Fabulous Frankel routs rivals

Royal Ascot opened with what may very well be the meeting’s defining moment as Frankel managed what many felt was his most impressive performance to date in the Queen Anne Stakes.

The surprise element of his explosive 2000 Guineas victory will be almost impossible to ever repeat but the world’s top racehorse has added another level of finesse to his formidable array of talents as he drew a staggering 11 lengths clear of Excelebration.

Only once, on his second start in a three-runner conditions race at Doncaster, has Frankel accumulated a greater winning distance.

Sent off at 1-10, Frankel settled perfectly for Tom Queally close to the head of the field as they progressed down the straight mile.

He was shadowed by second favourite Excelebration, a rival he had defeated four times before, most recently by five lengths in last month’s Lockinge Stakes.

Perhaps in his own way imploring trainer Henry Cecil and owner Prince Khalid Abdullah to provide different or more challenging opposition, Frankel handed Excelebration his fifth and most conclusive beating as he changed gears with two furlongs remaining and left his old sparring partner wondering where he went.

Now 11 from 11, Cecil suggested he will have four more starts before retirement beckons.

He said: “It’s a relief. Things need to go right and no horse is a certainty.

“He is a great, great horse and you needn’t ask me about him – you have seen him for yourselves so everyone can form their own opinions. I prepared him as well as I could and he couldn’t have done any more, so you be the judges.

“He did exactly what I thought he would but he is still improving and Tom said he is getting better.”

Quite where those next starts will be is up in the air.

Cecil, who reported a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup to be “unlikely”, said: “He looks as though he is going to stay a mile and a quarter and we’ll leave our options open.

“He’s in the Eclipse, the Sussex, the Juddmonte – which is important – and he will be in the two races here at the end of the year.

“Whether he comes back at five is entirely up to the Prince, I would think he’ll go to stud but I’m really lucky to have him.”

Queally said: “It was basically what everyone expected, so it’s great that he did it.

“It looks like he’s improving. He settled, he travelled, he got everything else off the bridle when I was still sitting there – he’s amazing.

“That’s his best performance. He ticked all the boxes, he did everything right. From my point of view he’s been flawless in the past but I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“It’s just a demolition again – he was awesome.”

Of the cowed Excelebration, trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “We were delighted with our horse but Frankel is unbelievable.

“We’ll look at the entries we’ve made, see how he is and then have a talk about it.”

Most Improved ran out a ready winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes.

The 9-1 chance suffered an early-season setback that ruled him out of the Craven Stakes and subsequently the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

He had no luck in running in the French Derby at Chantilly earlier this month, but he suffered no such trouble on this occasion in the hands of Kieren Fallon.

Always travelling strongly, the Brian Meehan-trained three-year-old ran to the lead in the home straight and kept tight to the rail.

Hermival and Gregorian came at him inside the final furlong, but Most Improved comfortably held the pair off to score by three-quarters of a length and a head.

Born To Sea came home well down the outside of the field to claim fourth, but Aidan O’Brien’s Irish 2,000 Guineas winner and favourite Power never threatened.

John Oxx conceded fourth-placed Born To Sea is simply not as good as his illustrious half-brother Sea The Stars and may drop him down in class for the Meld Stakes.

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