Debate will continue to rage as to whether Frankel is the greatest racehorse of all time but the hundreds of thousands of racegoers who have watched him race over the last three years will simply feel immense gratitude that they were able to witness a supremely talented thoroughbred etch his name into the history books.
Frankel was perfect to the end, winning his 14th consecutive start, and 10th Group 1, in Saturday’s Champion Stakes on QIPCO British Champions’ Day. Never has there been a more appropriate winner of the race, and the undefeated champion was retired immediately after what had been widely predicted to be his final appearance on a racecourse.
Adding his own touch of drama to the race, Frankel dwelt in the stalls as his five rivals jumped briskly. An anxious Ian Mongan aboard his pacemaker Bullet Train made repeated glances over his shoulder but Tom Queally, who has been Frankel’s jockey throughout, remained calm as his ground-eating stride meant the odds-on favourite was quickly back in touch with the pack.
Lobbing easily through the early stages, Frankel cruised around the outside once in the straight but was made to work for his final victory with France’s mud-loving Cirrus Des Aigles, winner of the race last year, showing every intention of retaining his crown. Queally resorted to a rare tap with his stick to make sure his mount finished the job properly but such urging was not really required as Frankel left the French challenger trailing by a length and three-quarters to rapturous roars from the crowd.
While rumours had abounded at the previous week’s Tattersalls October Yearling Sale that Frankel may not after all be retired, his appearance on Newmarket Heath for a routine canter on Friday morning had hinted otherwise. After striding up Warren Hill, as ever with his brother Bullet Train, he was met by Sir Henry Cecil as he crossed the road for home and given a pat on the neck while Lady Jane Cecil captured the moment on camera. It was a gesture that said, ‘our work here is done’. The final touch came in glorious triumph on Saturday.