The superlatives were reinforced here on a day that provided a fitting end to an era. The unbeaten two-year-old Frankel won the Dewhurst Stakes by clear daylight, ensuring he will go into winter quarters as one of the highest-rated juveniles and hottest ante-post 2,000 Guineas favourites in a generation.
His is a brilliant, precocious talent but an enduring genius also glittered in yesterday's autumn sun; his trainer,Henry Cecil, for more than a generation a public icon, followed up with Twice Over in the other Group One, the Champion Stakes.
Frankel's 10-length demolition of the opposition on his previous outing, plus displays on the gallops that, reportedly, would have put Pegasus to shame, ensured that he swept to his sternest test on a wave of hype, starting odds-on against two other unbeaten colts. The fact that the pair, Dream Ahead and Saamidd, under-performed brought a sense of anticlimax but Frankel was impressive, winning in spite of the way the race panned out, rather than because of it.
The Galileo colt has a tendency to be headstrong – he wears a special noseband to help counteract it – and rider Tom Queally was careful to keep him calm in the preliminaries, letting him canter gently crabwise to the seven-furlong start. But one stride into the race, Frankel was bumped by a rival and his blue touchpaper started to smoulder. The Ballydoyle representative, Roderic O'Connor, set a decent enough gallop, but Queally had his hands full and was glad when he was able to release the brake.
The moment came three furlongs out, as Frankel moved smoothly into contention. He tackled Roderic O'Connor a furlong from the line and, despite veering slightly, powered two- and-a-quarter lengths clear. And although, on ground loosened on top by rain, he was having to produce a gallop, in contrast to his previous effortless floats, he came home in a time quicker than older horses in the previous race.
"We had worked hard to get him relaxed at home," said Queally, "but that bump leaving the stalls set him alight and undid all the good work. And they weren't really going fast enough for him early. But he has so much talent in reserve that he can win anyway. And it was as comfortable a win at that level as you're going to get; I just needed to push him out with hands and heels, didn't need to give him a slap at any point."
Frankel, owned and bred by Khalid Abdullah, is as short as 4-5 favourite for next year's Guineas and though delighted with his charge and relishing his promise for the future, Cecil is counting no chickens.
"I've never had a two-year-old like him, the way he works at home," he said. "He seems to have a sixth gear he can slip into if he needs it. He's done it at the top level on the track, and done it very well, and he's very much the type to train on as a three-year-old and I hope he'll make a Guineas horse. But let's get him through the winter first."
Frankel's perceived rivals, Dream Ahead and Saamidd, finished fifth and last of the six runners. Neither, apparently, coped with the ground conditions.
It is said that a good horse cannot have a bad name, and Frankel has one of the best, that of Bobby Frankel, who handled Abdullah's horses in the States before his death from cancer nearly a year ago. Twice Over, who runs in the same colours, undoubtedly has an appropriate name, given his trainer's resurrection and his second successive Champion Stakes victory. Queally was in the saddle once more, overhauling Debussy and repelling Vision d'Etat for a length- and-a-quarter success.
"My job is easy," said the rider, "all I have to do is steer him round."
For all Frankel's promise, Cecil reserves his affection for the five-year-old, who has now been covering himself with credit in elite company for three seasons and has next year's Dubai World Cup pencilled in.
"He's tough, he's brave," said Cecil, "and he's my favourite horse."
Twice Over's victory brought 133 years of history to a close. Next year the Champion Stakes will have moved to Ascot as part of a marketeers' remodelling of the autumn programme that will pair two similar contests at each venue on the same day, rather like running the Olympic 100 and 200 metres as successive races. Delight in yesterday's results was tempered with sadness and incomprehension.