Frankel strides to perfection

Frankel overcame perhaps the final obstacle to him being seen as the perfect thoroughbred racehorse in the Juddmonte 
International Stakes at York.

The unbeaten wonder horse coped with the step up in distance to an extended mile and a quarter with such astonishing ease that the clamour for him to be aimed towards Europe’s most prestigious race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, will continue to grow until a decision is made. Sir Henry Cecil, clearly not in good health as he made his first appearance on the course in several months, has indicated the Champion Stakes at Ascot will be the stage for Frankel’s valedictory performance but the door remains tantalisingly ajar.

Rarely, even in Ebor week, has the Knavesmire been as alive and congested as a 30,000-strong crowd arrived to catch a glimpse of the best horse of their, or 
possibly anyone’s, lifetime.

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When the duties of the pacemakers – Robin Hood and Windsor Palace for St Nicholas Abbey and Bullet Train for Frankel – had been carried out, Tom Queally eased the 1-10 favourite into the lead with two furlongs remaining.

No less a horse than St Nicholas Abbey, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf and two Coronation Cups, found himself trailing and, in the end, he lost second to the useful yardstick Farhh. Frankie Dettori celebrated picking up the runner-up spot with nearly as much delight as a winner, as finishing within seven lengths of Frankel now seems a noble achievement.

Three cheers rang out for Frankel’s 13th victory and Cecil was accorded a standing ovation himself. The great trainer’s voice has been reduced to a whisper due to illness picked up as a side effect of his cancer treatment, and he spoke only briefly. “That was great, wasn’t it?” he said. “It’s fantastic. It’s great for Yorkshire, they are very supportive of racing and they deserve to see him.” Asked how it made him feel, Cecil said: “Twenty years better.”

Owner Prince Khalid Abdullah was also retaining the race he has sponsored for over 20 years, and he was pressed as to whether he would be tempted by the Arc. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I will talk to Henry about it but we’ll see. I will do whatever Henry thinks. I didn’t think a mile and a quarter was a problem, but more than that I don’t think so.”

The owner’s racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, said: “For Henry and the team to bring Frankel in such great shape to York, in front of a brilliant crowd who appreciated him, is absolutely fantastic. Then for the horse to perform like he did, it’s a dream, isn’t it?”

On the Arc, Grimthorpe added: “He’s not in there. Henry didn’t want him in the race and he’d have to supplemented. There will be a discussion and we’ll have to see. The plan was always Ascot.”

Queally added: “He’s got so much class it’s unbelievable. It was an end-to-end gallop, no funny business, and he stayed very well. Every man and his dog seemed to want to put their penny’s worth in to say where he should run, but to run him in the owner’s race and for him to make it 13 out of 13 speaks for itself.”

Farhh’s trainer Saeed bin Suroor conceded second was the best he could have hoped for. “My horse has tried very hard, but he has finished second again,” he said.

“As we knew before, the winner is in a different class to everything else. We have no plans for him, but we will try to find a race without Frankel.”

Aidan O’Brien echoed the views when he said of St Nicholas Abbey: “The winner is an 
incredible horse and we’re delighted with our fellow.”