Frankel wins again: the perfect ending for the perfect racehorse
For Frankel, the world’s highest-rated racehorse, the script was always pure Hollywood.
The unbeaten colt, retired to stud on Saturday after 14 glorious victories, is named after American trainer Bobby Frankel, who died of cancer three years ago. Frankel’s gaunt but ever-elegant trainer is Henry Cecil, who is battling cancer and whose voice has been reduced to a whisper by his latest bout of chemotherapy.
Cecil’s eloquence did not desert him in the Ascot unsaddling enclosure, however, after Frankel provided the perfect grand finale with victory in Saturday’s Champion Stakes on soft going which he clearly did not relish.
Cecil, who has spoken movingly of how Frankel has helped sustain him in his fight against cancer, said: “I cannot believe in the history of horse racing that there has ever been a better racehorse.”
That is some statement from a man who has trained 25 British classic winners and triumphed 75 times at Royal Ascot.
When Eclipse took to the track in the 18th century, up went the cry: “Eclipse first and the rest nowhere”. He was never beaten in 18 races. Three hundred years later and, worthy of the same adoration, Frankel is off to stud, hopefully to create future champions. Valued at an estimated £100 million, he is now worth 14 times his weight in gold.
There will be no such luck at stud for French veteran Cirrus des Aigles who battled in vain to lower Frankel’s colours on Saturday. He is a gelding.
Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah was lucky enough to own sensational Arc winner Dancing Brave, one of the greatest thoroughbreds of the 20th century. With Frankel, he found out that lightning really can strike twice.
Jockey Tom Queally, who started out in Ireland as a pony racing champion, rode Frankel to every one of his 14 victories over three years.
After Saturday’s final, emotional triumph, he was in his usual state of euphoria.
“He is unbelievable,” Queally said of the horse that changed his life.
Frankel’s final race was televised in 86 countries and camera crews flocked in from around the globe. Bookmakers were even laying odds that Frankel would put in a Christmas television studio appearance at the BBC sports personality of the year show. The last and only horse to do that was Red Rum, the triple Grand National winner.
Saturday’s race ended on a note of symmetry that brought the Frankel story full circle.
In his first race as a two-year-old in 2010, Frankel won by half a length from Nathaniel in a Newmarket maiden. On Saturday, Nathaniel ran his last race too and finished third to Frankel.
Admiring the sheer majesty of Frankel, Nathaniel’s trainer John Gosden summed it up neatly: “What a great horse.”
Frankel will now be offered the very best mares at his owner Khalid Abdullah’s Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket once he begins his new career as a stallion.
The four-year-old will wind down at Cecil’s stables until he is ready to make the short journey to his new home.
“Prince Khalid hasn’t really sat down and done the matings yet with Philip Mitchell [Juddmonte Farms general manager],” said the owner’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe.
“What we can say is that our very best mares, if they think they might be suited to Frankel, will certainly go there. “We have to liaise with Henry. Frankel will be let down now and the real point will be to get him to the stage when he’s relaxed and he’s going to get used to a different life.
“That will take a week or so, maybe longer, until everyone’s happy and then he’ll come over to Banstead.”
Grimthorpe reflected on what was an extraordinary day watched by a sell-out crowd at Ascot that included Her Majesty The Queen plus millions of racing fans throughout the world. “The way that everyone has reacted to Frankel, and to Henry, has been one of the great sporting stories of the year – if not many years.”
Foaled: February 11, 2008
Owner: Prince Khalid Abdullah
Trainer: Sir Henry Cecil
Career earnings: £2,998,302.
Race record: 14 wins from 14 starts, including 10 victories at Group 1 level.
Group One victories:
Champion Stakes (2012); Juddmonte International (2012); Sussex Stakes (2012); Queen Anne Stakes (2012); Lockinge Stakes (2012); Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (2011); Sussex Stakes (2011); St James’s Palace Stakes (2011): 2,000 Guineas (2011); Dewhurst Stakes (2010)
Other notable wins:
Greenham Stakes (2011), Royal Lodge Stakes (2010).
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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