Nathaniel ‘more likely’ to run in Ireland than take on Frankel at York
• John Gosden plans to monitor weather before targets
• Dancing Rain might try International if field is small
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 August 2012 19.30 BST
Hopes that Frankel might face a worthy opponent in his next race began to fade last night as it emerged that Nathaniel may very well miss York’s Juddmonte International in favour of another target in September. The news comes a day after Cirrus Des Aigles was ruled out of the International, having taken too long to recover from an ankle injury.
John Gosden, trainer of Nathaniel, said on Wednesday that the York race on 22 August remains an “option” but that the four-year-old is “more likely” to be aimed at the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on 8 September.
“We’ll see how things are and make a decision closer to the time,” he added. “The horse is in good order but I want to see what the weather’s doing, that’s always important.”
Nathaniel had two hard races back to back when winning the Eclipse and then running second in the King George a fortnight later, but Gosden said he had no fear of a third serious test in quick succession. “That’s not an issue. By the time the York race comes around, it won’t be far off a month [since he last ran].”
Nevertheless, Nathaniel is expected to be saved for the Irish race, where the quality of opposition could also be very high, as Cirrus Des Aigles may be in the line-up. “He’s a horse I respect,” Gosden said, “but, if I’m happy with the race and conditions, I’ve never in my life been frightened off by one horse.”
But Frankel is enough to deter even such a noted giant-killer as Clive Brittain from running anything in the International. His Miblish remains entered for the York race but Brittain would rather find a more straightforward opportunity elsewhere.
“I think he’s the sort of horse to make a cracking four-year-old and I don’t want to give him too hard a season,” Brittain said. With an especially wry tone, he continued: “It doesn’t seem likely to be an easy race.”
Dancing Rain, last year’s Oaks winner, would be an intriguing contender on her first start since November, but her trainer, William Haggas, described the chance of her tilting against Frankel as no more than “possible”. “We’ll either go there or the Yorkshire Oaks, which is the logical choice,” he said.
“If it looked like being a very small field for the International, we might go for it. We’d be taking on Frankel, which is a near impossible task, but the owners are very keen to have a go at a mile and a quarter at some stage and the first time [this season] is probably the right time to do it, because she’ll be fresh.
“She’s fine. She got injured after [a race in] Japan and we tried to get her ready for the King George but it didn’t happen. So York is the next step and we have an ambitious autumn programme planned for her.”
Haggas confirmed that the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is high on the list of possible targets for Dancing Rain. “We’ve nothing to lose, she’s a Classic winner already.”
Aidan O’Brien still has seven horses in the International, including St Nicholas Abbey. That was a source of comfort to York’s chief executive, William Derby, who feels the course is entitled to a decent turnout for the richest race it has ever staged, with £725,000 on offer.
“We’re delighted that the world’s highest-rated racehorse is on target for the race,” he said. “It’s not unusual for a high-quality race to have a small field and one of the most exciting races I can remember was the Juddmonte International in 2009, when Sea The Stars beat Mastercraftsman by a length. There were only four runners.
“It’ll be a spectacle, whatever happens. Frankel is a superstar and lots of people in the north will want to see him in what might very well be his second-last race. He ran at Doncaster in 2010 but he wasn’t a superstar then.”
Richard Hughes is no bigger than 2-5 to end the year with his first champion jockey’s crown after riding a hat-trick of winners at Brighton on Wednesday. That followed four winners at Bath on Tuesday and took him level with Ryan Moore on 90 for the season.