DUEL ON THE DOWNS – Brough Scott


Anyone who hasn’t had the experience – and an educated guess is that this would be a majority of Ceaucescu proportions – should imagine themselves sitting in the starting stalls. That done they should picture themselves aboard Canford Cliffs or Frankel as they embark on the suitable tagged “Duel on The Downs” in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday.

For that moment when the gates slam open and half a ton of adrenalin pumped thoroughbred leaps out beneath you will be absolutely crucial. In those first ten impulsive strides which take you from 0 to 30 mph you need to balance and control the horse’s natural inclination to punch a hole in the wind. Jump out quietly and drop in behind your rivals as Richard Hughes and Canford Cliffs have now done quite perfectly on their last three outings and you can continue the race with all your reserves of energy ready to be launched at the finish.

But jump too quick or too awkwardly as Tom Queally and Frankel did in both the Guineas in May and the Dewhurst Stakes last October and you have the prospect of aching arms as either great open acres of grass go like fire to the brain as happened in the Guineas, or even more awkward opponents bump and jostle you as occurred in the Dewhurst. On Wednesday we can take it as read that Hughes and Canford Cliffs will come out smooth enough and drop in last as he did quite beautifully at the start of this very event last year. So the pressure, as in so much of the Frankel story, comes slap on the shoulders of Tom Queally.

For Queally rather than the horse himself or even less his legendary trainer Sir Henry Cecil will be the default recipient of any blame in defeat. This was immediately evident after Frankel’s controversial win in the St James Palace Stakes at Ascot last time when Tom Queally went in what in hindsight proved to be too early a pursuit of his pacemaker before the final turn and having been 6 lengths clear two furlongs out had less than a length to spare at the finish. When polled by the Racing Post four super star ex jockeys, Pat Eddery, Willie Carson, Walter Swinburn and Joe Mercer were unanmimous in saying that on Wednesday Frankel should be held on to for as late as possible. But that’s easier said than done.

For a start it’s hard to think that Canford Cliffs won’t be behind Frankel after those first ten propulsive strides have been taken. Then with no more than 8 rivals cover for Queally could be in short supply. If he finds himself out besides the leaders as the race  swings right and downhill, there is a chance that he will of his own volition launch full steam ahead as he has on both his last two trips to the racecourse. If he does that he will go clear but he will coming back at the finish just when Canford Cliffs wants him.

But there are grounds for thinking this will not happen and not just for the coolness with which Tom Queally said “I think we will have a good idea what to do” when we talked on Friday. Frankel is strong all right but it is hysterical to talk of him as a “runaway”. Queally had him perfectly well anchored before making his premature move at Ascot and was very pleased with him when he rode a final gallop at Newmarket.

The secret to Frankel is his massively powerful stride. He needs to be going fast enough to use it and with a Godolphin pacemaker in to settle Frankie Dettori’s ride Delegator there is every chance that the pace will be quick enough for him to be at least anchored close up in his rhythm. Of course it would be nice to play last but that is unlikely to be possible and anyway that big stride does not quicken up through the gears as Quickly as Canford Cliffs does.
Expect Frankel to be loping powerfully at the head of his field with two furlongs to go and only then gather momentum to hit full winning power at the furlong pole. But let’s get the start done first.


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