When Sir Henry Cecil saddles Frankel at Ascot ahead of the QIPCO Champion Stakes on Saturday (October 20), the poignancy of the moment will be far from lost on him.
While racing has celebrated the superstar colt for the past three seasons, his trainer has lived and breathed every step Frankel has taken along the way.
Cecil has masterminded the four-year-old’s glittering career – and done so, in recent times, while undergoing extensive treatment for cancer. And just as the master of Warren Place has been there for Frankel, so the horse – owned by staunch Cecil supporter Khalid Abdulla – has been there for him.
Cecil said: “I am so lucky to have been allocated Frankel to train. He has been an inspiration and challenge, which I really needed so badly.
“Through my illness, I feel that the help from my wife Jane and the determination to be there for Frankel has helped me so much to get through the season.”
Cecil is conscious to point out that the Frankel success story is far from being down to one man. It has been an outstanding team effort with one largely unsung hero, in particular – Frankel’s day-to-day exercise rider Shane Fetherstonhaugh.
He said: “What Frankel has achieved during the past year is outstanding but I would not like to take all the praise. There are a lot of people at Warren Place who have all played their part with Frankel and I really appreciate everyone’s efforts – not least Shane Fetherstonhaugh’s.
“This season, Shane has ridden Frankel entirely at home. I’ve managed his training schedule and preparation, but Shane has carried out the orders to perfection. So, perhaps, it could be said that we – Shane and I – have trained Frankel together!”
With 13 victories from 13 starts, Frankel has one more challenge to overcome and ensure that he takes his 100 per cent record into probable retirement.
This weekend at Ascot he will tackle the QIPCO Champion Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day. Cecil couldn’t be happier with his charge, who came through his last pre-race gallop on Tuesday in fine fettle.
Cecil said: “I was very pleased with Frankel’s final piece of work. He gives the impression that he is better than ever and still improving.
“I could not be happier with him. He seems full of himself and, considering the time of year, he is really good and healthy in his coat. He eats everything put in front of him.”
The one big unknown for Frankel is very testing underfoot conditions. The Galileo colt won on soft going on his debut at Newmarket in 2010 but has yet to be campaigned in bottomless ground.
He assessed: “I am pretty confident he will be fine in soft ground, but if it’s heavy we are in no-man’s land. He has never encountered it and, with his action and turn of foot, I cannot be sure that he would appreciate it. ”
Cecil is full of respect for Frankel’s key rivals – last year’s QIPCO Champion Stakes winner Cirrus des Aigles and 2011 King George hero Nathaniel.
He said: “It will be a far from easy race (for Frankel) with Cirrus Des Aigles and Nathaniel in the line-up. They are two good horses who will go in the ground and get the trip really well. They have to be really respected.”