Which horse came closest to beating Frankel?
Bred and owned by the late Khalid Abdullah and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was officially the greatest racehorse of all time. He was retired from racing in October, 2012, unbeaten in all 14 races, including ten at Group 1 level, with an official rating of 140. While it should be noted that, at the time of writing, the unbeaten 3-year-old Sea The Stars colt Baaeed is rated 125, 2lb higher than Frankel at the equivalent stage of his career, no other horse since has been worth mentioning in the same breath.
Strictly speaking, the horse that came closest to beating Frankel, in terms of the official winning distance, was Nathaniel, who was beaten just half a length when both horses made their racecourse debuts, as two-year-olds, in a maiden stakes races over 7 furlongs at Newmarket in August, 2010. However, despite the narrow winning margin, Frankel only had to be shaken up by jockey Tom Queally to win readily and, in truth, never looked in any real danger of defeat.
However, that was by no means the case on the third start of his three-year-old campaign, in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Fresh from a 6-length win in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, where he set blistering early fractions, Frankel proved more amenable to restraint at Ascot. Nevertheless, when asked for an effort, his natural exuberance took over and he soon strode clear, only for his exertions to take their toll close home. At the line, Frankel was all out to hold Zoffany by an ever-diminishing three-quarters of a length.