Frankel the great reigns at Royal Ascot
ROYAL ASCOT 2012: 19-23 June
- Race times:
- 1430 - 1735 BST
- 1345-1520 BBC One, 1520-1715 BBC Two (Tue- Fri, 1735 race on red button), 1420-1645 BBC One (Sat, 1700/1735 races on red button); More coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live; TV races live on BBC Sport website for UK users
First there was the Queen, and then came the King.
Just 20 minutes after the monarch's procession down the track at Royal Ascot in Diamond Jubilee year, the world's top-rated racehorse Frankel produced a procession of his own.
Seasoned observers looked on in disbelief as the brilliant unbeaten colt clocked up his 11th straight victory by 11 lengths.
This was a performance to treasure. Not so much a race, but a display of jaw-dropping horsepower as he accelerated from the halfway point of the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes and went further clear.
Queen Anne founded Ascot racecourse in 1711, and there can have been few more majestic winners in the 301 years since.
Between three furlongs and two furlongs out, he covered that distance of an eighth of a mile (200 metres) in 10.58 seconds, reaching a top speed of 42.53 miles per hour on good to soft ground. And he even lost a shoe in the process.
No-one can recall a horse being sent off at this meeting at odds as short as 1-10, but the Sir Henry Cecil-trained colt justified the confidence.
Former BBC racing commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan told BBC presenter Clare Balding the performance was "extra-terrestrial" while the Prince of Wales called it "unbelievable".
Jockey Tom Queally, who has partnered the colt in all his runs, said: "He ticked all of the boxes today. He did everything correct, everything right. He has been flawless in the past but I couldn't have asked for any more today."
Frankel marked himself out as a special horse when cruising to victory in the 2,000 Guineas in May of last year.
After his seventh Group One victory at the highest level, he is now likely to be stepped up in distance from a mile later in the season.
Excelebration, a high-quality performer in his own right, was finishing runner-up to the winner for the fifth time and the frightening thing for Frankel's rivals is he appears to be improving.
But catch him while you can as the four-year-old may only race up to four times again before heading to stud for a breeding career where his value has been estimated at £100m.
"He is definitely getting better and he will get a mile and a quarter in time. He will tell us what to do. He keeps going when other horses don't," said Cecil.
"This will be his last year - it is a question of whether he has another three races or four."
The first options appear to be the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown over a mile and a quarter at Sandown (7 July) and the mile-long Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood (1 August).
He may also run in the Juddmonte International at York (23 August) before a possible swansong back at Ascot in the Champion Stakes (20 October), both over the further distance.
Frankel's owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abdulla, who sponsors the York race, missed the Ascot contest as he was attending a funeral in Saudi Arabia.
His racing manager Lord Grimthorpe said: "The prince is so sad not to be here, but he will be unbelievably proud."
Much of the pre-meeting headlines have been grabbed by record-breaking Australian mare Black Caviar, who is unbeaten in 21 races, and runs in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs on Saturday.
Despite the bait of a £1m purse, Black Caviar - rated second in the world - will not race at Goodwood, and the two look unlikely to meet on the track.
"Black Caviar is exceptional. They are both champions in their own right. One's a sprinter and one's a miler coming on to be a middle-distance horse. You can't compare them. They are both champions," said 10-time champion trainer Cecil.
It was a 74th Royal Ascot victory, and perhaps the most stylish, for the dapper Cecil, who has battled stomach cancer for several years and still has chemotherapy.
In Frankel, who now boasts his own range of merchandise such as T-shirts and caps, he appears to have something of a soulmate.
"This is very good for everybody and the horse has been a great help to me," said the 69-year-old Newmarket trainer.
"He has a lot of followers and it would have been sad had he been beaten. People from outside racing have latched on to him."
Victory earned Frankel a provisional mark of 147 from Timeform, the highest rating in the organisation's 64-year history and above racing greats like Sea Bird II, Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel.
Former champion jockey Willie Carson says Frankel is the greatest racehorse he has seen.
"I think he is the best. At the moment, he just looks unbeatable," he said.
"His stride is longer than other horses and you don't actually see him quicken - he seems to do it all so effortlessly."
Frankel is the proverbial talking horse who has done his talking on the track. So if he could speak, what would he make of it all?
"I think he would say to himself: 'It's been a good day," said Cecil, with typical understatement.