Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 17 March 2018

All adds up for Frankel perfect 10

IF a spark were needed to ignite the Flat season, FRANKEL will surely provide it today.

Henry Cecil's sensational colt bids to stretch his unbeaten record to a perfect 10 in the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

So long as he is in anything like the devastating shape that he was throughout 2011, he will light the touch paper with customary flair.

Try as you might, it's impossible to make a case for any of his six rivals in the one-mile Group One. Richard Hannon, who has won the last two renewals, relies on Strong Suit and Dubawi Gold, neither of which will see Cecil's charge for dust.

The only prospect of an upset lies in the hands of Ballydoyle. Aidan O'Brien saddles his immensely promising new recruit Excelebration, along with the habitual pacemaker Windsor Palace, the 66/1 shot that made the pace to such good effect at the Curragh recently that Joseph O'Brien got caught napping on St Nicholas Abbey.

This time, the dual champion apprentice is aboard Excelebration, and it will be fascinating to see if he and his father have concocted something unorthodox to topple the favourite.

In Excelebration's clear favour is the fact that he has a run under his belt, having cantered up at long odds-on at the Curragh last month. That will stand to him and he will have his days yet but if you look back at his three clashes with Frankel last year, the gulf in class is such that even AP O'Brien might struggle to fashion the required improvement.

On their respective re-appearances in the Greenham at Newbury last year, Frankel squashed Excelebration with contemptuous ease.

At Royal Ascot, when Tom Queally adopted alarmingly self-destructive tactics, Excelebration still couldn't take advantage and he was as far off as ever when swatted away by four lengths in the QEII in October.

If the master of Rosegreen orchestrates the reversal of that hierarchy here, it will be a training feat to surpass the one that saw him produce Hawk Wing to score what remains the sole Irish victory in the Newbury showpiece by a jaw-dropping 11 lengths nine years ago.

In truth, it is more likely that Hawk Wing's record winning margin will be in danger if Frankel is close to full tilt.

The decision by Khalid Abdullah to keep such an incredibly valuable stallion prospect on the go as a four-year-old is the sort of sporting gesture rarely associated with the summer discipline, so here's hoping Queally's mount can now further his reputation as one of the great racehorses of modern times.

Granted, Frankel had an injury scare little more than a month ago, but Cecil wouldn't risk him unnecessarily.

The horse looked on fine terms with himself during a public gallop at Newmarket on Guineas weekend, an outing that should have helped to knock the worst of that trademark gas out of his system ahead of today.

All told, while it is great to have such an exciting horse back in action, far more searching tests than this lie ahead.

Cecil and Queally are also taken to land the Blue Square London Gold Cup with Thomas Chippendale. This is a wide-open handicap featuring an array of smart prospects, but this fellow really impressed when winning at Leicester in October.

On his second start there, the son of Dansili which is out of O'Brien's Oaks-placed All My Loving obliged with a bit in hand from Went The Day Well.

When you consider that the runner-up was beaten only a couple of lengths in the Kentucky Derby recently, Thomas Chippendale's first-time mark of 86 is hardly a deterrent.

In the Ashton Park Stakes, Nehaam, fourth to Fame And Glory in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, is fancied to continue John Gosden's fine run of form, while The Confessor gets the nod in the six-furlong handicap.

Seventh to Maarek at Newmarket, Fergus Sweeney's partner is just preferred over last year's runner up Mac's Power.

Best Bet: Nehaam

Irish Independent

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