Pure box-office Frankel should provide a Farhh superior show at Goodwood
Wednesday 01 August 2012
There may be the opportunity to turn £2O into £21, or even £200,000 into £210,000, as a result of 90 seconds or so of action at Goodwood this afternoon. The forecast starting odds for Frankel, currently the highest-rated horse in the world and arguably the best over a mile there has ever been, in the Sussex Stakes are 1-20. The rate of return is better than offered by most banks, but the betting branch of the racing business is adept at providing cautionary tales about odds-on shots and superhorses.
One of those most often told concerns another 1-20 "certainty", Glendower, who lost a two-horse contest at Chepstow. He was ridden by Sir Gordon Richards, one of whose followers always backed the jockey's best prospect of the day to win £1,000. When Glendower whipped round after the starting tapes went up and unseated the 26-times champion, he cost the hapless punter £20,000 which, in 1947, was quite a lot.
Richards was also beaten on a 1-25 shot, the high-class two-year-old Royal Forest, at Ascot. After taking his US Triple Crown the superlative Secretariat met defeat at 1-10. Brigadier Gerard, though, was a mere 1-3 when, going for his 16th consecutive success, he was turned over by Roberto at York, prompting his , Jean Hislop, to comment waspishly of the winner: "He must have been stung by a bee."
It will probably, though, take something like the assistance of a rogue insect to stop Frankel today, but the occasion is less about speculation than the appreciation of a truly and genuinely great horse. That point has not been lost on the public, with unprecedented ticket sales for this afternoon's session.
Frankel, trained by Sir Henry Cecil, owned and bred by the Saudi Arabian prince Khalid Abdullah and ridden by Tom Queally, has won all 11 of his races, by an aggregate 61½ lengths. His victories include seven at Group One level, including last year's Sussex Stakes and, most recently, the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot by 11 lengths, taking his earnings to more than £1.6m.
Moreover, the Galileo four-year-old is not only an outstanding talent but is also gorgeous to behold, with his bright bay hide set off by four matching white socks and a white mark in the shape of a brilliant-cut diamond between his eyes. He is not perfect; his temperament is explosive and he has a hard, unyielding strength through his neck and head that does not always make Queally's task easy. But he owns a muscular development that would be the envy of many in the Olympic Park and the sheer power and grace of his mighty stride are simply thrilling.
Frankel's rivals for today's £300,000 purse include his own pacemaker Bullet Train and the three-year-old Gabrial, rated 32lb his inferior. So that leaves just his contemporary Farhh as credible opposition, and full credit to the Godolphin team he represents for sportingly providing the crack with some sort of test.
This relatively inexperienced son of Pivotal was fast-tracked to top-level competition after winning a Thirsk handicap in May by six lengths, and right well he has acquitted himself, third to So You Think in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot before running Nathaniel to half a length in the Eclipse Stakes. He is classy and progressive and his moment will come. Just not this afternoon.
Frankel will probably not have to do anything he has not done before, or demonstrate anything new about himself on what is likely to be his last venture over a mile before he takes up the new challenge of his eagerly anticipated step up to 10 furlongs. So just enjoy, and remember, the spectacle.
The day, though, is not wholly about one horse, or even one course. The picture of this season's juvenile hierarchy is not yet on the box lid, but today's sport on the Sussex Downs should turn the latest piece of the jigsaw face up.
The Vintage Stakes is regularly taken by a youngster who takes high rank as a senior, including three Derby winners in Troy, Dr Devious and Sir Percy. A few of today's runners are closely matched on previous form, including the topically named Olympic Glory, who is fancied to give the Richard Hannon stable a hat-trick in the seven-furlong Group Two contest after a determined success at Newmarket on ground judged too soft.
But the potential of Ghurair (2.35) draws the attention. The Elusive Quality colt made a favourable impression on his debut in a traditionally strong maiden at Newmarket (and the fourth-placed finisher won by nine lengths next time) and, though he takes a considerable jump in class, his first racecourse experience will not have been lost on him.
Goodwood does not have the monopoly on festivals this week, though. In the west of Ireland, that at Galway is in full swing, with this evening's €200,000 Plate the highlight and Blackstairmountain (5.25), highly tried as a novice last season, is the suggestion.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Pearl War (2.50 Redcar) Produced a good enough effort on her belated three-year-old debut on testing ground at Windsor last month and should strip sharper all round.
Keene Dancer (4.55 Goodwood) On a hat-trick after a clear-cut handicap debut success and still looks on a workable mark, particularly with today's step back up in distance.
One to watch
Intent (Michael Bell) Will improve after Sunday's debut fourth at Pontefract.
Where the money's going
Dungannon is 14-1 from 20s with Betfred for Saturday's Stewards' Cup at Goodwood.
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