QIPCO CHAMPION STAKES (G1)
Ascot, Turf, 2012m
20 October 2012
He faced real adversity for the first time in his glory-strewn career yesterday, but Khalid Abdullah’s greatest gift to racing, Frankel (GB) (Galileo) duly overcame unfavorable testing ground and a blown start to sign off victorious in the G1 QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Long targeted at the £1.3-million race that could almost have been revamped with him in mind, the sell-out audience and millions glued to TV sets and the internet around the world were made to wait until late morning for him to be confirmed a definite runner after persistent rain in the week had turned the Berkshire turf to heavy in places. Memories of his blitz on Newmarket’s slick surface in last year’s 2000 Guineas led the mind to wonder if he could cope with a slog in these conditions, and the usual flood of cash was stemmed slightly to produce a starting price of 2-11.
As the clouds broke over Ascot in the build-up to this finale, the tension rose in parallel, and a final bout of showers on Thursday into Friday created a crucible in which his champion status would be challenged most acutely. Months of nurture and expert horsemanship saw him enter the buzzy parade ring with nonchalance, and that casual air saw him surrender a normally crucial margin of three lengths out of the stalls. Ian Mongan on Bullet Train (GB) (Sadler’s Wells) dropped anchor in front to allow Tom Queally to ease into the pack, which forced Olivier Peslier on Cirrus des Aigles, to take up the running after 1 1/2 furlongs, with Frankel coasting along in fourth. Bullet Train came back to pester the French raider and was in front again on the approach to the home turn, but by now his customary honest pace-setting role had been shot to pieces, and as Cirrus des Aigles took control with Peslier apparently full of horse at the top of the stretch, Frankel was still over two lengths down.
That deficit had been wiped out with the minimum of effort by the furlong marker, where Queally became animated for the first time, and after administering one slap with the whip with just over 100 yards left to race, immortality was sealed.
His rider, who has played no small part in the success story, was full of admiration afterwards. “I’m so proud of him and it’s been an amazing journey,” Queally commented. “I can’t tell you what it’s meant to be part of it. He’s just getting more and more relaxed as time goes on, and waited until the gates were open. He was slowly away at York, and he was slower today, but I’ve so much belief in the horse and in the past I’ve pushed that to the limit. We lost a length, but a length is nothing to him. He traveled through, and I suppose it’s fair to say that he’s better on better ground, but the turbo, 4x4, everything kicked in. It was pointless getting him on his head before I had to. We were in no rush today, the way the ground was. I was happy all the way and his class really showed today, as I walked the track and I was a little worried about the conditions. Having walked it in the home straight, I knew it wasn’t too heavy for him to quicken up and go about his business. You want every angle covered and everything in your favour, so in that respect there was always a little worry, but he was in great heart today, and he looked a lot better than he did 12 months ago on this day.”
On being Frankel’s jockey, he added, “There is pressure and there’s pressure in all walks of life, but I gladly take that on board. I could stay here all night and tell you what it means to me. The people at Warren Place are one huge family that have pulled together. I don’t get nervous because I’m close to it and I have control, but I can imagine what other people were feeling.” He concluded, “It’s only been a few years, but it’s been a long road and everybody that’s worked with him can take a bow.”
Juddmonte’s Racing Manager Lord Grimthorpe commented, “He’s wonderful - the greatest, isn’t he? He didn’t enjoy that ground as much as he normally does, but he got into a rhythm and was happy. He wasn’t pulling and had a straightforward, trouble-free passage. He had it under control in the straight, but that’s him. He’s brought a whole new generation of people to the sport, and he’s brought wider public recognition to the sport. He was something to savor, the ultimate equine athlete, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Khalid Abdullah announced Frankel’s immediate retirement, “That is the end,” he stated simply. It was left to Sir Henry Cecil to pay the ultimate tribute. “He is the best I’ve ever had and the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’d be surprised if there has ever been better.”
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News