Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

All hail Frankel, the king of Royal Ascot

Tom Queally rides Frankel to victory in the Queen Anne Stakes on the first day of Royal Ascot

After the customary rituals of debriefing and congratulation, the course announcer intoned the standard formula to clear the unsaddling enclosure: “Horses away, horses away.”

The placed runners were dutifully led off, but Frankel himself lingered for more photographs alongside trainer, Sir Henry Cecil.

It was as though he were awaiting some less generic category. For in surpassing even his 10 previous wins, with an astonishing 11-length annihilation of his rivals in the first race of this year's Royal Ascot, Frankel had potentially isolated himself as the apex of 300 years in thoroughbred eugenics.

“He's not normal,” Sir Peter O'Sullevan pronounced. “He's extraterrestrial.”

The nonagenarian described many great winners here, during his long career as a BBC commentator. Doubtless he wondered how even Black Caviar, Australia's own unbeaten phenomenon, could redeem the rest of the meeting's five days from anticlimax.

Within an hour, two more Group One prizes had been claimed — one by adventurers from Hong Kong, with Little Bridge; another, his first on British soil since 2006, by Kieren Fallon on Most Improved.

But Frankel demeaned even these romances. He asked to be measured only against the immeasurable, against spectral ancestors or paragons unborn.

It is now time, admittedly, to explore new dimensions of his supremacy in the here and now. In the Queen Anne Stakes, after all, he beat a rival he had bludgeoned four times already over a mile, the hapless Excelebration.

This time, however, he so extended the margin between them that he still contrived dramatic new ground. Settled behind his pacemaker by Tom Queally, Frankel was angled wide approaching two furlongs out and bounded clear with almost primeval energy.

It took another three furlongs for Queally to pull him up. This was not so much a horse, as the epitome of his breed.

This was Horse.Timeform, the respected ratings organisation, provisionally anointed his display as the best in their 64-year history.

Cecil dismissed all pretensions to science as too clumsy. “To me, it's all double Dutch,” he said. “I don't understand how you can compare horses from different generations, different countries, different distances.

“People have seen him and they can judge for themselves. I'll leave all that to everyone else. But I know what I think.”

Cecil plainly cherishes Frankel as some kind of mysterious, enchanted reward for the way he has purged his spirit of its own, accompanying poisons.

He expressed due gratitude to the patron who never failed him, even in the darkest days. Prince Khalid Abdullah was at a funeral yesterday in Saudi Arabia and would lose The Nile in a horrible fall later on the card, but Cecil suspects the prince's decision to keep Frankel in training could yield greater dividends yet.

“I think he's still improving,” he said. “He will definitely stay a mile and a quarter, but I'll let him tell me when to try it. I won't tell him. He's in charge.”

He did raise the possibility that Frankel might take that step into the unknown as soon as the Coral Eclipse Stakes, a fortnight on Saturday. But the more likely option is the Juddmonte International, at York in August.

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