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Amazing Frankel takes Champion Stakes

ESPN staff
October 20, 2012 « Hardy to help St-Pierre prepare for Condit | Chartbeat test »
Sensational: Frankel made it 14 wins on the spin in the Champion Stakes and will now retire © Getty Images
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Frankel shrugged off all the pre-race concerns to make it 14 wins on the spin in the Champion Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot.

Connections were forced to walk the course before giving the unbeaten colt the green light to run. He was stepping into unknown territory of heavy ground, against rivals proven on the surface, but it mattered not one bit as Sir Henry Cecil's superstar cemented his status as the finest thoroughbred on the planet - and quite possibly of all time - with a workmanlike win over Cirrus Des Aigles.

Frankel, sent off as the 2/11 favourite, was applauded into the parade ring and despite the huge numbers he took it all in his stride and he was relaxed all the way through the preliminaries.

It was possible that he was too relaxed, as he was sleeping as the gates opened and surrendered a couple of lengths to his rivals. If the plan was for Frankel to track his stablemate Bullet Train, that went out of the window after two yards. Ian Mongan aboard Bullet Train was desperately looking over his shoulder to find Frankel but Tom Queally did not panic and settled on Plan B.

With the Cecil team having to change plan, Cirrus Des Aigles took up the running but it was not long before Bullet Train was harrying. Frankel elected to race wide and track Nathaniel.

As the field made their way towards the straight, Olivier Peslier sent Cirrus Des Aigles to the front. Nathaniel was under pressure, but Queally was travelling with authority aboard Frankel.

With Cirrus Des Aigles showing no signs of stopping it was clear Frankel would need to battle. But despite the concerns over the ground at the trip, Frankel drew alongside his main rival before pushing his nose in front - to the delight of the crowd who willed the superstar to the front.

Cirrus Des Aigles kept finding for Peslier but Frankel had more to give and forged one-and-three-quarter lengths to the good at the line - for a 14th career win - ten of which are Group Ones.

"He's just getting more and more relaxed as time goes on," Queally said. "He waited until the gates were open, then he was away.

He looked a lot better than he did 12 months ago on this day. He was so good today, even on that ground

"I was happy all the way, but there's no doubt he's better on better ground. His class showed today. You never see an F1 car win on anything but tarmac but for him to win on ground like that shows how special he is.

"I walked the track and I was a little worried about the conditions. Having walked it in the home straight I knew it wasn't too heavy for him to quicken up.

"You want every angle covered and everything in your favour, so in that respect there was always a little worry, but he was in great heart today and he looked a lot better than he did 12 months ago on this day. He was so good today, even on that ground."

It might not have been the most visually impressive display, but it was arguably up there with his finest wins and he will sign out on a tremendous high as Queally, who struggled to pull Frankel up after the race, took him past the stands twice to milk the applause before bringing his mount into the winners' enclosure to a quite amazing reception.

"He had a trouble-free passage, then it always looked like he was going to win," owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's racing manager Lord Teddy Grimthorpe said. "He had it under control in the straight. The crowd's reaction is great - the greatest for the greatest. He's the ultimate equine athlete. We've never seen anything like him. He has given us three sensational years."

In the aftermath of the race, Frankel's owner confirmed it was the colt's final race - with a career at stud beckoning.

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