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Frankel, Best Ever Miler.....

It's time for York says Jim Gilchrist, @jimgilch. You may not agree with him, but at least it's nice to read a contrary view from time to time!

Juddmonte International Stakes
(British Champions Series) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+)
Winner £411,148
9 runners, 1m2f88y, Good To Firm

"....AND 88 YARDS"

It's time for York. Frankel is to grace the Juddmonte on Wednesday, and follow in the hoofprints of Sea the Stars in appearing on the Knavesmire.

As everyone knows, 12 career starts, 12 wonderful victories have made FRANKEL perhaps the greatest miler of all time, certainly in my 40+ years as a racing fan. Nothing has got near him and as he has learnt to settle, and strengthened up, he has just become scary good, dare I say an unbeatable miler.

For good measure, those calling for the horse to stop smashing Excelebration and take on some new challenges, the latter bolted up in France to Frank(el) all the form. Poetry in Motion, Power, Grace.... but I won't go on with the cliches, because they've all been said.

The Plan:

And so he arrives at York. After all that, he's invincible, surely? Bullet Train will go off in front, and last until early in the home straight, when multiple Group One winner TWICE OVER hits the front and goes on for as long as possible, and somwhere around 2f out Frankel will cruise past and go away for another fantastic win. And we will all get blurry eyed and lyrical again....

....it's all so simple, and the cognoscenti will tell us how they cleaned up at 1/7, 1/9, 1/12 or whatever the bookies offered.

The Flaws:

How can there be, it's written in the stars, by Galileo out of a Danehill mare, there's surely stamina enough? Job done.....

Well, I'm NOT looking forward to accusations of being attention seeking or a drama queen (here it comes....) BUT there are flaws in my opinion, ultimately potentially serious enough too - at least to be heard.

Bullet Train (I spent an enjoyable Monday evening poring over videos of past performances of 'The Champ') just had to be rousted to get to the front at Goodwood, and maybe has had enough of the front-running role.

Would be party-pooper Aidan O'Brien hasn't just entered St Nicholas Abbey, but Robin Hood and Windsor Palace as well. First time out this season, Robin Hood shot off in front and never saw another horse. This horse just might mess up the pace angle early on. St Nicholas Abbey needs further than this and so here's the first flaw.

'Frankel may get a race run at a different tempo, over a different trip, from usual.' Infact it could be a mess of a race, with Windsor Palace likely to continue the relentless pace when the front two give way.

Pacemakers can sometimes be ignored, so it's not a critical flaw, but it's the first nagging question mark here for me.

There are others. The trip is the obvious one. 10 furlongs - and 88 yards to boot.

Much discussed by far greater minds than mine, the overwhelming verdict is that Frankel will stay and Sir Henry would never take the risk if he had the slightest doubt. I've mentioned the pedigree which is a positive. That mid to later race pace is so impressive at a mile, regularly doing three successive furlongs in 11 seconds and change, from the four pole to the one, before being eased close home. indeed at Ascot this season from 3f out to 2f out, threw in a devastating 10.58 split.

Assuming Tom Queally can hold on to that acceleration for long enough, again, there might be no problem. The one scare Frankel had was at Royal Ascot last year when Queally started racing a very long way out and Frankel was dying in the last 100 yards of that stiffish mile.

The next question is the track. It's a long enough home straight, and there is a tendency for horses to start racing a long way from home. Indeed, the great Sea the Stars had a momentary wavering here when just for one moment almost lugging in behind, before making up its mind. Some horses do seem to hate the place, no reason to think Frankel will or won't, but it's another reason not to offload at 1/7.

And then, the clock, which is such a positive, well actually, it's not entirely convincing re the trip. The last furlongs of his races have been slower (albeit when eased), but it was desperate at Royal Ascot when under pressure in 2011. Another 30% of ground to cover (those pesky 88 yards are 4/10ths of a furlong for good measure) than usual, so I have no doubt that there is scope for things to go wrong, and if Frankel is ever to lose a race, this is the one.

It is that run-style, that fantastic acceleration, which raises my doubts about the extra distance. Just as electric sprinters, going away at the end of 6f, find the more specialist 7f beyond them, so Frankel just might be caught out.

Danehills have a 15-16% strike rate at 7-9 furlongs, dropping slightly to 14% over this trip.The ground is probably going to be on the quick side (Frankel did hang slightly first time on it but was untested second time) but I'm sure the York executive will ensure it's not uncomfortably firm. Should be no excuse on that score.

Madness that the Champ might even have the slightest flaws? Ok, maybe, but logical too.

But is there anything good enough to take advantage? That becomes the key question. Now, Let's look at the others.

BULLET TRAIN: Early, possibly reluctant, pacemaker. No Chance here.

FARHH: Massive improver, progressed from handicap company to shaking up So You Think (tremendous speed figure) at Ascot and Nathaniel at Sandown. Brushed aside by Frankel last time. Outside chance of making the frame. Just wonder if these races may have left their mark.

PLANTEUR: Beat Sarafina to win her Group One at Longchamp, but been unable to repeat the performance in several attempts since. If the ground came up soft, would have a chance of picking up some bits and pieces to make the frame, especially were the pace suicidal.

ROBIN HOOD: Pacemaker for St Nicholas Abbey and spoiler in chief. Will try to make this as messy as possible for as long as possible up front. No chance though.

SRI PUTRA: Group Two winner last time out, but this is far tougher, and should run an honest race but maybe not quite good enough to make the three.

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY: After three wins at a mile at the start of its career, has benefitted from the step up in trip to 12 furlongs and ran a blinder at Royal Ascot when a close third to Arc winner Danedream, after being exaggeratedly held up. Would need a relentless end to end gallop though to score at this shorter distance. Will get plenty pace to run at, and if there is an upset, the one on paper most likely to cause it. It's interesting that he is as short as 9/2 in places.

TWICE OVER: Course form is 3,2,1,1, and stays this trip thoroughly, having finished second and first in this race in the last two years. So there's no reason (unless sacrificed on the altar of a Frankel win at all costs) why this tough horse won't make the frame again after a decent run last time out. A winner of four Group Ones, but never run into Frankel before (except at home!). On quick ground and at 20/1 the best betting angle in the race to make the frame.

WINDSOR PALACE: Caused a 66/1 sensation when beating St Nicholas Abbey in May on soft ground at the Curragh, and another who might force the pace when Bullet Train and Robin Hood give way. Very much doubt will be able to keep up the gallop to create another amazing result though, as the Cecil Superstar looms up alongside.

VERDICT:

When Sir Henry saw the entries, I imagine a small sigh of relief. St Nicholas Abbey is the obvious classy threat, but Twice Over is the one best suited by the trip of all the contenders. And I availed myself of 20/1 on Monday for some each way. Was a close second in the race two years ago and won it last year.

I think Farhh's turn of foot might be blunted by the likely searing pace, and that just leaves Planteur to pick up the pieces if there's a cloudburst.

At 1/7 Frankel is too short, simply because there are questions about the trip and nature of the way the race will be run.

Of course he is the likeliest winner. The odds say so, and I don't ask or expect readers to agree with me, they will point to Frankel winning as a 2yo at a mile and indicate that it is a sure sign a horse will get further in time. it's a strong argument and I respect it.

However what I envisage is a desperate lungbursting final furlong, with Frankel all out in front and tiring, and St Nicholas Abbey getting there with every stride. Even the 88 yards will make a difference, 5 or so critical extra seconds at the end of a fast run 10 furlongs.

Will this Irish raider get there? I seriously do think he has a puncher's chance, if they both bring their A-Game to the race.

I can't back St Nicholas Abbey at 5/1 to do it, just too short, (over a furlong further i would back it with no hesitation), but equally I think the money-buyers will be having collective coronaries in that agonizing last 5 seconds.

My only bet in the race simply has to be Twice Over each way, 20/1 as above. I wouldn't want too much rain for confidence in this bet. It has rained on Tuesday and at the time of going to press should not be an issue, but if there really is a deluge, then Planteur does come back into the e/w equation.

Also a deluge might not help a horse, who Tom Queally has said won't be ridden to get the trip....

For fun, but I can really see an outside case for it happening....

RESULT:.............

1) St Nicholas Abbey 2) Frankel 3) Twice Over

Head, 5l. Weighed In.

Whatever else enjoy what should be a wonderful race!

Between you, me and the bedpost, I hope I'm wrong and Frankel wins by 10 lengths! ;)

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