O’Brien relishing Frankel challenge

Aidan O’Brien is relishing a clash with Frankel when he sends the “exciting” St Nicholas Abbey to the Juddmonte International at York next week.

O’Brien relishing Frankel challenge

The Ballydoyle trainer said the £725,000 contest on the Knavesmire had always been in his his mind for St Nicholas Abbey, who was only run twice at the 10-furlong trip in his 15-race career.

The Montjeu five-year-old was last seen finishing third to Danedream over a mile and a half in the King George at Ascot, beaten less than two lengths.

While Frankel has eight Group One successes to his name, St Nicholas Abbey also boasts impressive credentials, having won no fewer than four Group One races himself.

O’Brien said: “The Juddmonte was always going to be one of the races that St Nic could run in.

“We were happy with his run in the King George. He relaxed, travelled and quickened really well.

“He had a little bit of a break after the King George and seems well at the moment.

“We’ve always thought the world of him – he is a very exciting horse. And we still think he is on the upgrade.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him run at York – and watching Frankel. Frankel is a great horse and it’s just a privilege to see him run, really.”

Fears the showpiece race may lack serious opposition to Frankel, the world’s highest-rated horse, have been further allayed by the news that last year’s winner, Twice Over, will defend his crown.

The Group One is understandably close to the heart of Juddmonte Farms owner Khalid Abdullah, having sponsored the race for over two decades.

He tasted victory in the 10-furlong contest for the first time 12 months ago, with Twice Over narrowly getting the better of fellow Abdullah-owned and Sir Henry Cecil-trained runner, Midday.

While Frankel will clearly be red-hot favourite as he aims to maintain his unbeaten record stepping up beyond a mile for the first time, the owner’s racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, feels Twice Over deserves his place alongside his superstar stablemate.

“This is Prince Khalid’s 22nd year of sponsoring the Juddmonte International so to bring Frankel to the race is hugely important to him,” said Grimthorpe.

“I don’t think the step up to 10 furlongs will be a concern. In his early days he used to get carried away with his phenomenal stride but under Sir Henry Cecil’s guidance he has learnt to settle better and better.

“He has built up a good relationship with Tom (Queally) and they respect each other. Tom says ’Go’ to Frankel now – not the other way around.

“You dream about horses like Frankel. It is a wonderful to take him to York and I am confident that the Yorkshire crowd will come to see him.

“Twice Over is the defending champion so it makes sense to run.”

Also set to take on Frankel, who was reported in great shape as he went through his paces before the press in the pouring rain at Newmarket, is Farhh, who was six lengths behind him in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

He will, however, have an alternative York entry and Simon Crisford, racing manager to Godolphin, is under no illusions about the size of the challenge facing the Pivotal colt should he take on Frankel again.

He said: “Frankel is the best horse in the race by a long, long way and if he runs to his form then he will win.

“But Farhh is in good form. We will weigh up the options and he will also get an entry in the Sky Bet Strensall Stakes (August 24).”

Coral make Frankel the 1-10 market leader, with St Nicholas Abbey and Farhh the 8-1 joint-second favourites and Twice Over available at 20-1 for a repeat win.

Spokesman David Stevens said: “We don’t envisage the step up in trip will pose too many problems for Frankel next week and while the presence of St Nicholas Abbey and Farhh will provide opposition of note, we’re not expecting anything other than win number 13 for Sir Henry Cecil’s charge, an outcome reflected in the odds on offer.

“Turnover on this year’s Sussex Stakes was just a tenth of what we took on the same race 12 month’s ago, and it’s likely to be a similar story at York, as very few punters will play at long odds-on, but equally, few will expect defeat for Frankel, such has been his dominance in 12 starts to date.”

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