x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Something has to give in Frankel showdown with Canford Cliffs

The clash between the Group 1 sprint heavyweights will be 'a great spectacle' at Glorious Goodwood.

Frankel, left, and Canford Cliffs go head to head in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes today.
Frankel, left, and Canford Cliffs go head to head in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes today.

GOODWOOD, ENGLAND // In a picturesque corner of England this afternoon a clash between two racehorses will decide the best miler in the world.

Frankel, a three-year-old owned by Khalid Abdullah, a Saudi prince, puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes against Canford Cliffs, a year older and, with course experience under his belt, a little wiser.

A year ago, Canford Cliffs won the Sussex Stakes, the middle leg of five consecutive Group 1 victories which left him ranked third in the World Thoroughbred Rankings, behind Frankel and Black Caviar, the Australian sprinter.

Richard Hannon, his trainer, believes Canford Cliffs to be the best thoroughbred that he has trained during his 41-year career.

Canford Cliffs sealed his place in the pantheon of champion racehorses last month when at Royal Ascot he defeated Goldikova, who with three Breeders Cup Miles to her name was widely regarded as the best in the 1,600m division.

Although Canford Cliffs will retire to Coolmore Stud after his racing career due to an agreement signed off by the Heffer family, the owners, he is far from a regally bred colt. The son of Tagula cost €46,000 (Dh244,000) at Goffs in 2007, and although that may seem an eye-watering sum, in bloodstock terms it is a drop in the ocean.

In contrast, Frankel boasts a Danehill mare for a mother, in a fashionable cross with Galileo, the English Derby winner who has sired 173 stakes performers around the world, including the Dubai World Cup runner Cape Blanco and Mahbooba, the dual UAE Classic winner.

Galileo is one of the leading sires around the twists and turns of Goodwood over the last five seasons, producing eight winners from just 30 runners.

Frankel, then, has this most difficult of racecourses embedded in his DNA and Tom Queally, Frankel's partner in today's race, expects no glitches.

"I cannot see the track being a problem," the jockey said. "Obviously, Canford Cliffs has proved himself there before but Frankel is a very well-balanced colt. It is going to be a great spectacle."

The two heavyweights have scared off the opposition, with Freddie Head's Rajsaman and Godolphin's Rio De La Plata the only other horses in line for a slice of the £300,000 (Dh1.8 million) purse. As such, the manner in which the two principal jockeys approach the 97 seconds of action will be a draw card in itself. Queally went for home too early at Royal Ascot when winning the St James's Palace Stakes, as it was supposed to be an education at holding Frankel's effervescent personality in check.

With no cover possible, Queally might struggle to hold his mount back and thus give the smallest concession to Richard Hughes, who likes to wait aboard Canford Cliffs for a late thrust.

"All my life I have looked for a horse like Canford Cliffs," said Hughes. "I cannot wait for the Sussex Stakes. I am looking forward to it just as much as the race against Goldikova; we got that job done.

"The good thing is my lad is easy and I imagine with only a few runners there won't be much pace at Goodwood, which means Frankel will run free.

"I would not be surprised if Tom made the running, with only four or so runners. If he drops in, we won't go fast."


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