Team Frankel wary of dangers
Connections of Frankel believe the colt will have to bring his "A-game" to the table to land the JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
The four-year-old carried all before him for trainer Sir Henry Cecil last season, ending the term undefeated in five starts, which included victories in the 2000 Guineas, the Sussex Stakes and the QEII Stakes.
He is a short-priced favourite to make a victorious return in the Group One event at the Berkshire venue.
Although most consider the result a foregone conclusion, owner Khalid Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, feels the Galileo colt must be at his best to triumph.
"He's in great shape and hopefully he'll progress through the year," he said.
"The deceptive thing about Frankel is his stride - it's just how he does it, he does it so easily.
"There is no such thing as a gimme in this sport, so hopefully he'll bring his A-game to the table.
"You either bring your best or you don't bother at all.
"What we want to see is a good, solid performance and this is obviously the first stepping-stone on what we hope will be a very good year.
"His style is his own and we are all very conscious that we have something pretty extraordinary on our hands."
At one stage in April, it looked as though Frankel may never race again after rumours abounded about the severity of a leg injury he sustained on the Newmarket gallops.
But after thorough investigation, it transpired the problem was only minor and Frankel has barely looked back since.
Cecil took the chance to prove his well-being with a racecourse workout at Newmarket on 2000 Guineas day.
"The scans we did on his leg were pretty unequivocal and all his work since has been absolutely first class," said Grimthorpe.
"He worked fantastically well when he went to Racecourse Side the other day and hopefully he can prove himself what we know him to be on Saturday.
"I think and dream of Frankel on a very unhealthy basis! The various scenarios he's been through in my mind really are quite spectacular.
"We are really looking forward to this year and the interest in him has been really overwhelming - just fantastic."
While Frankel sticks at a mile for his return, the Abdullah team are hoping he will prove his mettle over 10 furlongs later this year.
Grimthorpe told Racing UK: "I think at this stage, if all went well, Henry is leaning towards the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot for his next start and obviously the hope later in the season is that he'll be here (at York) for the Juddmonte International."
Tom Queally has been aboard Frankel for each of his nine victories and was delighted with the colt's racecourse gallop.
He said: "It was just to get him out on a racecourse and get him to see something different.
"It's not that he's difficult to ride, he's just a bit keen and he's got such a big stride, you are a passenger on him.
"If you look at him now he's so strong - he's a bull now this year.
"You can't break his big stride and that's why he's in control.
"I'm looking forward to it and it looks like he could open his account again and keep the ball rolling."
The ground at Newbury is still riding on the soft side, and with more showers forecast, it could ease further.
That would not worry Queally, though, who said: "He won his debut in very testing conditions and he's strong enough to get through it."
The horse widely considered as Frankel's biggest threat is old foe Excelebration.
The four-year-old finished behind the world's highest-rated racehorse on three occasions last year, winning his other three starts for Italian trainer Marco Botti.
He has since moved to the stables of Aidan O'Brien and made an impressive start for new connections by landing the Gladness Stakes at the Curragh under the trainer's son, Joseph, who retains the ride at Newbury.
"It will be the first time I've ridden against Frankel and he is obviously a great horse, so I'm looking forward to it," said the jockey.
"Excelebration won very well in the Curragh and you'd like to think he'll improve for that as it was his first run of the year.
"He's obviously stepping up from a Group Three to a Group One race against Frankel, so he'll have to improve.
"We just go into the race knowing our horse is in good form and we'll just do our best and see what happens.
"He's versatile ground-wise and hopefully he'll run a big race."
Richard Hannon is keeping a careful eye on the weather as his prime contender, Strong Suit, needs quicker conditions to excel.
The four-year-old was largely campaigned over seven furlongs in 2011 but proved his aptitude for a mile when third in the Prix Jean Prat.
While he disappointed when well down the field in the Breeders' Cup Mile last November, Hannon is keen to kick off his year at Newbury if conditions are right.
"He loves top of the ground. We've declared him with that proviso. He's fine," said the trainer.
"At his best he'd want the ground to be good, fast ground. If there's any soft in it he wont run.
"We're happy with him and to start him off at Newbury if the ground is OK.
"If he doesn't run on Saturday he'll probably wait for the Queen Anne at Ascot."
Hannon has a second string to his bow in Dubawi Gold, who finished behind Frankel when second in the Guineas last year and fourth in the QEII.
He ran well when fourth in the Hong Kong Mile last December but has failed to shine in starts at Meydan and Sandown so far this year.
Hannon said: "He's been second to Frankel in the Guineas. I suppose he could be second to him again or even third, but we might as well run."