Frankel shaping up to be special
The pieces of the Classic jigsaw are starting to fit neatly into place, so smoothly and with coincidences enough that even the most cynical observer might start to believe in predestiny.
The Henry Cecil-trained Frankel is a hotter favourite than ever for the 2,000 Guineas after his wide-margin success in the Greenham Stakes on Saturday; the last winner of the Newbury trial to win on the Rowley Mile was, 35 years ago, a likewise unbeaten Dewhurst Stakes winner under Cecil's care, Wollow.
The last time Frankel's owner Khaled Abdullah won a Guineas was in 1993 with Zafonic, an odds-on shot who had, like his latest contender, made it four from four in the Dewhurst as a juvenile.
That was also the last year in which the Guineas and the Derby were taken by different horses wearing the same silks, and the last time the Epsom showpiece was won by a colt unraced at two, Cecil's charge Commander In Chief.
And barely an hour after Frankel powered home at Newbury, his stablemate and fellow-colourbearer World Domination did likewise on his first public outing and is now Derby second favourite.
Frankel is predicted by bookmakers to start the shortest-priced 2,000 Guineas favourite since Nijinsky, who won at 4-7 in 1970. He is generally a 4-6 shot, though Victor Chandler make him 4-9 after laying a bet of £550,000 before he confirmed he had come through the winter with his talent apparently intact.
His four-length success was not explosively brilliant but certainly better than workmanlike as his class and mighty stride launched him clear of inferior rivals and clear round the bend towards the entrance to the back straight before Tom Queally could pull him up.
The charismatic son of Galileo emerged from his Newmarket stable yesterday morning in fine fettle before the build-up to the Guineas, 12 days hence, starts in earnest.
Cecil rated his physical and mental readiness at 80 per cent for his reappearance and two more serious workouts on the home gallops are planned.
As far as the Derby is concerned, the Abdullah balls are all still in the air.
Frankel remains favourite but, at around 4-1, not a strong one. Though his sire won at Epsom, his dam was a speedster and there are concerns that the high-mettled colt's style of running, as well as the substance of his pedigree, may compromise his stamina.
World Domination, though, the emerging kid on the block, is mile-and-a-half through and through. He is by a Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker, out of an Oaks winner, Reams Of Verse, and the Dante Stakes at York next month is among races now pencilled in.
“He'll be trained for the Derby,” confirmed Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe yesterday.
As for Frankel, his programme will depend on what happens in the Guineas, though all options are still open.
“We don't want to be dogmatic as we hope he can be extraordinary,” added Grimthorpe.
An extraordinary horse represents all that is good and desirable about the sport — its ignoble side, though, is soon to be laid bare again, with five as yet un-named jockeys who are reportedly under investigation by the authorities for their part in a longstanding betting scam involving non-triers.
And yesterday a more literal up and down was endured by 16-year-old Willie Twiston-Davies, hero 10 days ago of the Fox Hunters Chase.
A few hours after being told by his trainer father Nigel that his older brother Sam would replace him on his Aintree winner Baby Run in Saturday's big steeplechase at Sandown, he broke a leg at Stratford when his mount Battlecry slipped and fell between fences.