Frankel to bow out in Champion style

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 2:21am


Frankel has given legendary English trainer Henry Cecil great pleasure over the past three seasons and Cecil will be hoping he gives him one final memorable moment.

For Frankel - named after another of owner Khalid bin Abdullah's trainers, American great Bobby Frankel who died of cancer - will put his perfect record of 13 wins from 13 starts on the line in the Champion Stakes at Ascot tomorrow, a course where Cecil has experienced some of his greatest moments.

However, with the 69-year-old battling against the stomach cancer that his twin brother David died of in 2000, the stage is set for a fairytale ending.

Cecil admitted Frankel has taken his mind off his health worries such has been his brilliance.

"He is definitely the best horse I have ever seen," said Cecil. "His win in the International Stakes at York [in August] made me feel 20 years younger! The International was a day that we, at Warren Place Stables, will never forget.

"Frankel did everything right. He behaved beautifully and seemed to get the trip really well. The outcome was a tremendous relief to me and, if there was anyone who doubted him in any way, surely their thoughts were put to rest."

The ease with which Frankel won The International at his first attempt over 2,000 metres had many hoping Cecil would take the risk of upping him a further 400m and running him in Europe's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

However, a mixture of his frailness and his historic reluctance to race abroad - although he has enjoyed success in Europe and the United States - combined to rule that out and, given the testing ground that day, it was a shrewd decision.

Frankel will face a higher-class field in the Champion Stakes than he did at York, as it will be the last chance for anyone to come away and say they beat the mighty horse.

Chief among them will be Cirrus Des Aigles, who will bid to win the race for a second successive year. The six-year-old may not be the aristocrat Frankel is in terms of breeding and no stud career beckons, but his nine lengths win in the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend suggests he will not surrender his Champion Stakes title easily.

While Frankel is by the champion flat sire Galileo, Cirrus des Aigles is by Even Top, who is best known for producing talented horses over the jumps.

Despite these differences, Cirrus Des Aigles - who has raced three times at the Hong Kong international meeting in December for two fifths and a seventh - has proved on the racetrack that natural talent can overcome any perceived deficiencies and with the natural horsemanship of trainer Corine Barande-Barbe he has got better with age.

"He is a real battler, never knows when he is beaten but does occasionally need a reminder so he doesn't lose concentration," said Christophe Soumillon.

Soumillon, though, will not be on him tomorrow with Olivier Peslier having replaced him this season. Last time out he guided him to a nine-length demolition of a quality field in the Group Two Prix Dollar earlier this month.

What was more impressive was that it was his first race for five months after having been disqualified from second place in the Group One Prix d'Ispahan for testing positive for an unspecified banned substance and then laid low by injury.

However, win or lose, Frankel is all but certain to be retired and sent to one of Abdullah's European studs for a lucrative career as a stallion but, as for Cecil's future, question marks remain.

Cecil himself insists talk of retirement is nonsense - indeed he has had bloodstock agents buying yearlings for him this past week at Newmarket - as he laconically remarked earlier this month.

"I'm all right, and the only retirement I'm going to do is to have a good holiday," he said.

However, all will depend on how successful his battle with cancer is this time round and the phrase used by Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe regarding Frankel is as apt for Cecil.

"The best time to leave a party is when you least want to go," he said.

And what better time to leave it than after the stable star's 14th win at Ascot.