Khalid Abdullah’s Frankel captured the QIPCO Champion Stakes (Eng-I) in brilliant and dramatic fashion on Oct. 20 at Ascot, remaining unbeaten and securing his legacy as one of the best racehorses of the modern era and perhaps one of the greatest of all time. (Video)
Ridden by Tom Queally in his final race before retiring to stud, Frankel was sent off the overwhelming favorite and defeated European champion Cirrus des Aigles despite missing the break and being left with ground to make up.
Cirrus des Aigles spurted past Frankel’s stablemate and pacemaker Bullet Train after the first furlong, but Bullet Train retook the lead as Frankel recovered to be fourth after three furlongs. Cirrus des Aigles rallied back into command about a quarter mile out but could not hold off the powerful rally of Frankel, who pushed to the lead a furlong out for the victory.
Frankel won by 1 3/4 lengths to capture his 14th race from as many lifetime starts for trainer Sir Henry Cecil. Highly-regarded Nathaniel finished third, 2 1/2 lengths back in the six-horse field.
Frankel was timed in 2:10.22 for the 1 1/4 miles on soft turf.
A 4-year-old Galileo colt and Europe’s reigning Horse of the Year, Frankel caps his phenomenal race record with a ninth straight group I win and tenth top-level win overall.
"I'm so proud of him,” Queally, who has ridden Frankel in all 14 starts, told Racing Post. “It's been an amazing journey and I can't tell you what it means to be part of it.
“We lost a length (at the start), but that's nothing to him.”
Frankel's start in the Champion Stakes was in question in days leading up to the race, as the course had been softened by rain. The colt got the go-ahead on race day after his connections walked the course and decided it was safe although he had never raced on that kind of going.
Currently the world’s top-ranked racehorse, Frankel came into the Champion Stakes as the highest-rated runner in the 64-year history of the Timeform ranking system. Facing one of the toughest fields in his career in the Champion Stakes in addition to the testing course and longer trip, he lived up to accolades as one of the best runners in racing history.
Frankel is named in honor of Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who trained Juddmonte’s runners for many years in the U.S. Frankel died in 2009.
Bred in Great Britain, the colt was produced by the stakes-winning Danehill mare Kind, who is a half sister to graded/group I winner Powerscourt.
The Champion Stakes was the marquee race on QIPCO British Champions Day, culmination of 35 top flat races that comprise five championship categories: Sprint, Mile, Middle Distance, Long Distance, and Fillies and Mares. The Champion Stakes is the finale in the Middle Distance division.
Frankel tallied seven consecutive group I wins racing at a mile, before proving his ability at a longer distance when he won the 1 5/16-mile Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I) with consummate ease, coasting to a seven-length victory Aug. 22 at York. His victories have come by a combined margin of 76 1/4 lengths.
Frankel won all four starts as a 2-year-old, including the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I), and was named Europe’s champion in the division. He dominated the 3-year-old division last year, overwhelming 12 overmatched opponents in the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and concluded the season with a authoritative win over Excelebration in the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I). That victory on the inaugural British Champions Day card last year secured the Cartier Award as Europe’s Horse of the Year.
The Champion Stakes marks Frankel’s fifth race of 2012, which after an injury scare in April began with a five-length win in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) in May at Newbury and an 11-length romp in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) in June at Royal Ascot. He followed up with an unprecedented second successive score in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) in August at Goodwood, winning by six lengths in his start before the Juddmonte International.
Prior to the Champion Stakes, ten-time champion trainer Cecil, who is battling cancer, told Business Insider that it will be a sorrowful day when Frankel leaves his yard.
“I may be training for 30 more years, but it is very unlikely that I’ll get another one like that,” he said.