x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

The pack chasing the champ

Beating Frankel is a very tough task, especially when Henry Cecil says he is still improving.

Godolphin's Poet's Voice is one of seven horses who face the onerous task of stopping Frankel extending his unbeaten record in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot tomorrow.

The four year old has, according to Simon Crisford, the Dubai operation's racing manager, been "a little bit disappointing this year against the form he showed last season". But he will need to be at his very best to stand any chance of challenging Sir Henry Cecil's three year old.

Frankel has looked imperious this season, apart from a small blip in the St James's Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting which he still won by three-quarters of a length. He will be joined by Bullet Train, his stablemate, for the £1 million (Dh5,765m) Group 1 race.

Also opposing Frankel is the flying French challenger, Immortal Verse, who has won her last three races in the manner of a filly out of the top drawer.

Marco Botti's Excelebration has already had two attempts at beating Frankel this season. He was defeated four lengths in the Greenham in April but closed the gap in the St James's Palace.

His other three starts this season have all been winning ones, in the German Guineas, the Hungerford Stakes and the Prix du Moulin.

Richard Hannon saddles Dick Turpin and Dubawi Gold. Dick Turpin, a dual Group 1 winner, bounced back from a disappointing run in the Prix Jacques le Marois to beat Cityscape in Italy last time out.

Dubawi Gold has had a busy season. He chased home Frankel in the English Guineas 2000 on his third run, but has since held his form and was fourth to Excelebration at Longchamp last time out.

Andrew Balding's Side Glance was fourth at Woodbine when last in action.

Cecil still feels Frankel is improving. "He was not easy early on but has grown up a lot and has improved physically. He has been going really well," the Warren Place handler said on his website.