It was a sensational performance that won Canford Cliffs last year’s Sussex Stakes. But trainer Richard Hannon believes he could surpass it this year.
He might need to, as well, because wonder-horse Frankel stands between the champion and a successful defence of his crown in Glorious Goodwood’s biggest race.
Next Wednesday’s QIPCO-sponsored Group One contest is the most eagerly-anticipated flat race for years and is being billed as the Duel on the Downs.
Remarkably, Hannon believes Canford Cliffs’ extra maturity a year on could make him better-equipped with the intricacies of the Goodwood track.
Hannon said: “It is going to be a hell of a race, no doubt about it, but remember – Canford Cliffs and Frankel are not the only horses in the race.
“Unfortunately, one of them will be beaten. I don’t know who is going to win. It will be very interesting to see what happens.
“Frankel is the best horse in the world and if Canford Cliffs beats him then he takes that position.
“If there are any weaknesses in Canford Cliffs, I haven’t found them. Once Richard (Hughes) had Canford Cliffs settled as a three-year-old, it all happened from there. He is probably at his peak now. He is a strong horse and going well.
“In a small field, you just wonder where the pace will come from but whatever Richard does in the race is OK with me. He is a top-class jockey. Richard knows the horse better than anybody else.
“Canford Cliffs was never a tearaway but you take a horse from being a two-year-old to a three-year-old and from six furlongs to a mile. You have taught him to do one thing as a two-year-old and then you have to teach him something else, wanting him to settle as a three-year-old.
“We taught him to go quick as a two-year-old and so, early on as a three-year-old, he thought he was doing everything right. Richard has done a hell of a job on him, teaching him to settle.
“The only thing that would worry me is that last year he did not like coming down the hill at Goodwood particularly well – but he is a year older now and a more mature horse so I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Hughes, Hannon’s son-in-law and stable jockey, has been careful not to incur a suspension which would cause him to miss the ride.
He said: “All my life I’ve looked for a horse like Canford Cliffs and I was not going to miss the ride on him – I won’t get another chance.
“I cannot wait for the Sussex Stakes. I am looking forward to it just as much as the race against Goldikova at Royal Ascot – we got that job done.
“Canford Cliffs is the best I have ever ridden – I have ridden some good horses in my career but the first time I sat on this lad, I had never ridden anything like him.
“I think Frankel is a brilliant three-year-old – no doubt. I don’t think the three-year-olds are brilliant as a whole but he is probably one of the best three-year-olds we have seen for a long time which is why he has stood out.
“The good thing is my lad is easy and I imagine with only a few runners there won’t be much pace at Goodwood which means Frankel will run free.
“I would not be surprised if Tom (Queally on Frankel) made the running with only four or so runners – if he drops in, we won’t go fast. The start is downhill as well.
“Frankel settled very well at Ascot when we were going a million up the hill – I was on Dubawi Gold, sitting second, and I could not have gone an inch faster, off the bridle. That is why Frankel settled so well at Ascot but, if he was going slow, then he would be keen. If we go slow, he will be free.
“Canford Cliffs looks better than ever. I think he is a little bit like Sea The Stars – he will just do what he has to do. He will go by whatever is in front of him. No matter what you follow, he will go by it – you feel he will go by anything. He travelled so easy at Royal Ascot.
“He won a maiden on soft ground – I think he would cope with that ground - most champions do.
“You would like to think that both horses are healthy on the day and there are no excuses – head to head at the furlong pole would be nice to see and then the best horse will win.”
Canford Cliffs is going for a QIPCO Sussex Stakes double, having won the Group One race last year when Hannon and Hughes combined to have nine winners each during Glorious Goodwood, a record number for a trainer and a jockey.
Hughes added: “I love the track at Goodwood but I doubt I can get nine again this year – the boss told me last year it should have been 10 – I was beat a head in a maiden.
“We have a few nice ones lined up but the domination of the two-year-old races last year will probably never happen again – I think we won them all – but you never know.”
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