SHOW STOPPER; Alastair Down sets the scene on what promises to be a momentous contest between two outstanding milers and reflects on the two veteran trainers sending out possibly the greatest horses of their careers. Two trainers of the same vintage but from very different backgrounds and, just like their horses, with differing styles.
The death of industry and the birth of the package holiday consigned the denizens of Trundle Hill to the realm of ghosts. Yet Goodwood's charm endures not least because of its spectacular setting as, looking out from the stands on a sunny day, there is barely a building in sight to spoil an unparalleled view that can have changed barely at all since the coming of the plough.
But on Wednesday something beautiful, brutish and hard-boiled will disturb the polite and ever-so-slightlycontrived gentility that permeates the racing circus's annual pitching of tents high on the Sussex Downs.
In some years the Sussex Stakes can verge on the tame, but this week the excitement it has generated runs closer to the wild. From all round the country racing people for whom the deeds of great horses genuinely matter will be making their way to Goodwood so that the back catalogue of their sporting lives will always include the afternoon when Frankel and Canford Cliffs clashed in anger.
And the brutal part of it is that one of them will get beat and be diminished, the lustre of fabulous reputation not lost, but forever marked by the fact of defeat. For one of these magnificent milers the gilt is going to go off the gingerbread.
Quite rightly the meeting of Canford Cliffs and Frankel divides racing opinion into two hugely partisan camps. Yet I doubt even the most ferocious taker of sides will gain the slightest pleasure from either colt's trainer being on the losing end of this duel as both Sir Henry Cecil and Richard Hannon have through decades of endeavour made themselves hugely popular with the public.
It would be almost lazy to describe the confrontation between Cecil and Hannon as aristocrat meets artisan were it not at least partly true. Cecil, born to the castle but beloved of the council house, has passed through so many fires - some of his own ignition - that you marvel at the dandy's toughness that sees him still serenely at the peak of his powers and only slightly singed round the edges.
When Hannon took over from the canny craftsman that was his father, Harry, in 1970 he inherited nine horses, half of them jumpers, in varying states of soundness. A gargantuan appetite for hard work harnessed to the people skills of a PR genius have propelled him to champion trainer, a stable strength of 200 and Group 1 glory, without ever forgetting that racing and owning horses should be fun first and furrowed brow second.
From the Goodwood stands last year you could witness two harvests - the combines bringing in the corn long after Hannon had returned to his barn having farmed the big meeting with his bumper haul of nine winners.
And the men on top of Canford Cliffs and Frankel could hardly cut more different figures. Richard Hughes, jumps-bred, seasoned and chirpily irrepressible has under him a power pack whose finish has to be finessed. Against him the quieter, more measured Tom Queally whose sometimes serious face puts you in mind of the great jockeys of the Victorian age and who, despite the pilots in the stands, has never been guilty of getting beat on Frankel.
And what of the horses? In the 13 months since Canford Cliffs tasted third-place defeat in the 2,000 Guineas he has rattled off five consecutive Group 1 wins culminating in his defeat of Goldikova at Royal Ascot when that mare in a million was lumbered and compromised by a still barely credible 2lb overweight.
Confidence doesn't win races but while there is nothing cocky about the noises that have come from the Hannon yard you get the impression they fear nothing not least because, in tactical terms, Canford Cliffs is the more straightforward card to play and that there are no question marks about his exuberance getting the better of him.
They know exactly what horse is going to turn up.
At Warren Place there is not a shadow of doubt that Frankel is one of the greats but the repeated mantra that the colt "is growing up all the time" is acknowledgement in itself that he may need to do just that.
Frankel's dismemberment of his 2,000 Guineas field was one of the most vividly brilliant performances in Classic history and for purposes of comparison turf historians were forced to trawl back 64 years to Tudor Minstrel's annihilation of the 1947 Guineas field before they could find the likes of it.
Talk to any jockey who rode among those put to the sword that indelible afternoon and they will all tell you, heads still shaking from side to side, that in terms of pure early speed over a mile they had their ideas of what was possible rearranged forever.
But at Royal Ascot in the St James's Place Stakes things came within an ace of going horribly awry. By common consent Queally made his move too early and having led at the three-pole Frankel found it a perilously long way home. One moment 60,000 were cheering something superlative, the next that roar of acclamation had turned to anguished apprehension as the 30-100 shot eked out his superiority by an eroding three-quarters of a length.
THE Racing Post's in-running comments are the byword for authoritative, dispassionate, reputation-immune, agendafree analysis of what happens in a race and the words used at Ascot tell the truth: "Coming back to field quickly final 100 yards, always holding on but all out near finish."
In the war of words between Cliffites and Frankelophiles the impassioned supporters of both sides stick their necks out with ever bolder statements of what their champion will do to the other.
But the truth is that in neither online polls or in the betting is there anything between these two mighty animals. You can make a case that Frankel has the more to lose in that he is the one with the unbeaten record that, were it to remain intact to the end of his career, would give him claims to the greater degree of immortality.
But on Wednesday afternoon, as the last couple are loaded into the stalls, all the talk will suddenly fall silent and be rendered redundant under the spell of the imminent confrontation.
From stall-crash to neckstretch just under one minute and 40 seconds later not a racing soul will have eyes for anything other than this most mesmerising of Sussex Stakes. Between Frankel and Canford Cliffs something has to give but all of us who watch whatever comes to pass will be the winners.
Canford v Frankel How their winning records shape up Canford Cliffs RPR May 15, 2009 6f maiden stakes, Newbury bt Rakaan 7l 11-8f 97 June 16, 2009 G2 Coventry Stakes, Royal Ascot bt Xtension 6l 7-4f 118 May 22, 2010 G1 Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas, Curragh bt Free Judgement 3l 9-4f 126 June 15, 2010 G1 St James's Palace Stakes, Royal Ascot bt Dick Turpin 1l 11-4jf 123 July 28, 2010 G1 Sussex Stakes, Goodwood bt Rip Van Winkle neck 4-6f 130 May 14, 2011 G1 JLT Lockinge Stakes, Newbury bt Worthadd 11/4l 4-5f 126 June 11, 2011 G1 Queen Anne Stakes, Royal Ascot bt Goldikova 1l 11-8 130 Frankel August 13, 2010 1m maiden stakes, Newmarket bt Nathaniel 1/2l 7-4f 95 September 10, 2010 7f conditions stakes, Doncaster bt Rainbow Springs 13l 1-2f 115 September 25, 2010 G2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, Ascot bt Klammer 10l 30-100f 125 October 16, 2010 G1 Dewhurst Stakes, Newmarket bt Roderic O'Connor 21/4l 4-6f 126 April 16, 2011 G3 Greenham Stakes, Newbury bt Excelebration 4l 1-4f 124 April 30, 2011 G1 Qipco 2,000 Guineas, Newmarket bt Dubawi Gold 6l 1-2f 133 June 14, 2011 G1 St James's Palace Stakes, Royal Ascot bt Zoffany 3/4l 30-100f 122
Different approaches: Richard Hannon (left) and Sir Henry Cecil will go head-to-head with their big guns Canford Cliffs and Frankel
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Jul 24, 2011|
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