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Life after Frankel: Can genetic 'lightning bolt' strike twice?

By Matt Majendie, for CNN
updated 8:56 AM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
A picture of record-breaking racehorse Frankel as he is today in his retirement by the <a href='www.mark-harvey.com' target='_blank'>artist Mark Harvey.</a>
A picture of record-breaking racehorse Frankel as he is today in his retirement by the artist Mark Harvey.
HIDE CAPTION
What now for wonder horse?
What now for wonder horse?
What now for wonder horse?
What now for wonder horse?
What now for wonder horse?
What now for wonder horse?
What now for wonder horse?
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It is 18 months since wonder horse Frankel retired from racing
  • Jockey Tom Queally admits he will never ride another like the "Usain Bolt of racing"
  • Queally has visited Frankel just once but has moved on, targeting wins not horses
  • Frankel's trainer Henry Cecil, who died last year, called him "the best I've ever seen"

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(CNN) -- How do you follow a phenomenon like Frankel?

It is 18 months in April since one of the greatest horses ever to grace the planet retired in a blaze of glory, with his 14th race win from 14 starts to take his career earnings just shy of £3 million ($5 million). It led to a rating of 147 from Timeform, making him the highest-rated horse since the records began.

His trainer Henry Cecil, who passed away last year following a battle with cancer, said of the horse with a top speed of 42 mph: "He's the best I've ever seen. I'd be very surprised if there's ever been a better horse."

Frankel was once described as a "lightning strike of genetics, which may not be repeated for 100 years."

Frankel: Super freak to super stud?
Frankel ends career in dramatic style

Jockey Tom Queally was on board for the duration of his career and likens him to the "Usain Bolt of horse racing."

"Really, you can compare him to any of the greats in any sport, in fact in any walk of life and that's him. He was just head and shoulders above everyone else."

Today, Frankel stands in a luxury stable at Banstead Manor Stud in southeast English county of Suffolk, fed and watered and walked out to breed with the world's fastest and most famous horses.

The world's wealthiest horse owners pay £125,000 ($210,000) for every impregnation, as they try to unearth the next Frankel. In his first season alone, he covered 133 mares.

Read: Frankel's million-dollar foal

Queally admits that part of him will be excited to get the opportunity to ride these offspring in future, but he is also under no illusions about the reality of life after Frankel.

Following that last race, he asked: "Everything's going to be an anticlimax after Frankel isn't it?" In reality, he knew the answer.

"No-one can compare to Frankel, no one will ever compare to him as every moment spent on his back was a special moment," the Irishman told CNN.

"There's different eras in different sports and inevitably people will always make comparisons. But I'm a realist, I know I won't ever ride a horse like that again. It'll be fun to ride his impact. I think we'll still see Frankel's impact on horse racing in that regard. I think he'd like the idea he's still making a mark."

Frankel's temperament is not quite like that of some of the great racehorses, who are often jittery, tetchy animals, highly sprung and highly strung. In contrast, Frankel has always been a fairly placid soul.

Fabulous Frankel wins again
The first filly of legendary racehorse Frankel runs around his new surroundings in Newmarket, England, just days after his birth. The first filly of legendary racehorse Frankel runs around his new surroundings in Newmarket, England, just days after his birth.
First glimpse of foal
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Frankel\'s new life Frankel's new life

But even a year and a half on from that moment he last delighted packed stands as he ripped up the turf at Ascot to win the Champions Stakes, Queally can still easily recall his majesty.

"He was just a superstar, pure and simple," says Queally. "He had an enormous amount of ability and he just dominated simply because he was far superior to everyone else. He had a lovely temperament and was just very professional in every way imaginable.

"He wasn't that easy to ride to start with -- he had a bit of a hold but he just got easier. I think part of it was down to his intelligence. He was such a quick learner and, by the end of it, I'd just push a button and he'd go. There was never once a time when I thought he'd lose."

Life after Frankel has changed markedly for Queally and those around him. After Cecil passed away, aged 70, Queally -- who had been the official jockey at the trainer's Warren Place stables in Newmarket -- has since opted to go freelance.

A once great team has dissipated but Frankel lives on, as does the memory of what he achieved. Queally's home is littered with memories of him, from the trophies to photographs of the pair's famous victories.

However, Queally has seen him just once since their final day in action together, but there remains an indelible bond between jockey and horse.

"I know it sounds strange but we got on well," he says. "I'd chat to him a lot when racing, trying to relax him or maybe just me.

"It seemed important as there was always such hype when we raced. I wouldn't say there was pressure as I was always happy on his back, and really I always knew the result."

But the issue for Queally is that he has achieved his career high, at least in terms of the absolute class of the horse that follows him. However, he now distances himself from that earlier "anticlimax" comment.

"There's an element of anticlimax in that they'll never be another one like him, but then there's two other parts," he explains. "One is that I was very lucky to have ridden him in the first place but the other thing is that I have other career goals.

"As a freelance rider, you hope to get some top rides. Basically how it works is my agent will get contacted about certain rides and then they get lined up. I still want to compete in the top races immaterial of who I'm riding, to win things like the Derby.

"I'm looking forward to that and, in some ways, winning the races and championships tops what's gone before."

However, one thing he is aware of is that should he ride another trailblazer of the track, the comparisons will inevitably come to the fore.

"I know that the first question I'll be asked about will always be Frankel," he says. "And I'm okay with that."

Read: Trainer Cecil loses cancer battle

Read: Frankel retires unbeaten

Read: Capturing greatness on canvas - Frankel

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

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