QIPCO Champion Stakes
Date | 20 Oct 2012
Course | Ascot
Age | 4
Distance | 10f
Going | Soft, heavy in places
Place | 1st
Winning margin | 1 3/4 lengths
2nd Cirrus Des Aigles
Racing Post analysis:
The Champion Stakes has had its share of surprise winners along with showcasing a number of champions; in fact Cirrus Des Aigles was a double-figure price when scoring in 2011. He was back to defend his title but the build-up to this keenly anticipated contest was all about FRANKEL, who was making his final appearance on the track and defending an unbeaten record stretching back 13 races. Faced with really testing ground for the first time and taking on a couple of top-notch performers, there were doubts earlier in the week about whether he would take part at all if the rain continued, but a dry night and a mild rainless day convinced connections that the colt should take his chance. Supporters´ confidence was boosted by the impressive victory of his habitual rival Excelebration in the preceding contest and the son of Galileo duly fulfilled his destiny.
The race was not without its complications though, as connections have done such a good job settling this formerly excitable individual that he missed the break quite significantly when the stalls opened. The result was his pacemaker was taken back to settle the pace and try to give him a lead. However, Frankel was soon travelling sweetly in behind the pace and, when produced in the straight, his rider was still sitting comfortably before asking him to go past his main market rival.
He picked up well when asked and soon had the French challenger´s measure, but the winning distance was not as spectacularly wide as in many of his races and he also received a rare smack with the whip behind the saddle. Those points should not detract from this success though, as Cirrus Des Aigles is a seriously good horse on any ground but has a spectacular record on heavy. It will be interesting to see what the handicappers make of this, and it is entirely feasible that they will use the runner-up as the guide, indicating that Frankel ran a little below his peak rating. What really matters though is that this colt is one of the all-time greats, and whether it is argued he should have been tried at 1m4f or not (or even dropped back to 6f for that matter), it is likely to be a good few years before we see his like again. Credit must go to Sir Henry Cecil and all his team, his sporting owner Khalid Abdulla and to jockey Tom Queally, who has handled the pressure and expectation this season in an admirably cool manner. The colt has developed a terrific temperament, which was evidenced by how he handled the scenes afterwards, and that bodes well for his future as a stallion, and he could ultimately prove a worthy successor to his prepotent sire in that department.
Cirrus Des Aigles, a very consistent gelding who won this race in 2011 and had since taken the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Prix Ganay and Prix Dollar, at 130 was officially the highest rated rival Frankel had encountered. Also he had an outstanding record on very soft or heavy, his record on heavy being 3-3 and all by eight lengths or more. Not averse to making the running, he went on when Bullet Train was taken back and then let that rival go past before taking it up early in the straight, but try as he might, when the winner drew alongside he could not resist. He is probably the best guide to the level of this form but conversely might have achieved a personal-best in defeat. He seems likely to be off on his travels and can win more good races, so could well be aimed at the Hong Kong Cup, and/or the Sheema Classic again.
Nathaniel ran Frankel to half a length on their respective debuts (his onlyrun on soft) but had gone on to win a King George in 2011 and an Eclipse in 2012; the only time he had previously finished out of the first two was when fifth in this race last season, when too keen early. He had been due to run in the Arc but missed that contest with a temperature although he appeared to run right up to his best here. Never far away, he challenged off the home turn but could not quite stay with the principals. It seems likely he will be retired to stud now,but could do really well if kept in training at five, with another King George and the Arc in mind.
Pastorius, the only 3yo in the line-up, is the winner of two German Group 1s, including the Deutsches Derby. However, his third to Danedream in theGrosser Preis von Baden indicated he had a bit to find with Nathaniel on a line through that filly, but he came into this 2-2 in Group races at this trip and had won on soft ground. Held up at the back, he ran on in the straight without threatening, but is the sort who could develop into a top international performer next season.
Master Of Hounds had won in Meydan early in the year and returned to action to win the Topkapi Trophy in Istanbul in September. However, both of those successes were a step down from this level, plus his best form had come on a sound surface and he had never encountered anything softer than good. It was no surprise he failed to make an impression.
Bullet Train, who has done pacemaking duties for his younger siblingfor the past year, seems best on a sound surface but proved amenable to restraint here after his stablemate´s tardy start, which helped set the race up.
QUOTES: Trainer Sir Henry Cecil of Frankel: "He´s the best I´ve ever had and the best I´ve ever seen. I´d be very surprised if there´s ever been better."
Khalid Abdullah said: "That is the end - he will retire."
Tom Queally said: "I´m so proud of him. It´s been an amazing journey and I can´t tell you what it means to be part of it. He was a bit slowly away at York and slow today, but I´ve so much belief in him. We lost a length, but that´s nothing to him."
Selected Media Articles
23 October 2012: Racing Post - The best there's ever been
(PDF file, 2.19 MB)
21 October 2012: Thoroughbred Daily News - An immaculate ending
(PDF file, 7.62 MB)
20 October 2012: Frankel wins the Champion Stakes and will retire unbeaten
20 October 2012: Frankel makes it 14 from 14 in Champion Stakes