Frankel: expected to gallop off to stud after the Champion StakesPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Grimthorpe: Frankel's toughest test on Saturday
FRANKEL'S last test will be his toughest according to Teddy Grimthorpe as the world's best horse prepares to take to the racecourse for the final time in the Qipco Champion Stakes on Saturday.
Unbeaten in 13 starts, over distances ranging from 7f to 1m2½f, on good, soft and good to firm going, Frankel is nevertheless expected to be challenged like never before at Ascot with last year's winner Cirrus Des Aigles leading the opposition.
With Nathaniel, Declaration Of War, Ridasiyna, Master Of Hounds and Pastorius likely to form the rest of the rivals - with Bullet Train thrown in as an ally to his little brother - Frankel is unlikely to be given an easy run to go out on.
Asked if the Champion Stakes was the biggest test Frankel would have faced, Grimthorpe, racing manager to the four-year-old's owner and breeder Khalid Abdullah, said: "Certainly is. It's building up to be a really true test for him. I think it's exciting. I've always come into this with the attitude that we have to enjoy him. The horse has done everything that we could possibly have dreamt about and I hope he'll run a huge race on Saturday."
With rain swirling around southern Britain for much of the week, the prospect of the Sir Henry Cecil-trained star encountering less preferable soft going has increased.
Lord Grimthorpe (left) and FrankelPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
However, Grimthorpe told At The Races: "I would think that soft wouldn't be too much of a problem. It was quite soft when he worked on the racecourse but [work rider] Shane [Fetherstonhaugh] got off him and said he handled it very nicely. Henry is very pleased with him. It's all systems go."
Two of the winners of races on the rest of the card last year are back to defend their titles with Fame And Glory and Dancing Rain featuring in the confirmations for the Qipco Long Distance Cup and Qipco Fillies And Mares Stakes respectively.
Times Up misses the chance to give his trainer John Dunlop one last hurrah before he retires, failing to feature in the 16 left in the Long Distance Cup, while Great Heavens tops ten for the Fillies And Mares Stakes.
The big guns stood their ground for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes with Excelebration, Cityscape, Elusive Kate and Carlton House four of the ten runners left in while Soul and Dandy Boy were the biggest absentees from the Qipco Champions Sprint for which 19 runners were confirmed.