Frankel turns on the turbo boost to thrill a full house at Goodwood
Cecil's wonder horse makes it 12 from 12 but will face his biggest challenge yet at York
Thursday 02 August 2012
There could be no more appropriate occasion for a superlative athletic performance than right now, whether on water, road or grass. Those here yesterday enjoyed all three: before racing, on a big screen opposite the grandstands, the gathering crowd saw Helen Glover and Heather Stanning take gold at Eton Dorney, and later cheered Bradley Wiggins home at Hampton Court. And in between, they had Frankel, who put up a golden performance to match any with the Olympic tag.
In the case of this magnificent four-year-old it is no longer what he does, more the way he does it. Yesterday's Sussex Stakes was his 12th victory from as many starts, he is currently the world's highest-rated racehorse, and he started at odds of 1-20. Victory was pretty much assured outside of the most freakish circumstances and no one, bar the highest of punting rollers, was going to get rich backing him.
But still the faithful – a full-house 25,000 of them – poured up the hill, just to be here, and see that. The thrill was not in the prospect of a close race – Frankel had just three rivals, including his own pacemaker – but in the anticipation of that moment when Tom Queally would ask his mount to engage the now-famous turbo boost that puts his rivals to the sword.
It came around a quarter of a mile from the finish, where the downhill stretch of the home straight starts to flatten out. And after Queally guided Frankel, who had been galloping with contemptuous ease, out of the slipstream of his Sir Henry Cecil stablemate Bullet Train and took aim at the winning post, a roar of approval and appreciation accompanied his glorious progress and every one of his powerful, floating strides.
He had an eased-down six lengths to spare over Farhh as he became the first horse to win the festival's Group One mile feature twice, in the process taking his top-level tally to eight and his earnings to more than £1.8m.
Queally acknowledged afterwards that his own task had not been unduly onerous. "Of course you go into every race treating the opposition with respect," he said, "but he had them cooked before halfway. All I had to do was slip him an inch of rein. You don't have to do too much on him – he's so competitive and has a will to win like no other horse I've ever ridden."
This year Frankel has started to shed the explosive, wooden-headed tendencies of his youth and is much more amenable to direction and instructions from the saddle. He was perfectly composed yesterday in the preliminaries and aftermath, despite the crucible of attention he created. He has matured not only physically but also mentally.
An older head on his mighty shoulders is one he will need for his next assignment. Yesterday he did what he does: again prove himself invincible over a mile. Next time his challenge will be to step up to 10 furlongs and, while that may also be within his comfort zone, it is uncharted territory.
Cecil, currently undergoing treatment for cancer, was not well enough to travel from Newmarket yesterday. But Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Frankel's owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah, confirmed that the next month's York International would be the target. The colt is already a 1-4 shot for the contest, sponsored by the Saudi prince's breeding operation, Juddmonte.
"His being settled and relaxed is going to be important for his future races," said Grimthorpe, "and today he was in a really good rhythm. Earlier in his career he was probably the one dictating what he would do, but now Tom has built a great affinity with him.
"Today will have been just what Henry was looking for. He was firm in his view that he wanted to use this race as a stepping stone to York and everything fell into place nicely."
After York, Frankel is likely to have just two more races, a warm-up – possibly reverting to a mile in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp – before his planned finale in the 10-furlong Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.
"Like everyone, we do have a pretty good idea of how good he is now," added Grimthorpe. "This is not the Pony Club – we're not trying to jump over every skittle – but we've never shied away from a challenge as we just want to give him the chance to show himself as the best."
If Frankel was perfect yesterday, so was one aspect of the performance that preceded his. Olympic Glory, named by his owner Julie Wood with just such a day and result in mind, swooped in the final strides to win the Vintage Stakes. And while there were perfectly sound reasons in the form book to pick the juvenile out as the winner, the bookmakers will have paid out those who chose him after watching Glover and Stanning just the same.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Saddler's Rock (3.15 Goodwood) Did superbly on ground judged too soft when a close third in the Ascot Gold Cup. Today's better surface will suit better and the drop in distance may help him settle.
Pilgrims Rest (2.15 Goodwood) Seen as his stable's second string, but is consistent and produced a solid effort last time to warrant at least each-way support.
One to watch
Circle Of Angels (Ian Williams) Had no luck in a hold-up ride when a beaten favourite at Pontefract on Sunday.
Where the money's going
Dungannon is 14-1 after the draw for tomorrow's Betfred Mile. Sponsors cut Excellent Guest to 10-1 from 16s.
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