Frankel sets Ascot alight
Racegoers left a sun-kissed opening day at Royal Ascot wondering whether they had just seen the best racehorse of all time after Frankel’s scintillating victory in the Queen Anne Stakes.
The five-day fixture erupted into life from flagfall when Frankel, now unbeaten after 11 races, delivered his show of strength under jockey Tom Queally.
The colt’s 11-length dismissal of Excelebration, who just resisted Side Glance for the runner-up berth, left an indelible impression on all who saw it.
It was a performance in keeping with a horse who ventured at Ascot with official endorsement as the world’s best racehorse. The question now is how much higher can he fly?
The Sir Henry Cecil-trained horse has already surpassed anything previously seen by employees of Timeform, the much-respected publication which assesses thoroughbred merit.
Soon after the race Timeform allocated Frankel a provisional rating of 147, which surpasses anything it is accorded in its 64-year history. And Frankel may yet better that rating.
“He is still improving,” Cecil maintained. “Tom (Queally) says he is getting better. He is getting stronger and learning to race properly. He is a great, great horse.”
Following his electrifying triumph, Frankel was walked along the length of Ascot’s giant grandstand for the benefit of appreciative fans.
There was barely any sweat on a horse which posted a time within one second of the track record on ground saturated by heavy rain on Saturday.
In the race itself Frankel was always well placed behind an even gallop dictated by his pacemaker, Bullet Train.
He moved through to lead approaching the two-furlong marker, with Excelebration in his slipstream, but one look at a motionless Queally underlined that Frankel had plenty more to offer.
When given his head, the bay son of multiple champion sire Galileo accelerated away from his pursuers with rare gusto.
“He has been flawless in the past but I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him today,” Queally said. “He is amazing.”
The margin of victory was more extravagant than that by which Frankel won last year’s Two Thousand Guineas.
Each of his 11 triumphs has been gained over one mile but the colt is due to race over a mile and a quarter — perhaps in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park next month.
“If the horse wants to go to Sandown, I’ll go,” Cecil said of Frankel. “It’s just a case of how he takes the race. He will tell me what to do next.”
Following Frankel’s remarkable triumph, the baton now passes to Australia’s sprinting sensation, Black Caviar, who bids to extend her own unbeaten streak to 22 in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.
Black Caviar’s compatriot, Ortensia, was fancied to win Royal Ascot’s other championship sprint, the King’s Stand Stakes.
But the six-year-old mare, who started joint favourite, failed to figure as Little Bridge plucked the prize for Hong Kong.
Trained by Danny Shum, Little Bridge was always prominent before he struck the front one furlong from the finish. Bated Breath tried hard to reel him in but the six-year-old proved too strong in prevailing by a ¾-length under Zac Purton.
“This is really good for Hong Kong racing as our horses have travelled abroad this year and fired a few blanks,” Purton said.
“It’s good to get one to hit the target.”
A rough renewal of the day’s feature race, the St James’s Palace Stakes, saw Most Improved slake Kieren Fallon’s six-year drought in British championship races. The three-year-old wrested the advantage from front-running Wrote approaching the final furlong and ran on too strongly for Hermival and Gregorian.
However, the race was marred when The Nile perished after he broke a leg three furlongs from the finish. Jockey Ryan Moore was unseated but unharmed; Moore subsequently rebounded to win the Ascot Stakes aboard Irish-trained Simenon.