Royal Ascot: Frankel celebrates magnificent seven


14-18 June
Major races live on BBC TV, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 live; reports and live text commentaries on BBC Sport website

Frankel may not have produced the sort of unhindered procession which the Queen enjoys but in his own way, the colt demonstrated his enormous ability when winning at Royal Ascot.

"Put it this way, if the race was run in another half hour, he would have been ridden completely differently," said trainer Sir Henry Cecil after victory on the meeting's opening day.

The 10-times champion trainer let out a puff of his cheeks and raised his eyes towards the brim of his black top hat as if to say 'Phew' after the three-year-old held on by three quarters of a length to triumph in the St James's Palace Stakes.

Victory by less than a length for the 30-100 favourite was seen by some as an anti-climax, but unbeaten Frankel showed the quality of a champion - winning when you shouldn't.

When pacemaker and stablemate Rerouted surged clear early on, and no-one followed, Frankel's jockey Tom Queally had to play his hand. And he decided to twist, rather than stick, by sending his mount into the lead round the home turn.

A blistering turn of foot saw the favourite in happy isolation with two furlongs to go, and that is when the challengers started to close in, with 20-1 shot Zoffany in second and Excelebration third.

Cecil admitted after the race that he would have chosen more patient tactics if given the choice again.

"That was a bit nerve-wracking and it didn't go to plan. He is growing up but it just went a little bit wrong today," said the 68-year-old Newmarket trainer.

"He was nice and relaxed in the race and I don't think he needed the pacemaker.

"He looked as if he was going to win a bit more easily and I think that he thought that he had just done enough."

Some observers were critical of jockey Queally's ride, making his move with half the race still to go.

But the same jockey has been on top for every one of his magnificent seven wins, and not dissimilar tactics in his all-the-way victory in the 2,000 Guineas last time out was a wonder to behold.

Queally said he was in a tricky position as none of his rivals followed the pacemaker, and he felt forced into taking the lead.

"I had to make a decision to go when I did. He was running for a long way and was starting to get a little bit fed up with it in front - he does it so easily," said the 26-year-old Irishman.

Tom Queally on Frankel
Frankel's performance saw him maintain his unbeaten record

"He is growing up all the time. Everybody thinks that he can just jump and run but he is more versatile than people think.

"We have got options regarding tactics and he is still the one to beat at the moment. He's getting more professional with every run and he's starting to know he's good now.

"He was so good but he'd never had a race in his life before and been given anything to think about. He was the talking horse and many people's banker this week and he has obliged. I just wanted to do the horse justice."

Cecil said the horse was not tired but a "bit lazy" in front. The equine equivalent of taking your foot off the gas.

He revealed the colt was a hot-blooded male. So much so that sometime when he tries to put a blanket on him at night, Frankel shrugs it off.

Now, attention turns to whether the horse will stay at the mile trip, or be stepped up in distance, with either the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood or the Juddmonte International at York in August his next target.

"I think Frankel will stay further although obviously I'm not certain," said Cecil, hinting the Juddmonte over two furlongs further might suit.

Owner Khalid Abdulla sponsors the York race and has never won it, so that could help make the decision.

The Sussex Stakes at Goodwood over a mile would potentially see a clash with Canford Cliffs, the brilliant winner of the opening Queen Anne Stakes who was claiming victory at Royal Ascot for the third year on the trot.

Canford Cliffs beat 13-time Group One winner Goldikova by a length, although the runner-up's jockey Olivier Peslier made the cardinal sin of riding overweight.

He was actually 2lb over the required weight when he weighed in, having picked up the wrong riding boots after leaving the sauna.

The error earned him a £650 fine and the wrath of some punters, who felt the weight could have been crucial.

Trainer Freddie Head straight-batted questions about whether it made the difference. "What do you think?" was his answer to the question.

For some, it was a day for questioning jockeys, with the debate on Queally's ride continuing long into the night.

Former champion jockey Willie Carson, commentating for BBC TV, recognised a different strategy on Frankel may have produced a wider winning margin

"He is some sort of racehorse, this guy. We haven't seen the best of him yet," said Carson.

"I'm sure if they just held him up a little bit more, he is going to take off. He is a superstar.

"I think Tom could wait another two furlongs and his change of gear would still kill these horses and his winning distance would be bigger than it was today."

Frankel still posted a time that was less than a second outside the course record, and Cecil has plenty to look forward to.

The trainer is such a new knight that his trainer's badge said merely Henry Cecil, while his Royal Enclosure equivalent had the Sir in front.

His stable star might not have earned the moniker Sir Frankel just yet, but I reckon he has further honours to come.

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