Frankel finishes race career unbeaten
Racing:Frankel, the world’s top-rated racehorse, won his final contest in majestic style on Saturday at the Champion Stakes to finish his stunning career unbeaten.
Frankel made it 14 out of 14 in three years of competition but he had to fight in the Ascot heavy going to wear down the tough French veteran Cirrus Des Aigles by one and three quarter-lengths with Nathaniel in third.
“He will retire today. He has run his last race,” said Saudi Arabian owner Prince Khalid Abdullah after Frankel and trainer Henry Cecil were given a standing ovation following the emotionally-charged victory.
Cecil, who has praised the horse for helping to sustain his battle against stomach cancer, told reporters: “He's the best I’ve ever had, the best I’ve ever seen.
“I cannot believe in the history of racing that there has ever been a better race horse,” he added in a voice barely above a whisper given his latest treatment.
Frankel missed the break coming out of the stalls and then was tucked in fourth by the unflappable Tom Queally but he pulled out to take the lead in the final furlong to land the glittering prize, to the ecstatic delight of the 35,000 racegoers.
Queally, unperturbed when Frankel exited the starting gate in last place, struggled to supply enough superlatives about the horse that has forever changed his life.
“What can I say about him? You never see a Formula One car win on anything but tarmac but he may argue that case a little,” said the Irishman.
“I walked the track and was worried about the conditions, but I knew the final straight wasn’t too heavy. He's getting more and more relaxed as time goes on. His class really showed today.”
Few fans would dispute his conclusion after watching Frankel, clearly ill at ease on the soft ground, fight his way past his five rivals despite concerns leading into the race about the conditions.
Prince Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe hailed the horse's unparalleled achievements.
“He is the greatest. He has brought a whole new generation of people to the sport. He is the ultimate equine athlete,” said Grimthorpe.
“I have never seen anything like it," he added of Frankel, who has amassed nearly three million pounds in prizemoney during his glittering career and is set to generate millions more as a stallion.
Before Frankel's victory Irish challengers swept all before them in the first four races on Britain's richest race meeting of the year.
Excelebration, who had been beaten five times by Frankel, finally got his moment in the spotlight when running out an impressive three-length winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes from Cityscape.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien, whose son Joseph rode the Group One winner, told reporters: “We are delighted. He has been working brilliantly and Joseph was very confident.”
Maarek won the sprint stakes for trainer David Nagle and jockey Jamie Spencer.
Dermot Weld supplied the other two Irish winners. Weld pulled off a superb training feat when 2010 Ascot Gold Cup winner Rite of Passage, off the track for 510 days with tendon problems, came back to win the Long Distance Cup by a neck. “That is one of my better efforts,” said Weld.
Just an hour later, he was back in the winner’s enclosure when Sapphire landed the Fillies and Mares’ Stakes to give him and stable jockey Pat Smullen a valuable double.
“Happy days,” said Weld, grinning from ear to ear. “Pat has been riding excellently all season and this is a very tough filly.”