At one point during this past weekend, it looked as though a field of seven would go postward in Wednesday’s QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Eng-I), one of the showcase events of the Glorious Goodwood meeting that runs from July 26-July 30. However, when entries were drawn early Monday, only the names of four horses passed the entry box.
Of course, the big two in the race are Canford Cliffs and Frankel. Expectations are high for this eight furlong ‘clash of the titans’. Both colts enter the Sussex off of victories at Royal Ascot.
Canford Cliffs, a 4-year-old son of Tagula, won this race last year, and has won five straight group I races, going back to the 2010 Stanjames.com Irish 2000 Guineas (Ire-I). The Richard Hannon trainee most recently defeated the great Goldikova by a length in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I).
The ‘challenger’ to Canford Cliffs’ ‘defending champ’ is the fabulous Frankel, the undefeated 3-year-old son of Galileo. The Juddmonte colorbearer has won all seven of his career starts, and has three group I victories on his resume. His running style has no doubt given trainer Sir Henry Cecil heartburn; the colt has shown to some extent that he can rate, but has such a quick turn of foot that for the most part, he takes an early lead and says to all “catch me if you can”.
One wonders what sort of arm twisting the Goodwood racing secretary/clerk of course had to do to get the other two horses to run. One of the other challengers (with a morning line of 30-1) is Godolphin’s three-time group I winner, Rio de La Plata. The 6-year-old horse by Rahy notched two of this big wins last year, both in Italy, in races with distances ranging from eight to 12 furlongs. He most recently finished fourth to Canford Cliffs in the Queen Anne, and looks to be in a bit over his head here.
Trainer Freddie Head sends out Rajsaman in the Sussex. The 4-year-old son of Linamix has won several times going a mile, but never in group I-company. With Head as his trainer, Rajsaman deserves a look, but you have to think that he might be in a bit deep, too.
It’s interesting to note that Frankel will be receiving an eight pound (!) break in the weights, since this race is weight-for-age. Frankel, the lone 3-year-old in the race, will carry 125, whereas Canford Cliffs and the others will tote 133. (if this race were run stateside, the weights would probably be 116 for Frankel and 122 for the others…don’t get me started, please)
This race will certainly be a chess match between jockeys Richard Hughes (C.C.) and Tom Queally (Frankel). Frankie Dettori, who will be aboard ‘Rio’ will also have some say in the matter, too. It looks to me as though Frankel is a bit more tractable of the pair, and really could be placed anywhere. However, he may go it once again on the front end, since there doesn’t appear to be any true pacesetter here.
Regardless of whom you might be cheering for, this race certainly has all the makings for becoming the race of the year in England. Let's hope for good racing luck and safe trips for all.