Today is not the first time Richard Hannon has reckoned he might have a shot at ending Frankel's perfect record. The champion trainer took him on at Newbury in April, and was mystified to see Strong Suit fold so tamely. A wind operation since, however, has permitted the chestnut to show his true colours – and a dashing success on the first day of the meeting here yesterday ensured that Richard Hughes, in particular, will be full of confidence when he meets Frankel this afternoon.
It is difficult, admittedly, to envisage him having quite as leisurely a ride on Canford Cliffs. Having shadowed Red Jazz, who set a steady pace in the Bet 365 Lennox Stakes, Hughes sat motionless as his rivals lunged into overdrive. With characteristic nerve, Hughes delayed until the last furlong before finally releasing the acceleration that would surely make Strong Suit eligible for the top sprints next year. Red Jazz held on for second, but Delegator ran very flat, trailing in last.
A Royal Ascot winner in consecutive seasons, Strong Suit clearly has Group One calibre. Though caught only close to home when tried at that level in France on his previous start, Hughes said he never felt right that day. "I don't know if he didn't travel over well, or he got stung or something," the jockey said. "I was never happy with him, but he was only beaten a couple of heads. Today he was a different horse. When he's good, he's very good."
Like Nathaniel at Ascot last weekend, the winner was profiting from the concession of weight from his seniors – and that does not augur well for Canford Cliffs against Frankel. "We're giving a lot of weight away but we'll give it a shot," Hannon shrugged. "It's just unfortunate one of them will get beat."
A very different type of ride won the Gordon Stakes – one that gave a fresh gloss to the relentless title challenge of Silvestre de Sousa. The Brazilian got Namibian home by a neck after duelling through the final furlong with Ryan Moore, on Fiorente. Mark Johnston, like Hannon a perennial winner here, recognised the symbolism.
"Knowing Ryan was next to him, on the favourite, I knew Silvestre would match him stride for stride," the trainer said. "He's full of confidence, and he's my type of jockey. He has no hesitation. He's not a pretty, polished sort of jockey, but he's effective – more Kieren Fallon than Frankie Dettori. He's strong in a finish, yes, but he's good in every part of the race. You can always see him thinking ahead, very rarely see him boxed in."
The sponsors halved Namibian's Ladbrokes St Leger odds to 10-1. The other Group race, the Molecomb, was plundered for Ireland by Requinto, whose trainer, David Wachman, was at the Galway Festival. This is always an exasperating clash, but you would not catch Hannon and Hughes anywhere but here. After nine winners last year, they also won a photo for the maiden with a colt named Moustache. The official margin was "a nose" but should surely, in the circumstances, have been given as "a whisker".