Undefeated superstar Frankel makes his long-awaited return to the races this Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot. The eight-furlong contest is one of two group I races that highlight the new British Champions Day that is sponsored by QIPCO.
A total of five group races will be run on Saturday. In addition to the QEII, the 10-furlong Champion Stakes (Eng-I) will also be run. The Champion Stakes was moved from its usual Newmarket home to Ascot and has taken its place as the anchor race on the program. In addition, there are two group II races, and a group III race on the program.
Of course, the headliner in the QEII field is the mighty Frankel. The 3-year-old son of Galileo is undefeated in eight starts, and is looking to wrap up his perfect season with a win in this race. Frankel will be making his first start since July 27, when he soundly defeated the classy Canford Cliffs in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) at Glorious Goodwood.
Trainer Henry Cecil is very pleased with the way Frankel has been training, telling reporters, “I’m very happy with him. I think he is an improving horse. I’m delighted with him at the moment and hopefully it would be nice to run the race and he’ll do what people would expect him to do.”
The always cautious trainer is taking nothing for granted, and doesn’t assume that the victory is in the bag. “No race is a formality. I respect the opposition and there’s no such thing as a good thing.”
Tom Queally will once again be aboard Frankel on Saturday.
One of Frankel’s chief rivals comes in the form of a very talented filly. Immortal Verse has won four of her seven starts for trainer Robert Collet, with her last two wins coming in group I company. In June, the 3-year-old daughter of Pivotal stormed home by 2 ¼-lengths to win the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot. She followed that up with a solid one-length defeat of Goldikova in the Prix Jacques Le Marois (Fr-I) in August. She certainly should not be overlooked. Gerald Mosse will ride.
Another challenger is the rapidly-improving Excelebration. The son of Exceed And Excel has been chasing Frankel for most of the season, finishing behind him in the Greenham Stakes (Eng-III, second) and St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I, third). The Marco Botti-trained colt finally nailed a group I victory of his own when he cruised to a 1 ½-length win in the Qatar Prix du Moulin (Fr-I) in September. Jamie Spencer will ride.
Trainer Richard Hannon will send out the always dangerous Dick Turpin. The nearly black colt enters the QEII off of a gutsy victory over Cityscape in the Premio Vittorio di Capua (It-I) on Sept. 24, which he won by a short head. That was the second group I victory for Dick Turpin, who also won the Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) in 2010.
Dick Turpin has won two other stakes races this year-the bet365 Mile (Eng-II) and the Summer Mile Stakes (Eng-II), and sports a record of nine wins in 19 starts. Richard Hughes will be in the saddle.
Another tough competitor is Dubawi Gold. Also trained by Richard Hannon, the 3-year-old son of Dubawi has found himself chasing both Frankel and Excelebration all season. When he finally found a race that neither colt ran in he was successful, capturing the Betfair Celebration Mile (Eng-II) by a half-length. Johnny Murtagh will have the mount.
Godolphin will send out the defending QEII champion, Poet’s Voice. Another son of Dubawi, the bay colt held off Rip Van Winkle by a nose to win the 2010 running. In his five starts since that race, Poet’s Voice has been unable to find the winner’s circle. Three of those races have been at distances longer than one mile, however, which is probably further than he wants to go. Frankie Dettori will be aboard.
The field is rounded out by Bullet Train, the older half-brother to Frankel that will be used as a pacemaker, and Side Glance, winner of the Sovereign Stakes (Eng-III).