10/13/2011 4:02PM

Ascot: Frankel a model of perfection going into QE II


Frankel, Europe’s latest superstar, makes the final start of his 3-year-old season Saturday at Ascot in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. If the horse can deliver a performance to match his halo of hype, he will end 2011 the same way he started it, undefeated and revered.

Frankel is one of eight horses entered in the QE II, a one-mile race sitting at the center of Qipco Champions Day, England’s newly formed and exceedingly lucrative season-ending day of top-class stakes racing. The QE II is worth almost $1.6 million, and has as a major companion race the Champion Stakes, which formerly was run at Newmarket. First post for the Ascot card is at 8:50 a.m. Eastern, with the QE II scheduled for 10:35. The races will be streamed live at www.drf.com.

Frankel, bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Henry Cecil, won all four of his starts during a championship 2-year-old season, and has won four more this year at 3. After Frankel won the English 2000 Guineas by six lengths, Cecil elected to skip the longer classic races with the brilliant Galileo colt and instead focus on the major one-mile prizes in Great Britain. Frankel got a scare June 15 in the St. James’s Palace Stakes, where, after an unorthodox early move to the lead, he nearly was run down by the inferior colt Zoffany. But Frankel soon squelched the thought he was merely mortal, crushing Canford Cliffs, Europe’s top older miler at the time, by five lengths in the Sussex Stakes.

Put away since the Sussex, Frankel swings back into action Saturday over the same Old Mile course where he was tested by Zoffany. The QE II will be run around one right-handed turn, the course nearly all uphill until the final eighth of a mile. Frankel, who will be aided by a pacemaker named Bullet Train, has, according to his trainer, thrived in recent training, and may not yet have hit peak form.

“Frankel is still an improving horse,” Cecil said in a posting on his website, adding that the colt “has grown up a lot and has improved physically.”

As the world’s top-rated horse, Frankel at his best might not be beatable, but two of his rivals, Immortal Verse and Excelebration, might make him work. Immortal Verse, a 3-year-old France-based filly, has blossomed into an excellent miler in her own right over the course of this season. In June, racing over Ascot’s straight-course mile, she moved from last to first with little apparent effort in the way to a 2 1//4-length win in the Group 1 Coronation Cup. And in her most recent start, the Jacque le Marois, a straight-course mile at Deauville, she rather handily outfinished runner-up Goldkivova, winning by one length.

Excelebration proved no match for Frankel in the St. James’s Palace, but appears to have improved since that race. He was a powerful winner of the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury before winning the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp over a solid group on Sept. 11.