Frankel will attract rather more attention the next time he appears than in this frenetic fortnight of sporting drama, but maintained his standing as the undisputed champion of his own discipline in the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
An end to an unbeaten streak of 11 was considered so unlikely the colt was the 1-20 favourite, even if the presence of Farhh in the four-strong field was supposed to provide Frankel with his biggest test this year.
Farhh had finished just behind Nathaniel in the Eclipse, and his conqueror had been within a nose of following up in the King George, but this bona-fide Group One performer was dismantled with ruthless efficiency. Frankel’s trainer Henry Cecil had instilled in Tom Queally a need to encourage the once-headstrong colt to be more settled, for when he steps beyond a mile, and it was a case of mission accomplished.
Queally sat behind the team’s pacemaker Bullet Train until the final two furlongs and was so encouraged by the feeling from beneath he allowed himself a nonchalant look between his legs to see where his only realistic rival was. In trouble, was Queally’s answer, and the majestic four-year-old was able to pull even further clear of Farhh than when he vanquished Canford Cliffs in the same event 12 months earlier as he stretched his winning margin to six lengths.
Neither of the other two men integral to this equine success story were present, as Cecil is avoiding potential infection after cancer treatment and owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah is in hospital with a back problem. However, the Prince’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe provided heartfelt words for both.
“We have all come into racing for these incredible, exceptional horses. We all want to enjoy him,” he said.
“Henry is just the most exceptional trainer. His re-emergence is one of the great sporting stories, full-stop. To come from where he’s come and back again is truly, truly remarkable and we couldn’t be luckier to have the horse in such good hands.
“The world-class trainers have that feel of a horse and Henry has a firm idea of where he’s going and what he wants to do. I think probably earlier it was Frankel saying what he wanted to do, but we’ve got to the stage now where it’s a combination and Tom has got him just beautifully.
“Prince Khalid has had a back operation and is recuperating from that in Los Angeles. I know he’ll have been watching. I think the glow from this performance will extend to both Warren Place and to downtown Beverley Hills.”
Queally insists there is no secret to handling the best horse he will ever sit on, and said: “You don’t have to ask him to do an awful lot. He puts distance between himself and the rest without doing anything major. Every moment spent on his back is a special moment and today was no different.”
Asked if he could be even better over 10 furlongs, Queally said: “I don’t know. How much better do you want him to get? He’s turning Group Ones into absolute processions. If he’s as good as he is now that should be good enough I’d say.”
That first 10-furlong assignment will come in the Juddmonte International at York on August 22 and Grimthorpe suggested racegoers will see Frankel three times more, at the most.
“Henry was firm in his view that he wanted to use this race as a stepping stone for the Juddmonte and everything fell into place nicely,” he said.
“He’s getting to be the finished article. I think it’s hugely exciting that he’s going to step up in trip, it’s a new challenge for him, it’s what everybody wants to see him do and he’s ready to do it. Obviously the two main races left for him are the Juddmonte and the Champion Stakes (at Ascot on October 20), but there are nearly two months between them and Henry may decide he should run in a race like the Moulin (at Longchamp September 16).”
Sheikh Mohammed had made a sporting decision to supplement Farhh and there were no excuses from his camp.
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: “We weren’t expecting to win but he’s run a good race. The winner was much too good, as we knew beforehand. We didn’t need to wait until the race to find that out. I don’t know where we’ll go next.”
Richard Fahey is of the same opinion, with Gabrial taking third. “The winner is a wonderful horse, I think the most incredible horse we’ve ever seen,” he said.
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