Queally and Frankel can conquer Cliffs
Privilege tends to bring its own burdens, and there must be times when Tom Queally wonders whether even the horse of a lifetime can be worth so many irritations.
In what amounts to the most momentous test of their respective abilities, so far, Queally is charged with preserving Frankel's unbeaten record at Goodwood today. And seldom can any jockey have been preceded into a big race by such a clamour of unsolicited opinion.
Phlegmatic fellow that he is, the Waterford native professes indifference to the criticism he prompted with his aggressive tactics on Frankel at Royal Ascot last month. Even so, he has not wholly suppressed an air of vexation, at least, and Henry Cecil will be hoping that his stable jockey does not betray some latent, simmering tension in his showdown with Richard Hughes and Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes.
Queally has injected all the pace into Frankel's two latest races. Understandably, the colt seemed low on fuel in the closing stages.
"Let's face it, the race went wrong, didn't it?" Cecil said. "That's all there is to it. Hopefully, this race will go right. A horse won't gallop forever, will it? This horse is determined. If he's asked to go, he'll gallop. He's very willing, wants to go and do it. He was a bit too willing, at one time."
Now that he meets a formidable older rival, however, it would be nice to think that Frankel's maturing disposition will permit Queally to ride a straightforward, fairly conventional race.
Contrary to the consensus, after all, Frankel may well be a more adaptable partner now than Canford Cliffs.
It seems certain that Hughes will deploy his mount's turn of foot fairly late, much as he did in this race last year, or when beating the mighty Goldikova at Ascot last month. But if Canford Cliffs can only be ridden that way, then it is Queally who holds all the aces.
Twelve months ago, Canford Cliffs was able to beat the previous year's winner, Rip Van Winkle, in receipt of 8lb weight-for-age. The boot is on the other foot now and if Frankel (3.10) is, indeed, as talented a horse as Cecil has trained, then only true greats of the modern era could even hope to give him 8lb and a beating.
Cecil has never seen a stride like Frankel's. "He's extraordinary to watch," he said.
"He covers a lot of ground with that tremendous stride in front. But behind he's slightly shorter, more sprinter-type.
"There's some power there, you know? A lot of the time you'll get a lovely horse (that way), but other times you'll get a lovely mover that stays forever -- but he doesn't quicken. This horse, with his stride, he stays and quickens."
The fascination of this race is completed by the fact that both central protagonists are in such admired hands.
Richard Hannon was champion trainer in 1992; Cecil won his 10th title the following season. It was only last year that Canford Cliffs helped restore Hannon to the top of his profession.
And Cecil, of course, has made a perfectly astonishing comeback, even as he has fought the same sickness that claimed Bobby Frankel -- the American trainer in whose memory this colt was named.
"This race, it's important the best horse wins," Cecil said. "If Canford Cliffs beats him fair and square, I shall be the first person to go up to Richard and say 'Well done'. But I'm hoping he's going to be doing that to me." (© Independent News Service)