When Frankel won the 2012 Qipco Champions Stakes at Ascot in beating French horse Cirrus Des Aigles, it marked the end of an illustrious career for the unbeaten four year old horse and a deserved victory for his ailing trainer Henry Cecil. Two years later, Frankel’s brother Noble Mission managed to win the 2014 renewal of the same race and the family tradition was maintained with Lady Cecil training the horse after resolving to extend the license of her late husband. Yet, the idea of Noble Mission winning such a prominent Group One race seemed remote during the previous two flat racing seasons.
Whereas Frankel was unbeatable with his ability to set a fast pace or to produce a devastating burst of speed when required, his younger brother has always been a consistent performer without appearing capable of quickening at the end of his races. Noble Mission has always been in the first four placings but actually winning races has been more difficult to achieve.
That is until this season. James Doyle has assumed riding responsibilities and in discussions with Lady Cecil, it has been decided to use the strength of Noble Mission by setting the pace at the head of affairs rather relying on finishing speed. As such, the horse won three races during the spring culminating in victory at the Curragh in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. The change in tactics was having the desired effect.
Noble Mission was only just beaten in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud in June but he was rested before attempting to replicate his brother’s achievement in winning the Ascot Champions Stakes. Former winner Cirrus des Aigles, who had also been beaten by Frrankel in 2012, was installed as favourite for the race in a field including 1m 2f specialist Al Kazeem who had resumed his racing career after his failure at stud.
In testing ground at Ascot, Noble Mission once again led his fellow runners and gradually increased the tempo so that with two furlongs remaining, it became duel between the Cecil trained horse and Al Kazeem with Cirrus des Aigles drifting backwards.
Al Kazeem briefly assumed the lead, but Noble Mission’s greater reserves of stamina prevailed at the finishing post to win by a neck with the promising young pretender Free Eagle back in third place. Lady Cecil was engulfed by well-wishers on a personally emotional day but it is to her credit that she was able to identify the most effective means of racing for her five year old horse.
Henry Cecil would have been proud of his wife’s achievements as Noble Mission has not been blessed with the same speed as his brother. Yet Lady Cecil has arguably produced the greater training performance in rejuvenating the career of the 2014 Champion Stakes winner.