Frankel bows out on high, Frankie hits low point

Frankel and his trainer Henry Cecil, the unbeaten colt and his cancer-stricken handler, gave racing rare front page headlines in 2012.

Italian jockey Frankie Dettori riding African Story after winning the Godolphin Mile at the Dubai World Cup on March 31, 2012. Dettori has been banned for six months for failing a dope test. He will be back in time for the blue riband of the turf, the Epsom Derby on June 1.

However, by year's end the sport was on the front pages for the wrong reasons as legendary jockey Frankie Dettori was banned for six months for failing a dope test.

While Dettori will be back in time for the blue riband of the turf, the Epsom Derby on June 1, Frankel will not but the performances he produced will be hard to eclipse.

Frankel, named after one of owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's former American trainers Bobby who died of cancer, carried on from where he left off last year, winning five Group One races to take him to 14 wins from 14 and nearly pound sterling3 million in prizemoney.

Cecil said Frankel's seven-length win in his penultimate race, the International Stakes at York in August, had taken 30 years off his life such was the joy he felt.

For many, the obvious way to crown Frankel as the greatest ever was to have a crack over a distance he had never raced before, 1.5 miles in Europe's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Cecil, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2011, decided to give it a miss with the 69-year-old dismissing the critics of that decision by saying "they have never sat on a horse".

Longchamp's loss was Ascot's gain as Cecil opted for the Champion Stakes on the appropriately named Champions Day with the raceday sold out within hours.

Soft going and then a stumble at the start augured ill for the final outcome.

However, Frankel, ridden as always by Tom Queally, used the roar of 40,000 racegoers as inspiration as they entered the home straight.

The duo had 1 3/4 lengths to spare over top class French runner Cirrus des Aigles and the cheers rang out and lasted so long that Frankel did an unheard of two rounds of the parade ring before he exited for the last time.

"I cannot believe in the history of racing that there has ever been a better racehorse," said Cecil, who insisted that he would not quit.

"The only retirement I'm doing is taking a well-earned holiday," he said.

Those hoping to see a new champion may not have to wait long as Dawn Approach, who won a perfect six from six in his two-year-old campaign, gave the Dubai-based Godolphin Operation a rare reason to smile.

Dawn Approach apart, Godolphin had a season largely to forget and it ended on a sour note when they ended their 18-year partnership with Dettori.

His positive dope test -- for an unspecified non-performance enhancing substance -- was not the final straw.

It was more that the Italian, weary of being reduced to second choice jockey, opted to ride bitter Godolphin's bitter rivals Coolmore Stud's Camelot in the Arc.

However, the yielding going, which would have probably done for Frankel's chances, failed to suit the Epsom and Irish Derby winner and he finished unplaced behind surprise French winner Solemia.

Truth be told it should have been Japan celebrating the prize they have sought for so long as Orfevre stormed from an unfavourable draw to lead in the straight only to inexplicably wander across to the rail and be overhauled in the final few metres.

"It looked like it was a dream unfolding but in the end it was a catastrophe, a nightmare," said Orfevre's distraught jockey Christophe Soumillon.

Orfevre got revenge of a sort six weeks later when Solemia finished down the field in the Japan Cup but once again he had to make do with second, this time behind crack Japanese filly Gentildonna.

While Orfevre may not have another chance to set the record straight in the Arc -- he will be five next year -- the Sei Ishizaka-trained filly looks the type to finally give Japan their moment of glory.

"It's (the Arc) every Japanese horseman's dream," Ishizaka said.

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Writer: AFP
Position: News agency