Frankel: thanks for the memories
It’s 10 years to the day when Frankel made his racecourse debut – here Gary McKenzie looks back at six of his greatest races from an article first published in 2012
The Guardian has published a series of online articles titled The Joy Of Six. Each piece is composed of six sporting events, or people, or teams, linked together. There have been titles such as The Six Best Teams Not To have Won A World Cup or Six Acts Of Sportsmanship. In tribute to this very readable series and also because it is easier to steal ideas than create your own, I give you my six favourite races won by the incomparable Frankel.
The horse rated the best in the world (and you will get no argument from me) runs what could be his last race on 20 October at Newmarket and could go out unbeaten in a career that has hit so many highs it was difficult to condense it into six races.
Royal Lodge Stakes 25 September 2010
The first time I actually saw Frankel was at Ascot when he competed in the Royal Lodge. Of course I knew of his reputation. He had trounced his two opponents at Doncaster by 13 lengths in only his second race. His first was a bit closer. He got half a length in front of subsequent King George and Coral Eclipse winner Nathaniel with the pair well clear of the third. Frankel was at prohibitive odds for the Group 2 race and looking back it was a template for some later races.
The horse dropped to the back of the field five lengths off the leaders but the pace was pedestrian at best. As they passed the four furlong mark jockey Tom Queally decide to let the colt go and within a few of those massive strides he was at the front. By the two pole his rivals were at full pelt just to keep up (these included Treasure Beach who went on to win the Irish Derby after being second in the Epsom version) and Frankel won at a canter with ten lengths the distance.
He was immediately made favourite for the 2000 Guineas and The Derby even though there were doubts about his stamina because of his blistering speed. He went on to beat a good field in the Dewhurst that year and was the horse that kept us warm over the winter months.
2000 Guineas 30 April 2010
Frankel made his debut in his Classic season at Newbury in The Greenham Stakes. It is always a tense moment when a top two year old comes out for the first time at three. It was no more than efficient in my view with Excelebration four lengths behind.
I still had the ten length Ascot win in my thoughts and was expecting similar but at least we knew the horse was fit and healthy. What happened two weeks later is still hard to believe. For the 2000 Guineas owner Prince Khaled Abdulla also had Rerouted who was to make the pace for the favourite. But as the gates opened Frankel was at the head of affairs. He bowled along down the Rowley Mile and by halfway he was ten lengths clear. I, and plenty of others, had never seen anything like it.
This was a Classic being turned into a procession
This was a Classic being turned into a procession with top class horses being shaken up long before they wanted to make their moves. The fact that Frankel won by six lengths was down to him possibly idling (and when you are that far clear it must be easy to get bored). Richard Hughes, one of the beaten jockeys, said that he thought the winner was the pacemaker such was the speed he was going. It was all systems go for Royal Ascot.
Sussex Stakes 27 July 2011
It didn’t quite go to plan at Ascot. Tom Queally went after Rerouted with four furlongs still to run and was five clear two out. The fact that Zoffany was only three quarters of a length down at the line was worrying. Had the bubble burst? His jockey was adamant he was dossing in front again. Henry Cecil, not one to criticise his jockey in public surely had a quiet word with Queally.
But to be fair he had gone even earlier in the Guineas and remember what happened there. But it did set up his next race nicely. Titled The Duel On The Downs his Goodwood clash with Canford Cliffs was the race of the year. Canford Cliffs was a true champion. Since finishing third in the previous years 2000 Guineas he was unbeaten including victories over the likes of Goldikova and, in this race the year before, Rip Van Winkle.
For what it’s worth I thought the older horse would edge it, cruising in behind Frankel before unleashing his devastating turn of foot. It was a small field (only four runners) and Frankel had no pacemaker so he went to the front with his main rival sat on his tail.
Once the button was pressed a furlong and a half out it was over
From about three out Frankel increased the pace and it looked like Canford Cliffs was finding it hard work. Once the button was pressed a furlong and a half out it was over. Canford Cliffs drifted to his left and ended up on the other side of the track with Frankel passing the post five lengths in front.
It was reported that the runner up had suffered an injury during the race and he was retired shortly after. I think it was the fact that he had never had to go so fast in the early part of a race that did for him. There were calls for Frankel to step up to ten furlongs but that would have to wait.
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 15 October 2011
Frankel had an almost three month gap before his next race. He was to end the season at the inaugural Champions Day meeting at Ascot. The days racing was to provide the champion at each distance although there was no doubting who the top miler was that year. Frankel was up against his old foe Excelebration and a filly I thought could give him a race as twice she had flown in the last furlong.
Immortal Verse had beaten the Queen of the Turf Goldikova earlier in the year and was receiving weight (albeit only three pounds) from our hero. Frankel’s half brother Bullet Train would be the pacemaker in this race (and for all his races in the future) so there would be no false pace. His jockey had to fight him a bit in the early stages as the horse seemed keen to get on with it.
But at halfway Queally let him stride forward in pursuit of his sibling. At this stage Immortal Verse was still on the bridle and it looked as if we might have a race. But this was short lived. Two furlongs out Frankel went for home. It wasn’t as instant as in the past but he still had four lengths to spare at the line against probably the best field he had faced.
Queen Anne Stakes 19 June 2012
Frankel, amid the clamour for him to step up in distance, made his seasonal reappearance in the Lockinge Stakes over a mile. he once again accounted for Excelebration (who was now racing in the Coolmore colours for Aiden O’Brien) by five lengths. His next assignment was at Royal Ascot, the meeting where he had been so close to losing his unbeaten record twelve months previous.
Once again he was up against Excelebration (did this horse never learn?) and Side Glance and Strong Suit were others who were very good horses. I had spoken to friends and thought Frankel would win by about four lengths hard held. Wrong again. Bullet Train led and the favourite sat fourth this time only a couple of lengths behind. At the two pole he went and Excelebration was level for a few strides but then that power was fully released and he slaughtered them all.
Eleven lengths was the official margin and it was six lengths between him and closest pursuer Farhh as he became the first horse to win consecutive Sussex Stakes. It was to be his last run over a mile as finally it was decided to test him over further.
Juddmonte International Stakes 22 August 2012
A new distance meant a new opponent. St Nicholas Abbey was Coolmore’s main runner. He had two Coronation Cups and a Breeders Cup win on his CV and he had been given two pacemakers to test Frankel’s stamina. Frankel had Bullet Train and Twice Over although whether the latter, who was the previous years winner, was just in to make the running was hard to believe.
It was the Coolmore horses who were at the head of affairs with Bullet Train in third. St Nicholas Abbey stayed close to the front runners and as they entered the home straight Frankel followed him. At the three pole, just when you expect the race to start hotting up, Frankel was still on the bridle while Farhh and St Nicholas Abbey were working away on their mounts. One tap from Queally and it was over.
Frankel streaked clear to win by seven lengths. No less a judge than John Francome likened this equine masterpiece to Bobby Moore and Roger Federer because of the graceful way he does things. Surely an Arc bid now as he was not stopping at the line but no.
He will finish at Ascot and the tickets are nearly all sold. Sir Henry Cecil has trained some amazing horses but this one is surely the best he has had. And he is certainly one of the best I have ever seen.
Frankel duly won his final race, the Champion Stakes at Ascot, beating Cirrus Des Aigles by 1¼ lengths. It took his unbeaten tally to 14 races, including 10 Group 1 victories. The prize money he won was £2,998,302. He now stands at stud at Banstead Manor where he was born.