The rematch that everyone wanted, particularly those charged with marketing the inaugural Qipco British Champions fixture at Ascot in mid-October, is off. The top-class miler Canford Cliffs, who came off second best to Frankel in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last week, has been retired from racing on veterinary advice after it emerged that he picked up a leg injury in the much-hyped but, in the end, rather anticlimactic "Duel on the Downs".
Canford Cliffs went to the Sussex Stakes off a run of five Group One victories but was humbled by five lengths, hanging markedly left across the track in the final furlong as Frankel applied pressure and powered away. Afterwards, the four-year-old's rider, Richard Hughes, and trainer, Richard Hannon, were adamant that the runner-up had not at any point been travelling with his usual ease.
Their reading of the situation might have sounded like an excuse in defeat but is now shown to be perfectly justified. A scan has revealed incipient damage to Canford Cliffs' left-fore ankle and, although the colt is not lame, he cannot be risked in anger again.
"There is a bit of a shadow on the joint running into the pastern," Hannon reported yesterday, "and that could turn into something nasty, even a fracture. He's sound and I could very nearly go on training him but he's too great a horse to take chances with and we have taken the decision to stop before the problems exacerbate."
Canford Cliffs showed high-class form in 11 starts over three seasons. At two he routed the opposition in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and at three, once he had learnt to conserve his energy for the finish, he took the Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace Stakes before signing off with a defeat of Rip van Winkle in the Sussex Stakes.
This year he opened with an easy win in the Lockinge Stakes and then proved himself the year's top older miler as he produced his trademark late burst of speed to beat Goldikova in the Queen Anne Stakes. There will now be no decider between them, either, in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
The enforced early retirement of any outstanding horse is always a blow to the sport and Hannon is desperately disappointed to have to call time on one he considers the best he has handled in his 40 years with a licence.
"I knew it was not the real Canford Cliffs at Goodwood," he added, "and at least we now have a reason why he hung so badly. There is no way that Frankel would have given our horse the beating he did had ours been right and we'd been so looking forward to taking him on again."
That meeting would have taken place in the £1m Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (which Canford Cliffs also missed last year because of a virus) at Ascot on 15 October, a prize which now, again something of an anticlimax, seems as if it could turn into merely an exhibition run for Frankel.
Canford Cliffs, by some way the best by his reliable commercial sire Tagula, was a bargain buy who made good. He cost just £50,000 (back-pocket change in bloodstock terms) as a yearling, went on to earn £950,000 on the track and will start his second career next year in rarefied stallion company at Coolmore Stud in Co Tipperary. The Irish operation, through ownership partners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, bought a half-stake of undisclosed value in the handsome bay last year from his original owner, Robin Heffer, in whose orange silks he continued to race.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Al Kazeem (8.00 Newmarket) The form of the handicap he won in May could hardly have been better advertised. Open to obvious further progress.
Fluctuation (4.00 Brighton) First run for his new yard after being claimed at Southwell where, though running green and beaten, he produced an improved effort.
One to watch
Dimension (James Fanshawe) Caught in the last few strides over the quick seven furlongs at Goodwood. Would be an interesting prospect dropped back to six.
Where the money's going
Paul Hanagan is 11-4 favourite to be leading rider at tomorrow's Shergar Cup meeting at Ascot. The reigning champion jockey is captain of the GB team for the novelty international jockeys' event.