Frank goodness! Superhorse Frankel and trainer Cecil sign off in style at Ascot
21:30 GMT, 21 October 2012
A young and freakish horse was welcomed into the winners' enclosure as 'The Champion of All Time'.
Watching on, a frail and ageing chap tapped his fingers on the rail and his arctic-blue eyes glistened.
Frankel and his trainer Sir Henry Cecil, two of the great beasts of the racing world, combined at Ascot on Saturday to create as poignant a sporting scene as could be imagined.
Outstanding: Trainer Sir Henry Cecil (right) watched Frankel romp to victory at Ascot in style
Unbeatable: Frankel made it 14 wins from as many races in the Champion Stakes at Ascot
Foaled: February 11, 2008
Owner: Prince Khalid Abdullah
Trainer: Sir Henry Cecil
Career earnings: 2,998,302.
Race record: Fourteen wins from 14 starts, including 10 victories at Group One 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): 2000 Guineas (2011); Dewhurst Stakes (2010)
Other notable wins: Greenham Stakes (2011), Royal Lodge Stakes (2010).
Frankel deserved every accolade
Roget's Thesaurus could bestow, and he was lavished with every one of
them in the accompanying media love-in.
His 14th and farewell victory in the
mile-and-a-quarter Qipco Champion Stakes on alien, rain-softened
terrain, against classy rivals, confirmed his status as arguably the
greatest equine specimen in 300 years of breeding.
As for Sir Henry Richard Amherst
Cecil, nephew of the third Lord Amherst of Hackney, he is left with a
hoarse whisper after a six-year fight against cancer waged as defiantly
and jauntily as the angle at which he wore his brown trilby.
His record since beginning his career
in 1969 – 10-time champion trainer, 37 Classic winners, four Derby
winners and more than 70 Royal Ascot winners – is a mark of the man.
But figures do not reveal enough
about his special touch with horses and humans. He trains by instinct
and sagacity rather than any manual. With regard to his common touch
with us two-legged creatures, he is in danger of giving toffs a good
Downing Street take note. Always as
ready to talk to a scruff as a prince, he doffed his hat to ladies as
they greeted him. He signed autographs, left-handed with a big downward
stroke for the first line of the H and a quick scrawl thereafter.
Hug it out: Tom Queally grabs hold of Frankel's neck after their impressive victory
One woman asked him a question and he pointed to his mouth, leaving her to lipread that he could barely talk.
He thought better of it and returned.
Pointing to the grass with those big expressive hands of his, he half
mimed, half whispered by way of explaining that the going was not
ideally to Frankel's liking.
Cecil craned his neck to tell me: 'I probably got him too relaxed.'
Frankel was dawdling in the stalls as the rest of the field left. It made a race of it.
But Cecil added: 'He's a magnificent horse. He is the best I've had and the best I've seen.
'I'd be amazed if there has ever been a better one. This has been the perfect day.'
Cecil took off his hat for the
presentation. In fact, the millinery is a recent addition to his
wardrobe as chemotherapy has left his hair wispy.
The ovation he received was the biggest of the day. Three cheers were proposed.
We are not acclaiming a saint. He is a
69-year-old who laughs at the notion he might be the only boy from his
prep school, Sunningdale, to fail the exam to Eton.
Job done: Saudi Arabian owner Prince Khalid Abdullah (right) congratulates Cecil on an historic day at Ascot
Forget it: Cirrus Des Aigles ridden by Olivier Peslier (right) had no chance of catching Frankel
He went instead to Canford and then,
with his twin brother David, to the Royal Agricultural College,
Cirencester, where by his own admission he studied 'drinking and
He left without sitting an exam. His
life was occasionally paraded in the gossip columns, proving that
stables life and carnal lusts are not just Jilly Cooper fantasies.
He spiralled into decline when his twin died of cancer in 2000 and hit the bottle hard.
His career was ebbing away at the same time, a falling out with the significant owner, Sheik Mohammed, central to the malaise.
The 2005 season is what the Queen,
who was in attendance among Saturday's 32,000 sell-out crowd, might call
his annus horribilis. He had just 12 winners, 101 fewer than nine years
His prize money amounted to a meagre 145,000.
Royal approval: The Queen watched Frankel win the Champion Stakes at Ascot
While on Newmarket Heath he overheard someone say: 'That's Henry Cecil. He should have retired a long time ago.'
It fired him up. This year he won
2.65million. The dandyish Cecil , whose catholic tastes are hinted at
by the tin soldiers and fossils on display in his study, admits that
Frankel, along with his third wife Jane, has sustained him through the
How will he fare now that the
four-year-old colt, his all-consuming professional passion, is going to
Banstead Manor Stud to begin his life as a playboy bachelor
Around 120 trysts with the world's most alluring mares are planned next year at 100,000 a go.
Frankel deserves it. He is the
outstanding horse of our generation. Prior to Saturday, he had won his
previous 13 races by a total of 74 and a half lengths.
Crowd pleaser: Tom Queally and Frankel pass the stands after winning the Champion Stakes
And if arguments could be put forward
for the likes of Sea Bird, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sea The Stars
and Dancing Brave as being rivals for the title of greatest ever, no
horse ever did more to send the spirits soaring than Frankel.
Twice in his iridescent career he won
by 10 lengths or more, including unforgettably at Royal Ascot this
year.W e can laud him to the heavens now, but you sensed the crowd were
nervous before the race.
Eyes down: Willie Carson and Claire Balding take in the action
Going gets tough: there had been worries about the state of the track ahead of the big race
Yes, Frankel was 2-11 but there was
so much legendary status at stake in these sodden conditions that it was
a roar of relief as much as joy that broke out as he first drew level
with the French gelding Cirrus Des Aigles at the crest of the bend and
then quickened away to triumph by a length and three quarters.
Jockey Tom Queally said: 'He didn't
bounce along the ground like he can. I gave him a crack (of the whip),
which isn't common, and he powered off. He's done so much for so many
'For me to get this chance is a million-to-one shot.'
Yes, Frankel has added lustre to Flat racing to rival that contemporary legend of National Hunt, Kauto Star.
No, Frankel never raced over a
mile-and-a-half, an omission some believe means that he cannot be hailed
as first among equals. I leave that to the equine historians. I merely
celebrate a free-flowing, big-lunged, long-striding phenomenon and his
stylish trainer for their own unique splendour.
Full house: It was no surprise to see the course packed to the rafters
Odds on: Frankel was the huge favourite to win