Saturday saw the curtain brought down on one of the most inspiring and enthralling careers in the history of racing. Frankel won his final race, making it 14 wins out of 14 starts, and amid all the tributes and superlatives, all the glowing tributes and heartfelt words, I tweeted with suitable gravitas and respect: "The news that Frankel is going off to stud is a bit like hearing your ex-boyfriend is getting married".
And flippancy aside, to me it was exactly like that. I can't stop thinking about all the happy times we shared. For three seasons, I've revelled in this horse's explosive talent, and I've enjoyed every minute. And now he's off to stud, to make (many) mares very happy, and while I'm pleased for him, I really am, I'm pretty sad that I'll never again see him saunter home with several top class rivals trailing in his wake. All the hype, all the pomp, all the bombastic claims – for once they were all true. Frankel was unique among men in that he never let you down. An unbeaten champion, that rarity.
His name alone suggested he could be special, and from that first race at Newmarket, back in August 2010, he showed such early promise, holding off a challenge from Nathaniel (few could have predicted just how good they would both turn out to be, Nathaniel is himself an extremely good horse when Frankel isn't around to make him look ordinary). And Khalid Abdullah's colt just kept getting better. Win followed win, until that day in May 2011 when Frankel lined up for his first and only Classic, the 2,000 Guineas. Halfway through the race he was 10 lengths clear. The world stood still. Doctors may question me, but I could swear my heart stopped beating. A giant was in our midst. This was something unforgettable, unbelievable. A real life, flesh and bone, living legend.
He raced again, and again, and still he didn’t disappoint. He gave us our moments – Royal Ascot in 2011, for example, when he nearly got caught on the finish line – but he always came good in the end. More than good, usually. Incredible.
I'm glad to say I witnessed two of his wins in person, not just on television. I was there for his QIPCO Champions Day wins in 2011 and I was back at Ascot on Saturday, when he won the premier race on a sterling card, the Champions Stakes. The ground conditions weren't ideal, he was lining up against two of the best horses he has encountered throughout his entire career, but few racegoers had any doubts. And those few doubters were soon hanging their heads in recalcitrance. Of course he won. Of course he did.
Champions Day 2012 will always be remembered as the day a racing great blessed us with his talent for the last time. Ascot was a sea of green and pink. Racegoers held up 'Go Frankel' paddles. You couldn't get near the paddock to see him. Forget film stars, rock stars, football stars - Frankel was the hero everyone longed to see. And the reaction when he duly won, the applause, the cheers, jockey Tom Queally punching the air with delight, and the tearful reaction of Sir Henry Cecil, who has battled cancer throughout his most famous equine charge’s career… Undoubtedly, Saturday was a pretty special day.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to watch the day's racing with Team GB's Olympic riders. I said to Carl Hester that Frankel was racing's answer to Valegro (luckily he laughed). Tina Cook told us about watching the race in the Royal Box, and the total delight of Her Majesty The Queen as she watched Frankel swoop to victory. We swapped racing tips with our Paralympic gold medallists.
But above and beyond all that, there was one horse. A horse that deserves every plaudit he's received. A horse that will live on for decades, long after the dust has settled on his phenomenal career. A horse with such beauty, power and grace, with the best temperament, with that insouciant swagger that seems to suggest that he knows he was the best in the world. He knew, and he showed us all, over and over again.
I'm sad not to see him race again, but equally I'm delighted that he retires, fit, well and undefeated. I hope we see hundreds of little Frankels in future, and that they have even a modicum of their father’s skill and looks, so his legacy will live on. The horse that got Flat racing back into the headlines, the horse who might just inspire a future generation of racing fans. Frankel - the very best in the world.