TUESDAY of next week sees the start of the Glorious Goodwood Festival and its setting atop the Sussex Downs will provide a most beautiful backdrop to what is certain to be five days of outstanding racing.
The anticipation of this latest renewal of the premier meeting in the Sussex racing calendar has been heightened by the prospect of a clash of two champions in the Group One Sussex Stakes.
The reputation of the classic generation is in the hands of Frankel, whose performance in winning the 2000 Guineas in May was the most spectacular seen in the race since Zafonic in the early nineties and was greeted by varying degrees of incredulity by everyone who saw it.
His main rival will be the year older Canford Cliffs, a horse who has never been doubted by his highly qualified connections, but who, until recently, has not always attracted the same level of admiration from the racing press.
Their doubts have been firmly swept aside this season by two immensely assured performances from a colt who is now unbeaten since his defeat in the 2000 Guineas last season.
Canford Cliffs won this race in a tight finish last year and after the contest his trainer Richard Hannon spoke of how well his charge had done considering that he felt the track did not play to his strengths at all.
Although able to overcome those problems on that occasion, the question for Canford Cliffs now is will the unbeaten Frankel be able to exploit any such weakness to a greater degree than his rivals from 12 months ago were able to?
Frankel’s style of running suggests the fast nature of the Goodwood track will suit but it is difficult to say categorically that the cambered undulations unique to the track will not prove a serious inconvenience.
In terms of preparation, both horses look to be coming into the race as their respective trainers would have wished and their worthiness as Group One horses is indisputable. The race’s billing as the ‘Duel on the Downs’ is undoubtedly a measure of the anticipation that is building within racing circles and the event epitomises the great attraction of flat racing in the UK and Ireland.
I feel the deciding factor will be as much the ability of either horse to handle the configuration of the racecourse as it will be about their basic class and with that in mind I would narrowly prefer Frankel if pressed to ask who will carry off the spoils.
This view is certainly not a strong one and I will just be looking to enjoy what is sure to be one of the highlights of the season when the stalls open on Wednesday afternoon.
Elsewhere, John Penny runs the Heart of the South racing syndicate from his base at Framfield and he told me his promising young flat performer, Lightning Spirit, will run wherever the ground is softest this weekend. The filly carried a truckload of support before her last outing at Lingfield when the fast ground was blamed for her defeat; the break she has enjoyed since is suggested to have been to her benefit.
Lewes trainer Jim Best was desperately disappointed by the performance of My Ruby on her handicap debut at Windsor when she was last seen. He has a couple of entries for the daughter of Oasis Dream who cost 90,000 guineas at the yearling sales.
She is certainly not to be written off just yet and her progress is worth monitoring.
That is also the case with Jim’s young bumper Sudden Light. She progressed from her debut when a creditable third at Newton Abbott earlier this week and is a nice staying novice prospect in the making.