Taking aim at Bambi - just for the money
IF FRANKEL gets beaten by Nathaniel tomorrow the latter's trainer, John Gosden, says he'll "feel like the guy who shot Bambi".
Frankel is going for his 14th consecutive victory in the Qipco Champion Stakes at England's Ascot racecourse. It's the swan song of a horse many people rate as the greatest thoroughbred of all time.
Frankel is quoted at 1-5 by the bookies and his huge popularity will ensure a sell-out crowd of 32000. Everyone wants to see the power and glory one last time.
A Joburg pal of mine has flown all the way to the UK to watch the race - all two minutes of it - just so that he can say he saw the Great One in the flesh.
Oh, and Queen Elizabeth will be dropping in from her nearby Windsor pad to witness history being made.
The pressure on the Frankel team is enormous.
For, if there's one certainty in racing, it's that there are no certainties.
For all the emotion the game evokes, it's a fiercely competitive business with no sentimentality when it comes to the sharp end of claiming prize money. There'll be no stepping aside politely to let the people's favourite through and keep everyone smiling.
John Gosden might end up feeling uneasy in the role of Bambi-slayer but any guilt will be wafted away with a wave of a winning cheque.
(I must point out that Bambi doesn't get slotted in the Walt Disney movie; it's his lovely mum who falls to a hunter's bullet. Racehorse trainers are seldom up on their classics.)
Corine Barande-Barbe, French trainer of another main challenger to Frankel, Cirrus des Aigles, has no mixed feelings whatsoever about trying her damnedest to shatter the flawless record of the living legend from the land of "Rosbifs".
"If we win, I may not be popular but I'd be proud and very happy," says the woman from Chantilly.
If the unthinkable happens and Bambi takes a slug, there will be tears but Frankel will remain a legend, having attained the highest rating of any racehorse.
He'll also be a prized asset at stud, at least initially, until his progeny show if he has passed on the talent.
Bloodstock experts in the UK this week placed a £100-million value on him for his first four years at stud.
Frankel's new job entails his relocating just two miles within Newmarket, English racing's HQ - from the stables of trainer Sir Henry Cecil to the Banstead Manor Stud of owner Prince Khalid Abdulla.
The Saudi prince will make his stallion available to mares outside his own extensive breeding operation to give him more of a chance of success. One can't tell which bloodline crosses work best until you give them a try, so you don't want to restrict matings.
A covering fee has not been announced but a figure of £100000 a pop has been bandied about.
That's not in any Bambi story.
Turffontein, tomorrow: PA - 7,10 x 11 x 1,2 x 5,10,12 x 1,2,9 x 2 x 1,7 (R72)