Top entertainers are encouraged to “always leave them wanting more” and it can be the same for some of our greatest equine friends, especially on Qipco British Champions Day.
The meeting offers the opportunity of crowning glory with its four richly endowed Group One races. But it can also bring parting gifts, with many top horses having their final races.
It could be the same this weekend. Magical, Stradivarius, Palace Pier, One Master, Dame Malliot, Circus Maximus, Nazeef . . . who knows if there is where the curtain falls.
Below are among ten horses who thrilled us on Champions Day, but who never ran again. Star Catcher and Donjuant Triumphant, both winners last year before bowing out, might easily have been added.
If you want to be remembered as the greatest thoroughbred there has been, then you cannot afford any stains on your record. Frankel stuck to the script in 2012 by making it a perfect 14 wins from 14 races with a decisive victory in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. Cue delirious scenes in the winner’s enclosure as a sell-out crowd sought one final look at the giant of the turf before he walked off a racecourse for a final time.
Six years after Frankel bowed out, it was time for his son, Cracksman, to do the same. Absent for more than four months after as surprise defeat in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and equipped with first-time blinkers (his trainer felt the colt’s mind was already turning to stallion duties), some were willing to take him on. But Cracksman left his fan club with a final treat, dishing out a six-length drubbing to Crystal Ocean.
Muhaarar had won three successive Group One races en route to the Sprint on Champions Day – the Commonwealth Cup, July Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest – and, as the best son of Oasis Dream, Ascot was always going to his final dance. He had been off ten weeks and was racing on the slowest ground he had encountered all season, but it mattered not a jot as he flew home by two lengths under Paul Hanagan.
Noble Mission’s final season in 2014 turned into a fabulous European tour. After warm-up wins in England, the full brother of Frankel won Group One races in Ireland and France before a near-miss in Germany. His curtain-closer was back on home soil and he saved the best for last as he edged out Al Kazeem by a neck in the Champion Stakes after a pulsating duel.
Farhh spent the 2012 season in the shadow of Frankel and the decision to keep him in training at five was laced with frustration because after winning the Lockinge on his return he fell off the radar for five months before turning up for Champions day. Bandaged all round, he resembled a boxer whose last sparring session had not quite gone to plan but he pulled out all the stops to floor Cirrus Des Aigles by a neck with Derby winner Rule The World a half-length further back in third.
6 CHARM SPIRIT
The French-trained colt had finished fifth in the 2000 Guineas on his previous visit to Britain (Night Of Thunder, Kingman and Australia were the first three home) before gaining Group One wns in the Prix Jean Prat and Prix du Moulin back on home soil. His connections felt he still had unfinished business in Britain and they were right as he returned for a final flourish in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, turning the tables on Night Of Thunder.
Deacon Blue the band (who took their name from the Steely Dan song Deacon Blues in the 1970s) are still going strong 35 years after forming but Deacon Blues, the horse, bowed out, aged 4, after winning the first running of the Sprint, when it held Group 2 status, in smooth style in 2011. As a gelding, it seemed Deacon Blues might light up the sprinting division for years to come but an injury the following season meant he never raced again.
Fears that last year’s Champions Day would be sunk by deep ground were misfounded – a series of stirring races including a pulsating Long Distance Cup which Kew Gardens, the 2018 St Leger winner, snatched by a nose from superstar stayer Stradivarius. A rematch in this year’s Gold Cup was keenly anticipated but Kew Gardens missed the Royal Meeting and his retirement was announced soon after.
9 KING OF CHANGE
Many dismissed King Of Change’s gallant second in last year’s 2000 Guineas, at 66-1, as a fluke, but they had to re-evaluate after the Richard Hannon-trained colt had gained a emphatic victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, when he powered home under Sean Levey. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was to be his sixth and final race. Having been absent all this season, he was retired in the middle of last month.
Connections of Persuasive intimated she had run her final race when she finished runner-up in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket (the third time she had been placed in Group One company) a fortnight before Champions Day but she came out of the race so well that, two weeks later, they let her take her chance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. The bold move paid off in fabulous fashion as the grey won easing up under Frankie Dettori.
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