Sir Henry Cecil worked Frankel (pictured) in Newmarket on Friday morning (23 September) and was very pleased with the horse who is unbeaten in eight starts and goes for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes sponsored by QIPCO, which is worth £1 million, on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on 15 October 2011.
The trainer said: “I would rather be ahead of time, than trying to catch a train. There is nothing worse than to mistime it, find that you are a gallop short and have to put pressure on them before a race.
“I would rather be ahead so I can pull back and keep him fresh and well. So far everything is going very well.
“Newmarket has had very little rain this year – the odd shower – and I think our horses have been on the grass only three times all year. So it has been very difficult.
“We are on all-weathers all the time where you cannot do the same type of work. When you are working on a mile all-weather, you have to hold them together.
“We have marvellous (grass) gallops in Newmarket – which I love and I know them so well, having been here for 400 years! I may have an advantage over someone who does not know them so well. But on the all-weather nobody has got an advantage over anybody else.
“Anyway, Frankel is coming on very, very nicely. I gave him a nice bit of work, not a hard bit of work. Physically he has done very well – he looks a stronger horse and is growing up mentally a lot.
“He is a happy horse who used to pull a little bit – he took quite a hold as he is strong horse. Now he is far more relaxed and far easier to train than in the early days.
“Now I find him much more helpful and hopefully I can help him more. Shane (Featherstonhaugh), who looks after Midday, has been riding Frankel in most of his work and everyday exercise. He gets on very, very well with Frankel and has helped him an awful lot.
“This morning I put Tom Queally (Frankel’s jockey) on because I wanted Tom to have plenty of confidence in the horse and find out that he is actually an easier horse to ride now than he was earlier in the year.
“I would rather not talk about Ascot. It was a disaster really. We won but it was not very satisfactory. He has become more settled and easier.
“He is a very happy horse with a lot of energy – he never seems to get tired. Although he is very active, he is not that hard a horse to get fit. You can give him an easy time and he comes back pretty quick.
“At this stage, I am really happy with him – I am looking forward to going for the race, a very good race for him.
“I don’t particularly mind that it is on the straight course rather than the round at Ascot. I would not swap him but no horse is a certainty. I respect whatever is going to run.
“I thought other trainers with runners at the QIPCO British Champions Series meeting would be here to talk about their horses but I don’t think there will be any other runners at all because there is no-one else here which will make it much easier! I am gaining confidence!
“I will gradually work Frankel up to the race and it depends on the weather where he goes. He will tell me what to do. I like to think that I know him well enough and, touch wood, I will do the right thing.”
THE JUDDMONTE VS SUSSEX STAKES
“The original idea was to go to the Juddmonte International rather than the QIPCO Sussex Stakes. I think he (Frankel) will stay more than a mile but as the idea is to keep him in training next year he can go either distance – a mile or a mile and a quarter.
“He will probably be OK for the Juddmonte next year. The Prince (Khalid Abdulla, Frankel’s owner) has supported the Juddmonte for 22 years and had not won it which rather irritated him.
“His first idea was to go to this year’s Juddmonte with Frankel but I did not think it was the moment to do so yet. He wanted to win the Juddmonte so badly that I had to pick some things up and try and win it for him.
“The mare, Midday, had already won the Yorkshire Oaks so she deserved to have her chance – the distance was right. Twice Over had just started coming to himself by then.
“They both deserved to take their chance in the Juddmonte and I thought between the two of them – if I threw enough mud at the wall – something might stick. It did and he (the Prince) was very pleased – it was a great day.
“Ian Mongan (who won the Juddmonte on Twice Over) is not only a nice person, he is also a very good jockey. He is a very good horseman and very strong. I have always thought he was under-rated. It is difficult to give him good rides because I have Tom Queally.
“But Ian has done really well for me and he has proved he is a top-class jockey. I am sure, if he had the better horses to ride, he would be in the top flight. Good horses help make successful trainers and jockeys.
“In the eyes of a lot of people, we are no good. Good horses have meant I have been more successful rather one or two others who are probably actually just as good as I am or better.”
Twice Over goes for his third successive Champion Stakes in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, with prize money of £1,300,000, at Ascot on 15 October.
“He ran very well in the Prince Of Wales’s (Stakes) last year when finishing well from a long way back behind another horse owned by the Prince (Byword). He is a horse who gets better as the year goes on. He is really coming to his best now.
“He is working very well and is nearly there. I will put him back a little now. He worked beautifully this morning. I would like good ground at Ascot for him because he hasn’t got the best of feet.
“I would think he would run very, very well. I am not quite sure what is going to be in the race. Both of mine deserve to run. I cannot send Twice Over to America because I don’t think he will act on the dirt so this is the race for him. The jockeys will remain the same in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
“I would like to have no jar in the ground.”
“Midday retires at the end of the year – the distance is fine for her (10 furlongs), she will go on faster ground and is very well in herself after having had a bit of break.
“I was really pleased with her this morning – I was very easy with her – she is about three gallops away from being absolutely there.
“If Shane had asked her she probably would have picked up and gone to the other horse but she is not quite there yet and I did not want to ask her too much too quickly.
“That gallop will have brought her on a lot. She has got better, more sensible and happier as she has got older. She has been very unlucky in some ways not to win more.
“If we take the Oaks, she was only just beaten in a photo-finish – being pushed over a little bit – that would have been another Group One. In the Breeders’ Cup last year, the turf track on the inside at Churchill Downs was so tight – twice as tight as Chester I would think – and the Japanese filly held her in all the way around. Midday could never do what she can do. I had to ask her all at once. I think she was unlucky not to win that.
“Then you take this year’s Coronation Cup – maybe she went too soon, thought she had done enough and got collared on the line after quickening up to go three lengths clear.
“Take the Juddmonte as well, she was being led by the O’Brien horse who then left her in front earlier than expected. So she has been unlucky not to win three or four more Group Ones.
“She has been a great friend – a terrific filly and mare. I would quite safely be able to say that she is as good now, or better, than she has ever been.”
“Vita Nova has been very late maturing and ran twice late on last season. She won nicely first time out this season at Newmarket and was unlucky not to win the Lancashire Oaks as the jockey was thrown off at one side, taking the saddle with him. She is a backward, big filly and was running against a very good filly (Blue Bunting) in the Yorkshire Oaks. For an immature filly to be beaten half a length that day was a very good effort.
“She has thrived since then and I think she is a better filly now. She looks better physically and will be a lovely mare next year. I think this (QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes) will be her last run of the year. She would enjoy good ground. If it was very firm, she could jar up.
“She went very nicely this morning – I thought they all did and they are where I want them at this stage. You have to take it day by day. When you have horses like them, it is always a relief when they cross the road to walk home after they have done their work and they are jumping and kicking and they are sound. I can relax then. Horse can be like glass and things happen to so many of them.
“I find I am working or racing with them. With two runners in the QIPCO Champion Stakes, I will feel quite tired afterwards!”
TRAINERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP RACE
Regarding the possibility of winning the trainers’ championship for the 11th time, he said: “Richard (Hannon) has far more runners than I have. I like my two-year-olds but they are very backward, being potential three-year-olds and four-year-olds. They are not going to help me much this year and I have 70 of them – more than half my yard.
“Any success we have had this year has been down largely to my older horses and Frankel. I am running on one cylinder.
“I would not have thought I had a great chance of beating Richard Hannon. The horses are running very, very well and I might get closer to him but it will be a miracle if I can finish in front of him. In a quiet way, I will keep trying. Everything would have to go right at Ascot which would be dreaming. I will see what I can do.”
“Frankel is potentially a very good horse – I think the best is still to come. If he stays right and everything goes to plan I would like to think you will see a better horse as time goes on.
“He is the top horse in the world and people say he is the best horse they have seen but I will let you decide that – I am not going to compare the best horses I have had over the years – they have been good friends to me. They have won at different distances, whether they be Ardross, Oh So Sharp or whoever they might be. They have been very good in their generations and distances. It would be very unfair to say this is the best I have ever had.
“I think this horse as time goes on will show you what he is and you may not even have to ask me the question.
“It is lovely position to be in to have a horse of that capability. I have enjoyed him. I found early on that he was slightly complicated. I am a simple person and like simple things.
“There is always a bit of pressure with a horse of his calibre. You are nervous about this, that and the other. I am very happy to have him and he is a challenge. I do the best I can with him.
“Frankel is a very hot-blooded horse. We have cameras on him and can see what he is up to in our bedroom. When it is a bit cool and he has a light rug on, he suddenly decides at 12 o’clock that it is not cool and he is too hot. So he is trying to pull the rug over his head and what can happen? He can break his neck – luckily we see it and take the rug off.
“There are all these difficult little things – he is always biting himself. He sweats between his back legs in the paddock before a race and with a lot of horses that it is a bad sign but it is only because he is quite hot blooded.
“I don’t want Frankel at the Breeders’ Cup this year because of the tight track – it moves to Santa Anita next year which would be better for him.
“I would love to take him to the QIPCO Champion Stakes next year and then there is a month to the Breeders’ Cup so maybe the Prince will decide to finish him at the Breeders’ Cup.
“The QIPCO British Champions Day is one of the best things that has come into racing – we need a real champions day. We in Europe have probably got the best racehorses in the world so we should have a really good top champions meeting for our horses.”