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Cirrus is ready to rumble!

16 Oct 2012

Last year's QIPCO Champion Stakes winner, French star Cirrus des Aigles, looked in magnificent shape today as he prepares to defend his crown against the mighty Frankel.

Cirrus des Aigles wins last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes. Image courtesy of racingfotos.com.

Corine Barande-Barbe, who describes herself as "a specialist in fairy tales", welcomed a contingent of UK racing media to her idyllic Chantilly stables today to see France’s best horse, Cirrus des Aigles.

She had her first fairy tale as a trainer with Carling back in 1995, who despite her humble breeding won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and the Prix Vermeille, while failing by just a nose to win the French 1000 Guineas.

Now the 54-year-old trainer has an even greater fairy tale unfolding thanks to Cirrus des Aigles, a gelding from a similarly humble parentage who has taken the international racing world by storm over the last year.

A late developer, last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes was his first Group 1 victory at the age of five – what a race to break your Group 1 duck in!

The line-up featured seven individiual Group 1 winners who between them had mopped up more than 20 Group 1 races, but Cirrus des Aigles put them all to the sword, defeating So You Think, Snow Fairy, Midday and Nathaniel, with other Group 1 winners Wigmore Hall, Twice Over and Casamento further behind.

This year he has gone on to win the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan and followed that with an eight length victory in the Prix Ganay and a nine length demolition of his rivals in the Prix Dollar, both at Longchamp.

Now there’s one big question to be answered – can Cirrus des Aigles, the world’s second best horse, produce the ultimate fairy tale and defeat the unbeaten and seemingly unbeatable world number one, Frankel?

"“If we beat Frankel, for me it will not be such a surprise," said Barande-Barbe today.

"Cirrus is coming to defend his title and he has the opportunity to beat the best horse in England.

"Whatever the result, Saturday is going to be a fantastic experience.

"Frankel has never met a horse like Cirrus.

"My horse was very impressive in the Prix Dollar. He might still be improving.

"He won’t mind very soft ground, but maybe that will disturb the others.

With more rain forecast for Ascot over the next few days, she joked: "My horse knows how to swim. Does Frankel?!"

Barande-Barbe, 54, has been training in her own right for over 20 years and she knows that Saturday is going to be the biggest day she has encountered, with all the hype that surrounds Frankel’s last race.

She won’t be phased though and neither will her stable star, who was full of beans today, attempting to rip the jacket off his trainer’s back while she was being interviewed by Mick Fitzgerald for the BBC.

Frankel fans beware – don’t discount a Cirrus des Aigles fairy tale on Saturday afternoon.

If Frankel does win, he will know that he has had a race because Cirrus des Aigles is a battle-hardened champion who will not go down without a fight.

It could be the race of the century so far – don’t miss it!

It’s live on BBC 1, BBC 1 HD, At The Races, Racing UK and BBC Radio 5 Live at 4.05pm.