Cracksman returned to his brilliant best with a stunning defeat of Crystal Ocean in the £1,300,000 QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday, his six-length winning margin over the King George runner-up just a length short of the distance by which he beat Poet's Word 12 months earlier.
Cracksman, photo Liesl King
He was the first horse since his sire Frankel to win at successive QIPCO British Champions Days and a third winner of the afternoon for John Gosden and second for Frankie Dettori. He now retires to stud the winner of eight of his 12 races, four of them at the top level, and more than £2.7m.
Gosden said: "It's super to have him back. Obviously, he likes to get his toe in. He's by Frankel out of a Pivotal mare and while Frankel won well on any ground a Pivotal mare is a bit of a clue.
"He won the Prix Ganay in explosive style and I don't think he was quite the same after that - I think a few things were bothering him. Obviously, he got very distracted at Royal Ascot by the girls coming back from the Windsor Forest and then we went for the King George, where it was too firm, and the Juddmonte [non-runner for the same reason] then packed in and freshened him up to come here, where he was back to his best.
"I'm a great believer in putting a little semi blinker on and have had a lot of luck with it down the years, having picked up the trick in America and most horses race in blinkers there. I can tell you the great Secretariat and Northern Dancer raced in blinkers. I don't have a prejudice against them. Sometimes you need to focus their minds.
"When Cracksman is in the zone, he is a very good horse. I would think it is quite likely he will go to stud as he is a four-year-old turning five. He is Frankel's best son and it is lovely to see him back with a bang."
For Cracksman, the 5/6 favourite, it was the four-year-old Frankel colt's second win in the race - he also took it, by seven lengths, in 2017.
Dettori, for whom it was a second victory of the day, following Stradivarius' win in the G2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, said: "That is the old Cracksman back...he felt fantastic! What a horse he is - I love him dearly.
"Full credit to the owners and John for being patient. They were not tempted to run on firm ground and got the reward today.
"He did it on his own. The blinkers worked and he was concentrating. I kept him away from Rhododendron, the filly, and even in the first bit of the race I knew. It came good for me at the three-furlong pole and I knew we were in business. You know when you are going twice as fast as the others, and you have to celebrate."
Commenting on Cracksman's defeat in his most previous outing, the G1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Dettori said: "He was very lethargic in the summer - like one of those ponies of your kids'; you have to drag it everywhere. Cool weather, autumn, a bit of rain and he was back to his best today. I was able to put him where I wanted him. Usually he makes my life difficult but today I had a beautiful position.
"As the race developed, the more and more he came on the bridle, and turning for home he actually couldn't wait to go. When he accelerated - not many horses can do it - I was able really to enjoy the scream of the crowds in the final furlong and raise my arm in the last 100 yards.
"He's probably going to go to stud, but he's been a wonderful horse for me and for people to watch.
"Full credit to the Gosden stable and the trainer himself - he's a genius to me and for me the things he has done are amazing. Our all horses performed to their very best and it's been an amazing day. Let's do it again - I wasn't ready!"
11/4 shot Crystal Ocean finished second for Sir Michael Stoute and William Buick, but he could not match the devastating turn of foot displayed by Cracksman in the home straight.
Buick said: "Crystal Ocean ran a good race, but Cracksman won very impressively today.
"He looked today the same Cracksman as he was last year with an equally impressive performance.
"I was in a little bit of a tricky spot coming into the straight, but it opened up for me and Crystal Ocean ran a good race.
"He is a nice horse who is very effective over a mile and a half."
He lost his left-hind shoe during the race.
Subway Dancer provided the shock of the race when finishing third at 66/1.
The winner (5/6f) scored by six lengths, but there was only three-quarters of a length between the runner-up (11/4) and Subway Dancer, a seven-year-old gelding trained in the Czech Republic by Zdeno Koplik and ridden by his brother Radek. There was almost £120,000 in prize money for the third horse home.
Subway Dancer has been running well in French Group races for the past couple of seasons, but this performance, from the first Czech-trained runner ever at QIPCO British Champion's Day, in a Group One contest was from another league. Radek said: "It was a very good race and my horse ran very well, so I'm happy.
Ingrid Koplikova, the trainer's daughter, said: "That is a shock for me, but very good for my family. He ran a very nice race and we are all so happy.
"He is a very classy horse and he loved this ground. My father bought the horse before he had run and he has progressed. After the last race, my father decided to run here, because it would be a dream for him, for my uncle and all the family.
"My father has 28 horses in his yard, but this is the best one and the only one that could attempt a race like this. It is a dream to come to Ascot. I have never been here, but it is the best racecourse in the world."
3.50pm £1,300,000 QIPCO Champion Stakes (Group 1) 1m 2f
1 (8) Cracksman (Blinkers) John Gosden 9st 5lb Frankie Dettori 5/6 Fav
2 (1) Crystal Ocean Sir Michael Stoute 9st 5lb William Buick 11/4
3 (7) Subway Dancer (IRE) Zdeno Koplik, Czech Republic 9st 5lb Radek Koplik 66/1
4 (5) Capri (IRE) Aidan O'Brien, Ireland 9st 5lb Ryan Moore 4/1
5 (2) Rhododendron (IRE) Aidan O'Brien, Ireland 9st 2lb Donnacha O'Brien 25/1
6 (6) Verbal Dexterity (IRE) Jim Bolger, Ireland 9st 1lb Kevin Manning 20/1
7 (3) Monarchs Glen (Hood) John Gosden 9st 5lb Robert Havlin 10/1
8 (4) Maverick Wave (USA) John Gosden 9st 5lb Kieran O'Neill 100/1
Winner owned by Anthony Oppenheimer
Breeder: Hascombe & Valiant Studs
Breeding: 4 b c Frankel - Rhadegunda (Pivotal)
Bet With Ascot - Win £2.40; Places £1.30, £8.30, £4.90 First Two: £61.20
Distances: 6, ¾, ¾, ¾, 1½, 1½, 5
Time: 2m 08.79s
Seventh QIPCO British Champions Day success for John Gosden
Sixth QIPCO British Champions Day success for Frankie Dettori