Fabulous Frankel lifts spirits at Ascot after difficult week for racing

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport at Ascot

In a week where the whip dominated racing's headlines, it was a horse who barely needs one that put a smile back on the sport's face.

The inaugural British Champions Day at Ascot offered £3m in prize money, the country's richest ever raceday, but the build-up was overshadowed by jockeys unhappy at new whip rules.

Riders had threatened to strike on Monday before talks were scheduled in an effort to resolve the dispute.

The controversy was temporarily set aside, however, as the world's top-rated racehorse Frankel once again demonstrated his class and dominance, and left you wondering if he will ever be beaten.

Jockey Tom Queally had little reason to strike the colt, trained by Sir Henry Cecil, as he coasted to a four-length win from Excelebration.

A ninth successive win in an unbeaten career was achieved as though it was a routine run on the gallops at Newmarket, not the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, worth £1m.

Seasoned observers said they could not remember a warmer reception as a sun-drenched crowd saluted him in the winner's enclosure.

"He's a fantastic horse, I'm very lucky to train him," said 10-time champion trainer Cecil.

"Considering he's had a long year, he was very relaxed and did everything asked of him. I'm looking forward to training him next year.

"He's really beginning to grow up now and I think after another winter you're really going to see a better horse next year - and he's pretty good as he is."

Frankel is likely to be stepped up to longer distances than a mile in 2012, and bookmakers rate him just a 3-1 chance to remain unbeaten next year.

"There's a lot to look forward to. It doesn't look like he's going to get beaten," said Queally.

"What a hell of a day and I'm glad it's worked out.

"I don't think I'll be on a horse like this again - it's a long shot anyway."

Such is Frankel's appeal that before the race a ripple of spontaneous applause went around the parade ring at his mere appearance.

There were more controversial ripples - perhaps inevitably concerning the whip - after the following race, however, as Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon lost the biggest purse a jockey has won in the UK for breaching the new regulations.

He struck Cirrus Des Aigles, the 12-1 winner of the £1.3m Champion Stakes, six times in the final furlong rather than the maximum permitted five.

The new rules mean he loses his percentage of prize money and riding fee, which amounts to about £50,000.

It seemed harsh on the rider, who is based in France and had not ridden under the new regime before Saturday.

"I tried to count but I couldn't see the board [final furlong marker]. You can't do everything. You can't look for the marker, look for other horses, count the times you use a whip and ride a finish," said the furious jockey.

"They would have to use a bell rather than a board to mark the final furlong.

"I can't accept it. The rules should be the same internationally - every jurisdiction has different rules. They don't in other sports - in rugby, the rules are the same worldwide."

On a day where Frankel continued to make his own rules, the new whip regulations remained a major talking point.