The beauty was in the simplicity, as Frankel earned his place on the short list of horses that will be remembered for as long as people breed and race thoroughbreds. There were only four runners for the Sussex Stakes, two of them the champions of their generation, and a quarter of a mile from the line there was a single, extraordinary burst of power that blew the race apart.
It required no points of reference, no sense of what has gone before, to appreciate Frankel’s brilliance as he extended his unbeaten record to eight races. Tom Queally, his jockey, kept it simple too, as he allowed Frankel to set a good gallop until halfway down the straight and then accelerated to such a speed that Canford Cliffs, his only serious opponent, was beaten in moments. Even when he had passed the post, five lengths in front of Canford Cliffs, Frankel’s gallop continued and Queally needed another quarter of a mile to pull him up. It will always stand on its own as one of the great racing performances.
Yet this was also the latest milestone in the quest to create the perfect racehorse which started when breeders first started to weave patterns with bloodlines three centuries ago. Then horses were part of the fabric of daily life on the land but even in a mechanical age a horse like Frankel is a reminder that the dream is still worth the pursuit.
Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel’s trainer, flicked through his personal memories from nearly 60 years on the turf as he waited for his colt to return to the winner’s enclosure. He mentioned Shergar and Blushing Groom but soon conceded that Frankel is “the best I’ve ever seen. I can’t go back to Tudor Minstrel and the days of match races but he’s the best in my lifetime.”
There is no definitive answer, of course, and Timeform, which has been assessing horses since 1948, still suggests that Frankel is 3lb inferior to its all-time champion, Sea Bird II. Frankel is only eight races into his career, however, and there is no reason to think, even after Wednesday’s performance, that he has reached the peak of his power.