on top twice. We're just lucky enough to have two of the best milers in Europe."

Next stop for Canford Cliffs after Newbury, where he will be the choice of stable jockey Richard Hughes, on the superstar trail will be a tilt at Goldikova in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, the same afternoon that Frankel will contest the St James's Palace Stakes. "She is brilliant," added Hannon, "but perhaps now may be the time when she is starting to feel she should be looking for a husband."

Turf Account

* Chris McGrath's Nap

Piano (4.20 Yarmouth)

Was progressive last year and now back against her own sex after an eye-catching effort last time, when she finished well after being set a lot to do.



* Next best

Mashatu (3.20 Yarmouth)

Pushed a race-fit rival all the way over today's course on his seasonal debut two weeks ago and should not be disadvantaged by the drop back in distance.



* One to watch

Scopey, long-striding King Of Eden (Eric Alston), who missed the cut for Saturday's Victoria Cup at Ascot, is rocketing up the ratings but is still one to have onside.



* Where the money's going

Totesport make Markab and Regal Parade their 5-1 joint favourites for tomorrow's feature sprint at York, the Duke of York Stakes.

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