ASCOT, England // Dream Ahead is an apt name. That is all Khalifa Dasmal, the owner, and David Simcock, the trainer, have done all season with their colt.
Dream Ahead has yet to grace a racecourse since he was ranked alongside Frankel as champion juvenile last season. The English 2000 Guineas came and went, so did the French Guineas. Just as Simcock envisaged another hiatus in the colt's career, the English rain came to the rescue and Dream Ahead clashes with Frankel today in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes on softened going.
Nothing has been able to match Frankel in each of his six career runs. Sir Henry Cecil's colt proved his versatility when scorching Newmarket's turf in the Guineas when finishing six lengths clear.
Frankel brushed aside Dream Ahead's challenge last season in the Dewhurst, too, but there were mitigating circumstances.
The race took place just two weeks after Dream Ahead had crushed all comers in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, winning his second race at the highest level by nine lengths. It was officially the best performance in the race for two decades.
Since Dream Ahead's defeat to Frankel, Simcock has had to build up and let down his colt with each missed engagement, but the training gallops have created a more imposing physical specimen.
"What he has done this year is grow up tremendously," Simcock said. "Not only physically, but he's also turned a corner mentally. He is straightforward and was the only two year old to win two Group 1s last year. His work is now that of a high-class miler."
Those final words are crucial. Frankel is more than a high-class miler. He is, perhaps, one of the best of all time. Cecil has brought along the Khalid Abdullah-owned colt with great patience. The 10-time champion trainer has proved down the years that he is a master at this, saddling a record 72 Royal Ascot winners.
So, in the blue corner, we have the aristocratic trainer with the proven champion. In the red corner, lies Simcock, who only took out a training licence in 2004 and in possession of a seemingly brilliant colt who needs things to go his way.
"Horses can be physically expressive," Simcock said. "You get to know your individual and when to put the pressure on or take it off, by juggling routine or steady canters and faster, more competitive work.
"It's been difficult to get him ready, because I've had to prepare him on all-weather gallops. He could have done with a run, as it brings them on so much.
"We respect Frankel enormously after his Guineas performance, but we're excited at the prospect of taking him on again."
Queen Anne Stakes, 1,600m
Goldikova, the three-time Breeders’ Cup winner, bids to follow up last year’s impressive victory. Richard Hannon, who trained last year’s second, saddles Canford Cliffs and believes the four year old to be his best ever. Godolphin’s Rio De La Plata can follow them home, while Cityscape could be dangerous with Ryan Moore on board. Prediction: 1 Canford Cliffs, 2 Goldikova, 3 Rio De La Plata
King’s Stand Stakes, 1,000m
Sole Power under performed when 14th behind JJ the Jet Plane in the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan Racecourse. Although he still holds a chance, the rain over the weekend has lessened his prospects. Star Witness looks a class below what the Australians have sent over previously and the race could be ripe for an upset with the American challenger Bridgetown and Overdose springing a surprise. Prediction: 1 Bridgetown, 2 Overdose, 3 Astrophysical Jet
St James’s Palace Stakes, 1,600m
How to solve a problem like Frankel? The 2000 Guineas winner, pictured top, does not seem to have a chink in his armour. He can set the pace, he can sit midfield and pounce, or he can anchor to the back and run through tiring horses. The only hope is that his victory at Newmarket in April has left its mark. If that is the case, the going has come right for Dream Ahead and Grand Prix Boss, the Japanese challenger, is the only other unknown. Prediction: 1 Frankel, 2 Dream Ahead, 3 Grand Prix Boss
Coventry Stakes, 1,200m
Four of the last six winners of the Coventry Stakes have gone on to win at Group 1 level so this Group 2 contest for juveniles is informative. Aidan O’Brien saddles Power, who posted the highest rating out of any horse to contest this race in the last decade when winning a Listed race last time. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed’s Fullbright should be watched carefully, while Gatepost, trained by Mick Channon, and Godolphin’s recent purchase Commissar, are also dangerous. Prediction: 1 Power, 2 Gatepost, 3 Fullbright
Ascot Stakes, 4,000m
This is one of only three races at the Royal Meeting where the horses pass the winning post twice. As such it is a test of stamina, made more so by the recent rain. Junior, last year’s winner, heads the weights once again but could be run out of it by the less exposed Veiled and Zigato. Mark Johnston’s Youregonnabelucky is strangely underrated. Prediction: 1 Veiled, 2 Junior, 3 Youregonnabelucky
Windsor Forest Stakes, 1,000m
Mike Smith, the American jockey, as yet does not have another ride at Royal Ascot, despite crossing the Atlantic to partner Gentlemans Code. Take the hint. The home defence is led by Fredrich Engels, who has already attained a level of form associated with most winners of this contest. With Johnny Murtagh on board, the two can fight it out with perhaps Worthington also in the mix. Prediction: 1 Fredrich Engels, 2 Gentlemans Code, 3 Worthington