Frankel overcomes adversity in Champion Stakes: Retires with a 14 for 14 record
By Tom Krish
Late into Friday, there was doubt that Frankel may not run in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot. Berkshire had been experiencing spells of heavy rain. Rain stopped as Saturday dawned and stayed away as the day progressed. The sun took a peek now and then. The 30,000-plus fans at Ascot Racecourse could not have hoped for better conditions. It was perfect racing weather.
Frankel was hesitant as the field of six was let go in the mile and quarter Champion Stakes. The Sir Henry Cecil-trained four year-old was off, may be, three lengths as Cirrus Des Aigles led. Nathaniel was prominent and prompted the pace. Bullet Train, Frankel’s stablemate, lay third and Frankel moved up to be fourth after the first half mile. Bullet Train surged ahead at the halfway point and Cirrus Des Aigles, Nathaniel and Frankel followed. As the race took a serious turn straightening for home, Olivier Peslier struck first blood with Cirrus Des Aigles. Frankel had moved to the outside and into third. Nathaniel had nothing to give. With a little over a furlong left, Frankel cruised up to Cirrus Des Aigles and the race was put to bed in a matter of moments. All jockey Queally did was shake up Frankel. The son of Galileo asserted himself.
There was a roar as Frankel and Tom Queally paraded in front of the stands. The Queen was in the Royal box. According to the Racing Post, the Queen did as much as wave to acknowledge an incredible victory.
The winning margin was a length and three quarters. The time was two minutes 10.22 seconds on a soft (heavy in places) course. The race was worth 737,230 pounds to the winner. In third was Nathaniel, two and half lengths away from Cirrus Des Aigles. Frankel paid 3/10 on the tote.
Here are some wagering facts. Frankel was 2/9 in the betting ring. Some bookmakers offered a ‘betting without Frankel’ wager. Cirrus Des Aigles was the 4/6 favorite and Nathaniel was a 16/10 chance.
Prince Khalid Abdullah confirmed minutes after the Champion Stakes that Frankel had run his last race. Frankel’s value as a stallion is rated at a hundred million pounds.
Jockey Tom Queally, 28, began riding in 2000. He won his first race in April 2000. He won apprentice titles in Ireland and England. Queally was unstinting in his praise of his mount. “Frankel is getting more and more relaxed as time goes on. He just settled until the gates opened today. There is no doubt that he’s better on better ground but his class showed today,” Queally said.
Referring to the soft course, jockey Queally explained, “I walked the track and was a little worried about the conditions. It is always a concern, you want every angle covered. Frankel was in great heart today.”
Sir Henry Cecil, knighted for his contribution to horse racing in 2011, is 69. He has been Britain’s champion trainer 10 times. He is based at Warren Place in Newmarket. He began training in 1969. He has won 36 European Classics and 25 of them have come in England. Sir Cecil has won 75 races at the Royal Ascot meeting.
Talking about his impressions of Frankel’s win, Sir Cecil stated, “he was laboring and not happy on the ground but was relaxed. He had plenty in hand at the end. I cannot believe in the history of racing that there has ever been a better racehorse. I have enjoyed every moment of training him although it has been slightly stressful at times. He is the best I have ever had and the best I have ever seen.”
Now a word or two about Prince Khalid Abdullah. He likes to be called K Abdullah. He is 75 years old. He heads a conglomerate, the Mawarid Group, in Saudi Arabia. He got his first winner at Windsor in May 1979. He is the only current figure to have owned or bred winners of all five British Classics. He owned Dancing Brave. His horses in America were trained by Bobby Frankel.
Vicki De Sousa drove me to Ascot from Newmarket and back. It is a two-hour trip. Sarah, who works as manager for the David O’Mara stable, came with us. After the races, we had a glass of champagne and let the traffic clear. Silvestre rode at Catterick and he had two winners there.
Silvestre flies to Germany early Sunday to ride in a Group race at Baden Baden. I take a plane to Chicago soon after. This has been an exceptionally good visit. Toronto is my next stop next weekend for the Breeders’ Crown, harness racing’s biggest event at Woodbine. Two weeks from now, it is on to Los Angeles for the Breeders’ Cup races on November 2 and 3.
I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Vicki and Silvestre de Sousa. They have been great hosts. Ryan, their son, is a bundle of joy.