There was doubt about his lining up at Ascot, but Frankel showed up and for the 14th time in 14 attempts – he delivered. The Qipco Champion Stakes will go down the record books as one of the narrowest victories of his career, but on ground that wasn’t ideal, it didn’t matter and if anything, added a few more thousand to his likely stud fee. After an indifferent start, the Henry Cecil trained superstar traveled well. The sticky ground blunted his famous turn of pace in the last couple of furlongs, but the underfoot conditions also took a lot out of his rivals. When the winning post came, he was one and three-quarter lengths clear of Cirrus Des Aigles.
There had been speculation that he might not be shipped off to stud just yet and kept in training for another campaign, but sober of the giddiness of another victory, owner, Khalid Abdullah confirmed that retirement was the plan. “That is the end – he will retire,” he party-pooped.
Jockey, Tom Queally was the pilot for all 14 of Frankel’s races and he paid tribute to the horse that earned him 10 of the least fussy Group 1 wins you’re ever likely to see. “I’m so proud of him. It’s been an amazing journey and I can’t tell you what it means to be part of it.”
With goals, comebacks and shocks, there was an excellent programme of highly entertaining Premier League matches on Saturday, but not for the first time, that’s not really what everyone is talking about. Jason Roberts, Joleon Lescott and Rio Ferdinand were among the players who opted against wearing a ‘Kick it Out’ campaign t-shirt in the pre-match warm up. The latter could face consequences for his decision however with Sir Alex Ferguson getting far more involved than seems necessary about his player’s choice.
“It’s embarrassing for me,” said Fergie in curiously pointed comments. The United manager confirmed “we’ll deal with it, don’t worry.” Sunday morning speculation suggests that ‘dealing with it’ will be a fine of two weeks wages for Ferdinand, an incendiary move that suggests more at work than simply Ferguson’s fervent support of the FA’s campaign.
With injuries becoming more frequent and Ferdinand less reliable than he once was, there is a suggestion of Fergie looking to nudge on of the club’s biggest earners out the door and the timely development of Jonny Evans would seem to suggest that’s not an implausible serious of events.
There is some football today and hopefully we’ll actually be talking about it by the end of the day. Sunderland host Newcastle in the Tyne-Weir derby at lunchtime and at 4pm, Everton travel to QPR in the hope of heaping more pressure on Mark Hughes.
Results in the Heineken Cup went largely as expected yesterday with wins for Leinster, Clermont and Harlequins, but things could be far less clear cut today with a group of tricky fixtures. It’s only round 2 of the pool stage, but already a lot of teams have almost no margin for error, most notably the European aristocrats of Munster and Leicester. Opening week defeats has heaped the pressure on both sides, but they’ll feel confident of getting a win on the board. They welcome Edinburgh and Ospreys respectively and both hosts are favoured to prevail.