Frankel and his stable-mates Twice Over, Midday and Vita Nova gave onlookers a demonstration of their wellbeing when galloping on the watered gallop adjacent to Newmarket’s Rowley Mile on Friday morning.
The Sir Henry Cecil-trained quartet heads to QIPCO Champions’ Day at Ascot on October 15 with the horses’ respective targets being the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Frankel), the Champion Stakes (Midday and twice Over, while Vita Nova will run in the British Champion Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes (formerly the Pride Stakes).
Cecil, who is the longest-serving trainer in Newmarket, said: “We have marvellous (grass) gallops in Newmarket – which I love and I know so well, having been here for 400 years! I may have an advantage over someone who does not know them so well. But on the all-weather nobody has got an advantage over anybody else.
“Newmarket has had very little rain this year – the odd shower – and I think our horses have been on the grass only three times all year. So it has been very difficult.”
He added: “ Frankel is coming on very, very nicely. I gave him a nice bit of work, not a hard bit of work. Physically he has done very well – he looks a stronger horse and is growing up mentally a lot.
“He is a very happy horse with a lot of energy – he never seems to get tired. Although he is very active, he is not that hard a horse to get fit. You can give him an easy time and he comes back pretty quick.
“I like to think that I know him well enough and, touch wood, I will do the right thing.”
While much of this season’s talk has been about Frankel, it’s easy to forget that six-year-old Midday, who will retire at the end of the season, is the winner of six Group 1 races. Despite her continued success, he trainer considers her to have been somewhat unlucky.
“If we take the Oaks, she only just beaten in a photo-finish – being pushed over a little bit – that would have been another Group One,” he said. “In the Breeders’ Cup last year, the turf track on the inside at Churchill Downs was so tight – twice as tight as Chester I would think – and the Japanese filly held her in all the way around. Midday could never do what she can do. I had to ask her all at once. I think she was unlucky not to win that.
“Then you take this year’s Coronation Cup – maybe she went too soon, thought she had done enough and got collared on the line after quickening up to go three lengths clear.
“Take the Juddmonte as well, she was being led by the O’Brien horse who then left her in front earlier than expected. So she has been unlucky not to win three or four more Group 1s.
“She has been a great friend – a terrific filly and mare. I would quite safely be able to say that she is as good now, or better, than she has ever been.”
Twice Over, who worked in company with Midday and Tranqui Tiger, looked in superb form on the watered gallop, and he will bid to win his third successive Champion Stakes provided there’s no jar in the ground.
Cecil said: “He is working very well and is nearly there. I will put him back a little now. He worked beautifully this morning. I would like good ground at Ascot for him because he hasn’t got the best of feet.
“I would think he would run very, very well. I am not quite sure what is going to be in the race. Both of mine deserve to run. I cannot send Twice Over to America because I don’t think he will act on the dirt so this is the race for him. The jockeys will remain the same in the QIPCO Champion Stakes [as in the Juddmonte International].”
Of four-year-old Vita Nova, he added: “She won nicely first time out this season at Newmarket and was unlucky not to win the Lancashire Oaks as the jockey was thrown off at one side, taking the saddle with him. She is a backward, big filly and was running against a very good filly [Blue Bunting] in the Yorkshire Oaks. For an immature filly to be beaten half a length that day was a very good effort.
“She has thrived since then and I think she is a better filly now. She looks better physically and will be a lovely mare next year. I think this will be her last run of the year. She would enjoy good ground. If it was very firm, she could jar up.”