The Qipco Champion Stakes will provide a captivating final test for Sir Henry Cecil’s Frankel, an equine aristocrat who could be given his most serious challenge by an unfashionably-bred six-year-old gelding.
Relaxed as Cirrus Des Aigles chewed off various parts of her coat from through his stable door, Barande-Barbe is relishing the opportunity against the colt now regarded as possibly the greatest of all time. Cirrus Des Aigles clearly rules the roost at his place, a charming throwback to another age with several fine oaks and a browning horse chestnut tree marking the centre, and heritage roses climbing the walls.
Dating back to the late 1800s and inviting memories of how it would have been under previous tenants like Percy Carter or William Head, the yard is just down from Alain de Royer-Dupre’s base on the appropriately-named Chemin des Aigles.
“This is a great challenge, and whatever the result it will be a great experience,” Barande-Barbe said.
“It’s the opportunity to meet the best ever horse in England, and we’ll go to him, because he didn’t come to us!”
All riding tactics will be left to Olivier Peslier, who has taken over from Christophe Soumillon, Cirrus Des Aigles’ partner when he took last year’s race.
Peslier has already destroyed the hopes of one nation recently when Solemia caught the Japanese superstar Orfevre in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
“What we do, the horse decides,” she said.
“I let him do what he wants. If there’s no pace, he pulls, but there will be pace i9n the race.
“The most important thing is not to hurry him.
“With this horse, we must be ready to see what happens.”
Ratings suggest Frankel has a stone in hand of his rivals, which also include the Coral-Eclipse winner Nathaniel, who got as close as any have to Cecil’s colt on their respective debuts in a Newmarket maiden.
While Cirrus Des Aigles is possibly his strongest opponent to date, Barande-Barbe does not want to subscribe to one popular notion that Frankel has been campaigned too cautiously by connections.
“Frankel is an entire, a great breeding prospect, and I would never criticise someone else,” she said.
“Things are not the same, my horse is gelded.
“They ran Frankel at York and now in the Champion Stakes and that is a challenge for a horse who specialised at a shorter distance. We must also remember there are other horses in the race.”
She also realises she would be highly unpopular if the seemingly impossible happened, adding: “I’d be happy if (Cirrus) won, and if someone beats Frankel it will be because of the horse.
“I’m just there to help – I’m not galloping!”
Cirrus Des Aigles has also had more than 40 starts, over a variety of different distances and conditions, and will certainly not be inconvenienced by potentially testing ground.
“Soft is good,” Barande-Barbe said upon hearing a current Ascot going update. “His last race in the Prix Dollar was very impressive and he doesn’t mind heavy ground – he swims. “Sometimes it disturbs horses but nobody knows if it disturbs Frankel.