Frankel puts on display worthy of glorious day
Cecil's wonder miler rules again as Soumillon seeks legal action in whip row, writes Sue Montgomery
Sunday 16 October 2011
After a week of controversy over one aspect of this sport, it was absolutely fitting that a representative of its most important component rose gloriously above any human ill-feeling and bickering. The horse is at the heart of it all and, right now, one horse in particular. Here yesterday, on the most valuable racing fixture ever held in this country, Frankel delivered a performance for the ages. A champion's day indeed.
With pleasing irony, Frankel is an athlete who barely needs to be touched with a whip, such is his superiority. Yesterday's effortless victory under Tom Queally in the £1 million Queen Elizabeth II Stakes brought his unbeaten roll to nine. He may be a one-trick pony – all his four Group 1 wins this year have been over a mile – but it is some darned fine trick.
And one fully appreciated by the 26,000 who witnessed the latest execution. There were cheers for Frankel and his trainer Sir Henry Cecil even before the race, as they came into the parade ring and the ovation at the business end started inside the final furlong, as the colt, having cut down his pacemaker Bullet Train at will, surged four lengths clear after two token reminders from Queally.
"He's used to catching Bullet Train and going past," the rider said. "It's what he does when he's working on the gallops. He knows to go when Tom says go and when I did today he was electric. I'd lost my bit of cover earlier than I'd have liked but he's now grown-up enough to know he didn't have to tear off like mad. I couldn't fault him at all."
Frankel, who carries the colours of his breeder, the Saudi Arabian prince Khalid Abdullah, was followed in by Excelebration and Immortal Verse, two top-class three-year-old milers in their own right, and the son of Galileo now has only the immortals Sea-Bird, Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel above him by the ratings bible Timeform.
He will get the chance to prove himself the best-ever next year, when he is due to expand his portfolio over further. "My only worry today was that his long season might have caught up with him," Cecil said. "We weren't really trying to catch pigeons, just get the job done. I'm now looking forward to having a winter over him and next year he'll get a mile and a quarter easily."
Frankel was the jewel in yesterday's crown, the inaugural British Champions Day, underwritten by the Qatari investment company Qipco. And there were other sights to delight both old racing lags and the hoped-for newcomers to the experience: the master class in riding from the front given by Jamie Spencer on Fame And Glory in the Long Distance Cup, coupled with the skill of trainer Aidan O'Brien in getting the five-year-old back to his Gold Cup-winning best; the confirmation of under-rated Oaks heroine Dancing Rain as one of the best of her sex in the Fillies and Mares Stakes; the continued upward mobility of Deacon Blues in the Sprint.
The tarnish came after the day's richest contest, the £1.3 million Champion Stakes. After Christophe Soumillon had produced French raider Cirrus Des Aigles for a perfectly-judged three-quarter length victory over So You Think and Snow Fairy to take the near £600,000 first prize, he was judged in breach of the controversial new rules over the use of the whip.
Soumillon was deemed to have hit Cirrus Des Aigles, who gave his trainer Corine Barade-Barbe her greatest success, six times in the final furlong, one more than now permitted. He picked up a five day-ban and lost his riding fee plus his percentage of the prize-money, some £52,000.
The rider was, understandably, furious, and in the heated aftermath announced his decision to challenge the punishment – in effect the greatest fine ever levied by Britain's racing authorities – in the European courts.
"I tried to count," said the Belgian, "but I could not see the marker; there were sponsors' poles by the rails. You can't do everything – look for the marker, look for other horses, count the times you use the whip and ride a finish.
"If I had hit the horse 10 or 11 times I would accept it, but for such a small thing it is not right. It would not happen in any other sport for such a small mistake. I will take a good lawyer and see what we can do."
The reward may not have been Soumillon's yesterday, but few could begrudge a first at the top level to Cirrus Des Aigles, who has being plying his trade in the best company for three years worldwide and is a fine flag-bearer for his small stable. "I knew he could do it," Barande-Barbe said, "and I trusted him. He has given me some marvellous adventures andas long as he likes racing he will continue to do it."
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