I confess I never expected to see a better horse than Brigadier Gerard. Barring a miracle, I know I’ll not live long enough to see one better than Frankel.
In his usual understated manner, his trainer Sir Henry Cecil said: “He’s the best I have trained. He is the best I have ever seen. I’ll be very surprised if there’s even been better.”
And the great man is right.
For all I grew up worshipping Brigadier Gerard and Nijinsky, two truly great racehorses, yesterday’s win was final proof that we’ve never seen one as good as Frankel.
Some of you reading this, the younger punters among you, will live long enough to see another great. For my generation, those who grew up watching the thoroughbreds of the 1960’s and 1970’s, we simply know that we are lucky to have been alive to see a class act.
14 races, 14 wins. A statistic. But Frankel has been about so much more than that. What he has done for the great sport cannot be summed up with a number.
A sell out crowd at Ascot created one of the most electric atmospheres ever seen at a racecourse in England.
Jockey Tom Queally did say that he had concerns before the race at Ascot. He worried that the ground was too soft for Frankel. But then he walked down the straight part of the course and knew there was enough good ground for the great horse to win one last time.
Although coming out of the stalls slowly for the Champion Stakes, Frankel was soon up with the pace. As ever, when it mattered, he simply slipped into another gear and passed the best horse he has raced against, the classy French gelding Cirrus des Aigles.
For so much of the race Frankel was on the bridle, racing well within himself. Other jockeys were using their whips long before Queally pushed Frankel into full flight. In the end, on tacky turf, he won by a length and three quarters.
Queally said he kept Frankel going for a while after going past the winning post so that he could enjoy a hundred yards or so more racing.
For now Frankel has been retired and goes off to the Banstead Stud at Newmarket where, for around £100.000 a time, he will stand at stud.
For his sake. For his owners sake. For the sake of the mares that await him and their owners; I just hope he can perform with the same prowess at stud as he did on the racecourse.
If so, we can look forward to a son or daughter of Frankel emulating their father.