Frankel swansong adds guts to the power and the glory

Cecil's champion retires unbeaten amid emotional scenes at Ascot. Chris McGrath reports

Now that the evidence is as finite as any offered for champions past, anyone trying to assess Frankel's relative standing must first separate his achievements from their sentimental context. But either process is surely as pointless as the other. No measurable quality will exalt Frankel in the memory, any more than Secretariat or Sea-Bird or Ribot or the rest. For how do you divorce the euphoria that suffused Ascot on Saturday from communal heartache on behalf of the ghostly genius who welcomed him back to the winner's enclosure for a final time? And how, sensibly, do you compare Frankel's performances – almost entirely within his own comfort zone – against benchmarks set with a greater sense of adventure? The answer, in both cases, is the same. You don't.

Sir Henry Cecil, as he contemplates renewing his fight against cancer without this precious daily succour, can be absolutely indulged his verdict after watching Frankel make it 14 wins from 14 starts in the Qipco Champion Stakes. "I cannot believe in the history of racing there has ever been a better horse," the trainer whispered, raising a cruel contrast between the loss of his own voice and the unfettered vigour with which Frankel had again expressed himself.

For anyone else, however, it is fatuous to pronounce that Frankel retires as "the greatest" thoroughbred in history. It is disrespectful not only to paragons whose claims are interred in flickering film footage, or in the recall of a diminishing few. It also gilds the poignant valedictions of Saturday with a needless veneer of privilege. For once, let us forgo the witless pursuit of a spectacle or occasion, and engage with a drama of the human spirit – whether through the fortitude of Cecil, or the relatively trivial aesthetic and emotional satisfactions Frankel has given the rest of us.

As Tom Queally rode him back along the enclosures on Saturday, hundreds of people sprinted down to the rail to cheer, the surge of their stippled faces resembling pebbles drawn back down the beach by a retreating wave. And there had been a corresponding quality – something primal and inexorable – to the way Frankel once again overwhelmed his rivals. This time, true, there was ebb as well as flow. Cecil has soothed his temperament so completely that Frankel seemed nearly drowsy, both in the preliminaries and in leaving the stalls. And after he eased alongside Cirrus Des Aigles, Queally for once needed to administer a crack of the whip to assert by just under two lengths.

In the end, then, we did learn a tiny bit more about the champion, even from a race entailing so little of the risk that had made alternative challenges – the Arc or Breeders' Cup – seem likely to shed more light on his proper place in the pantheon. Because you would not say he had much left in the tank, on this ground at least. But those who send their mares to Frankel in the spring will be gratified that he decorated his swansong with guts as well as glory.

There are no guarantees of Frankel as a stallion. Many top-class horses have proved relative duds at stud, and anyone who could afford either would be taking less of a chance with his own sire, Galileo, whose reputation has merely been sealed by Frankel. But if his connections disappointed some of us, in their reluctance to explore his full capacity on the racetrack, then nor will they permit incaution to infect the management of his next career. Though he will obviously start off with a handsome fee, Frankel's mates will not be named – or numbered – with anything in mind beyond a worthy legacy.

Suggested Topics
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam