Tom Queally is destined to always be remembered as the jockey of Frankel. He partnered the colt, perhaps the greatest of all time, in each of his 14 races and the combination was never beaten.
“I’ve a very easy job – all I do is steer,” he said after a second successive romp in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival in 2012. There was a measure of truth, of course, although Frankel was not always an easy ride, especially in his early days when wanting to get on with things sooner than ideal.
The pair landed the QIPCO 2000 Guineas in 2011 in sensational style – it was the first race to fall under the Champions Series umbrella – and subsequently landed the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, the QIPCO Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) at Ascot.
The following year they won Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, a second QIPCO Sussex Stakes, the Juddmonte International at York and, finally, the QIPCO Champion Stakes.
Queally said after Frankel’s farewell: “I can think of harder things than being Frankel’s jockey on the grand scale of things. There is pressure but there is pressure in all walks of life and I would gladly take it all on board – the chances of me being the guy on board or even the chances of a horse like him coming along.”
He won the inaugural Jockey of the QIPCO British Champions Series title in 2011, notching up six wins, and was third in the table with five winners in 2012.
As a youngster, Queally was Ireland’s champion apprentice at the age of just 15. He moved to Britain in 2004 and became champion apprentice in the same year. His career had appeared to stall but in 2008 he effectively became Sir Henry Cecil’s first jockey and that changed everything.
His major breakthrough came in 2009 with five Group 1 wins, including the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita Park, California, on Midday and the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Twice Over, a race he won again on the same horse in 2010.
Queally says much of his success can be attributed to the opportunity given him by Cecil. He began his professional career while still a schoolboy but his parents insisted he finish his education. He is the son of Declan Queally, who trains horses in County Waterford.
After the death of Cecil, in June 2013, he continued to ride for Lady Cecil, but he has been a freelance for several years.
Queally enjoyed his first Group 1 win since Frankel’s retirement when winning on The Tin Man on QIPCO British Champions Day in 2016, and the same horse provided him with victory in the 2017 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
In recent years, rides in the big races and winners in general have proved hard to come by. In 2019 he rode only 15 winners and last year he ended with 21.
But whatever the future holds, nobody will ever be able to take away the past and those sensational days on racing’s wonder horse.