Meet Frankel, the horse that kept legendary trainer Sir Henry Cecil alive through cancer, and arguably the best everJanuary 17, 2021
ONLY the true greats truly break the racing bubble.
Frankie Dettori, Desert Orchid, AP McCoy, Lester Piggot all make the cut. And of course, the mighty Frankel.
In tandem with his unequalled talent on the track, a run of 14 straight wins at the highest level in breathtaking fashion, Frankel was also credited with keeping his trainer Sir Henry Cecil alive.
Cecil’s visit to York to watch Frankel romp home in the Juddmonte International went down in folklore.
Barely able to walk or talk, Cecil was never going to miss out on Frankel’s emotional win despite the warnings from his doctors. The ‘three cheers for Henry’ brought many to tears.
And just seven months after Frankel – ‘the greatest ever’ – bowed out at Ascot, Cecil would sadly lose his battle with stomach cancer.
“That horse would have charged Henry's batteries through the difficult time he was facing,” said Jenny Pitman.
“When Frankel ran his last race in 2012, I felt it was inevitable that life was going to be even more difficult for Henry.
“We all need to have that carrot dangling in front of us and Frankel was that carrot.”
Even for Frankel to fall into Cecil’s hands was a miraculous story by itself.
In 2005, Cecil was at a career low. Fellow trainers questioned whether it was time to call it a day as the famous Warren Place yard sent out only 12 winners in a year.
But Prince Khalid Abdullah’s loyalty would soon be rewarded.
Frankel – named after late US trainer Bobby Frankel – began showing Cecil on the gallops that he might be the real deal in the summer of 2010.
He made his debut in a red-hot Newmarket maiden and saw off the brilliant Nathaniel by half-a-length. That was the closest a horse would get to Frankel. Ever.
By the end of his two-year-old season, Frankel was unbeaten in four starts and a Group 1 winner.
But it was his 2000 Guineas win in 2011 that truly announced Frankel to the world.
Bursting out the stalls at Newmarket, jockey Tom Queally was a passenger on a jet plane as the pair stormed clear.
At halfway the race was as good as over. It was a jaw-dropping performance. You had to watch it twice to truly believe it.
Queally and Frankel would make it seven heaven at Royal Ascot next time out, before beating his elders for the first time at Glorious Goodwood.
His three-year-old season ended with a four-length win of the highest order in the Champion Stakes back at Ascot.
Some would have been tempted to retire Frankel after that. But not Abdullah.
His love of racing meant the millions he would have brought in at stud were as good as ignored.
And it was Frankel’s four-year-old campaign that truly touched the heart.
Cecil’s stomach cancer was at its worst and the trainer had to miss his win at Glorious Goodwood that summer.
His wife Lady Jayne Cecil said: “He just loved his life, he loved horses and the people who worked with the horses. That helped him.
“Henry was very specific with his treatment. He used to try and get first, second and even third lot out on the gallops, and watch them, before going to hospital for chemotherapy.”
Frankel’s win at York was followed by his swansong at Ascot.
A racecourse rarely sees an atmosphere like it did that afternoon. And they were all there to see one horse, and one man.
Cecil could hardly raise a whisper due to his health but his horse did him proud and it was soon announced that that was the end of the fairytale.
No horse has ever matched him on the track. To this day he’s rated the best to ever grace the turf.
Cecil and Abdullah may have now left us, but Frankel remains.
At Abdullah’s Banstead Manor Stud, he continues the famous Juddmonte family lines charging £125,000 a visit.
Fittingly Frankel’s story is soon to be made into a film. Let’s hope it does Cecil and the horse justice.
A tall order indeed.
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