10 Years On | Frankel destroys top-class field at first Champions Day

Features | 8th October 2021

2021 marks the 10th year of QIPCO British Champions Day, the world class raceday was set alight by the mighty Frankel in its inaugural meeting.

Britain’s richest race day has played host to many true champions over the course of the last decade but none greater than the horse who starred at the inaugural meeting.

Frankel arrived at Ascot on that day ten years ago with a perfect record of eight wins in eight races. He left it having produced another imperious performance to land the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO).

Frankel at Champions Day 2011

The rivals

There was a stellar field assembled for the Group 1 mile contest. The prestigious prize had been won by some of the greatest names in Flat racing history. 

Brigadier Gerard, Kris, Warning and Dubai Millennium were all on the roll of honour when Frankel took on seven rivals attempting to add his name to the list.

Five of his rivals had already won Group 1 races. The previous year’s QEII hero Poet’s Voice returned to defend his crown, with French raider Immortal Verse making another trip to Ascot following her victory in the Coronation Stakes earlier in the season.

Dubawi Gold had finished runner‐up in the 2000 Guineas, behind Frankel, and the Irish version of the mile Classic, while Excelebration had landed the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp a month earlier.

Dick Turpin had been successful in Group 1s in France and Italy and, although Side Glance was yet to strike at the top level, he was to put that right later in his career in Australia. The field was completed by Frankel’s regular pacemaker, his half‐brother Bullet Train.

Frankel's Champions Day 2011 rivals
Poet's Voice (top left), Dubawi Gold (top right), Dick Turpin (bottom left), Excelebration (bottom right)

The race

Sir Henry Cecil had already guided Frankel, carrying the familiar green, white and pink silks of Prince Khalid Abdullah, to four Group 1 wins.

From his Dewhurst romp as a two‐year‐old, through his scarcely‐believable 2000 Guineas victory, St James’s Palace Stakes fright to his one‐sided Sussex Stakes dual with Canford Cliffs, it was blindingly obvious Frankel was one of the very best Flat racing had seen.

Despite Bullet Train setting a scorching gallop, jockey Tom Queally was still struggling to settle Frankel at the rear of the field. His pacemaker was four lengths clear with just over two furlongs to run but the crowd could see their hero was moving into position in effortless fashion.

As soon as Queally started to nudge along, Frankel used his huge stride to breeze past Bullet Train and stretch away for an easy win.

There was four lengths between him and Excelebration passing the Ascot winning post with another three‐and‐a‐half lengths back to third‐placed Immortal Verse.

It was a performance fitting of the first QIPCO Champions Day, an event made all the more memorable by Frankel’s devastating performance.

What happened next?

Excelebration, who was to make it three career Group 1 wins in the next year’s QEII Stakes, went on to chase home Frankel twice more, by ever‐increasing margins, the following season.

He was five‐lengths runner‐up in the Lockinge and was then left trailing by a gaping 11 lengths in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Dual Group 1‐winner Farhh also got a distant view of the champ’s rear‐end. First in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes and then the Juddmonte International at York, when Frankel stepped up to 1m2f for the first time.

The career of, perhaps, the greatest Flat horse of all time was drawing to a close but there was still time for a 10th Group 1 victory. His swansong was to come at QIPCO British Champions Day. Fittingly, it was in the QIPCO Champion Stakes.

Never has a race been better named as he signed off, unbeaten in 14 races, with defeat of prolific French star Cirrus Des Aigles. Nathaniel, the horse Frankel had beaten on his debut more than two years earlier, was back in third. A true champion of champions.