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
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
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

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?