Frankel extends his winning run to 13 with victory at York
Frankel wins Juddmonte International in fine style
Wonder horse racing over 10 furlongs for the first time
Final race of career set for Royal Ascot in October
It happened at Royal Ascot. Now it has happened again at York. Any doubts over whether Frankel, rated the best racehorse in the world, would prove himself the master of the 10 furlong distance, as he has over eight furlongs, were dispelled Wednesday.
Frankel made one of the toughest fields he has ever faced look pedestrian, defeating Fahrr and St Nicholas Abbey by a widening seven lengths to win the Juddmonte International at the racecourse in the north of England and extend his unbeaten record to 13.
Frankel certainly cannot be said to suffer from triskaidekaphobia, a fear of the number 13. The first of his victories came on Friday 13th in August 2010.
That half-length victory over Nathaniel is the closest anyone has come to the great colt since. His biggest winning margin has been – you guessed it – 13 lengths.
The annual York meeting had long been turned into a one-horse race ever since Frankel’s trainer, Henry Cecil, targeted the Juddmonte for Frankel’s debut over the one mile and a quarter (2,000m) trip.
On Wednesday, fans lined every inch of rail from the parade ring to the starting gates to get a glimpse of the horse that may possibly represent the culmination of 300 years of selective breeding to create the ultimate equine athlete.
With the swagger of a superstar, Frankel emerged from the saddling area to a sea of pink and green (his owner, Khalid Abdullah’s racing colors).
Accompanied into the parade ring by a phalanx of policemen, the great colt looked far more relaxed than either his trainer or his jockey, Tom Queally.
The most interesting and compelling race of Frankel’s career to date was given more piquancy by the presence of Cecil, who was returning to the racetrack for the first time in months following ongoing treatment for cancer.
The Juddmonte International is something of a graveyard of champions; 11 out of 17 horses that have started as odds-on favorites here have been turned over.
Most famous of these was Brigadier Gerard. In the summer of 1972, Brigadier Gerard swept aside all comers in the same insouciant manner that Frankel does today.
But it was in this race 40 years ago that he suffered the only defeat of his career. In a massive upset, the 1972 Epsom Derby winner Roberto ran the race of his life to beat Brigadier Gerard by three lengths, smashing the course record in the process.
Frankel, starting the race at 10-1 on, suffered no such upset.
Despite losing a couple of lengths at the start, there were never any signs of panic from his jockey, a virtually motionless Queally.
Rival trainer Aiden O’Brien was determined, as ever, to halt Frankel’s seemingly inexorable progress toward perfection, making the task something of a tactical puzzle by his use of pacemakers to assist St Nicholas Abbey.
But an unruffled Frankel was content to settle towards the back of the field for the early part of the race, and all that remained was for Queally to pull the pin in his customary fashion with two furlongs to go. Frankel duly galloped into uncharted territory and into the history books.
Frankel has now surpassed the mark set by Rock of Gibraltar for consecutive Group One wins with eight.
The view of Frankel receding into the distance is one that the likes of top jockeys Frankie Dettori and Joseph O’Brien are already familiar with.
It is a sight that racing fans will have to accustom themselves to now that Frankel’s career looks to be following its inevitable trajectory toward the breeding shed.
With just one race left on his card – the Qipco Champions Day at Royal Ascot in October – the finest athlete to grace this sport is in the home stretch of his long gallop into immortality.