Saturday, October 20, 2012

Farewell, Frankel!

By Mary Cage

In honor of the culmination of the great Frankel’s racing career, this is the updated version of my post from August 1, 2012, “The Legacy of Frankel.”

Bobby Frankel will forever be remembered as one of the greatest trainers the sport of kings has ever seen. The Hall of Fame trainer, who won over 3,000 races throughout his storied career, sadly succumbed to leukemia in November of 2009. But little did the racing world know at the time, a bay yearling awaited his chance to keep Bobby Frankel’s legacy alive.

That colt was Frankel, a Thoroughbred obviously named for the legendary conditioner. The son of Galileo was a homebred for Juddmonte Farms, Prince Khalid Abdulla’s stable for which Bobby Frankel trained many horses, including the grade one winners Champs Elysees, Empire Maker, Intercontinental, and Ventura. The bay was viewed as the best of Juddmonte’s 2009 yearling crop and was thus named in honor of the five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer.

A better horse could not have been chosen to honor Bobby Frankel. Frankel debuted on August 13, 2010 at Newmarket, winning by a half-length over the eventual multiple group one-winning Nathaniel. His stakes debut came in the Frank Whittle Partnership Conditions Stakes, in which the stunning bay defeated just two other horses en route to a thirteen-length victory.

Frankel made two more starts as a juvenile, taking the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (GII) by ten lengths in his penultimate start of 2010. Less than a month later, the Henry Cecil trainee took on five rivals to capture the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (GI) at Newmarket, crossing the wire before two eventual group one victors. With his spectacular undefeated record as a two-year-old, Frankel was named the 2010 Cartier Champion Two-Year-Old Colt.

Frankel’s two-year-old season was good enough for a horse to carry on Bobby Frankel’s legacy. But the son of Galileo didn’t stop at “good enough.” Rather, he returned to the races in April 2011 to display the same greatness as the trainer he was named for.

His 2011 debut came in the Greenham Stakes (GIII) at Newbury, which he won by four lengths before capturing the first leg of the English Triple Crown, the 2,000 Guineas (GI), by six lengths two weeks later. In the 2,000 Guineas, Frankel defeated twelve others, including three past or eventual group one winners.

Less than two months later came Frankel’s closest call yet. Contesting over one mile at the prestigious Royal Ascot meet in the St. James’s Palace Stakes (GI), Frankel took the lead as the field turned for home, drawing away. However, his stride slowed as he neared the wire, allowing the others to grow closer. Yet he held off the group one-winning Zoffany by three-quarters of a length, keeping his flawless record intact.

Frankel returned to his usual effortless winning ways in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes (GI) next out, taking the four-horse race by five lengths en route to overtaking two group one winners. He did not go to post for over two months, returning in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (GI) at Ascot, defeating four past or future group one winners.

The Queen Elizabeth II was the final start of Frankel’s three-year-old campaign, which saw him garner the Cartier Award for not only Champion Three-Year-Old Male, but Horse of the Year. He returned the next May in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, leaving the others five lengths behind.

But the Lockinge was only a hint of what was to come. A month later, Frankel made his second start at the most renowned race meet in the world, Royal Ascot. Going to post in the first race of the meeting, the Queen Anne Stakes (GI), Frankel commenced Royal Ascot in style. Rating off the leaders, the magnificent bay awaited the cue from regular rider Tom Queally, kicking clear easily when that signal came.

Displaying the brilliance that makes him one of the greatest racehorses to ever look through a bridle, Frankel accelerated beautifully within the final yards. Leaving jaws dropping, hands applauding, tears rolling, and voices cheering, Frankel galloped to an incredible eleven-length victory, further confirming his greatness as he extended his perfect record to eleven-for-eleven.

On the first day of August 2012, Frankel became the only horse to win the Sussex Stakes twice when he blew past a field of three others to take the group one race at the Glorious Goodwood meeting. Queally appeared to be a statue in the saddle as the other horses began to be asked by their riders, but once Queally set down on him, Frankel exploded, kicking away to win by five lengths much to the delight of racing fans – but certainly not to their surprise.

Frankel’s penultimate start was viewed as one of the biggest tests of his career. Frankel had long been seen as a brilliant miler, but some believed the great horse could not extend beyond that distance. His first attempt at such a distance came in the Juddmonte International Stakes (GI), a race sponsored by his owner, exactly three weeks after his second victory in the Sussex. Going approximately a mile and five-sixteenths, Frankel settled near the rear with Queally aboard. Queally waited patiently to ask Frankel for his move, conserving his energy as the horses raced down the straight. With ease, the great horse grew even with his opponents, taking the lead despite the fact that Queally was a statue in the saddle. His lead only extended once Queally set to work aboard him, drawing away to a seven-length victory as the words “The undisputed champion of the world, Frankel!” rang in the air.

The final start of Frankel’s spectacular career, the QIPCO Champion Stakes (GI) at Ascot, was seen by many as the greatest test he ever faced. Not only was the glorious horse racing over soft going for the first time since his debut, but he was again extending beyond a mile, going the distance of approximately ten furlongs. However, the difficulties did not come to a halt there. For the first time, Frankel was facing the multiple group one-winning Cirrus Des Aigles, who had won the Champion Stakes the year before. An additional three group one winners would be pitted against him.

But this was Frankel. Even such daunting circumstances could not intimidate him. After a slow break, Frankel settled near the rear beneath Queally. As Cirrus Des Aigles led with Frankel's half-brother Bullet Train alongside, Frankel appeared relaxed as the small field raced over the soft course. As the Thoroughbreds entered the straightaway, Frankel was angled to the outside and with little asking from Queally, he became even with Cirrus Des Aigles. With his incredible turn of foot, he passed Cirrus Des Aigles, though he had to fight a tad more than usual. Nonethless, Frankel galloped to victory, crossing the finish with a length and three-quarters separating Frankel and Cirrus Des Aigles. The great horse, of course, was victorious for the fourteenth consecutive occurrence. He'd gone out an undefeated champion, with fans worldwide cheering for him, in awe of his grandeur.

Behind Frankel’s success is an outstanding pedigree fit for a champion. With just a glance at his pedigree, it is obvious that Frankel is royally bred. With names such as Buckpasser, Blushing Groom, Flower Bowl, Northern Dancer, Prince John, and Ribot lacing his pedigree, you can take a glimpse at Frankel’s bloodlines and be more than satisfied. Yet, his pedigree becomes even more remarkable the more you study it.

Frankel’s sire is the tremendous Epsom Derby (GI)-winning Galileo, who has sired over twenty group one winners, such as Cape Blanco, Galikova, Misty for Me, Nathaniel, New Approach, Red Rocks, Rip Van Winkle, Sixties Icon, Together, and Treasure Beach. The multiple group one-winning Galileo was nearly guaranteed to be a spectacular sire, being the result of a mating between two top producers.

The sire of Galileo is none other than the great Sadler's Wells, one of the greatest sires the world has ever seen. The multiple group one-winning son of Northern Dancer was the leading sire by earnings in the United Kingdom for ten years straight and for twelve years total. His produce record was so influential that Sadler's Wells is listed as a chef-de-race, or a quality sire that has had a dominant effect on the Thoroughbred breed. Sadler's Wells has proven to be an incredible sire of sires, producing not only Galileo, but the outstanding Montjeu, as well as Barathea, El Prado, High Chaparral, In the Wings, and King’s Theatre.

Galileo’s dam is the absolutely tremendous mare Urban Sea, which makes him a half-brother to the great champion Sea the Stars, as well as the grade one-winning My Typhoon, the group stakes-winning Urban Ocean, the stakes-winning and group one-placed horses Born to Sea and Melikah, and the group stakes-placed Cherry Hinton. He is also a full brother to the multiple group one-winning Black Sam Bellamy and the group stakes-winning All Too Beautiful.

Frankel also receives an outstanding influence from his dam, Kind. The bay mare was a successful racehorse herself, capturing two stakes races. In addition to producing Frankel, Kind has foaled the group stakes-winning Bullet Train – who Frankel defeated in his final six starts – and the group stakes-winning Noble Mission.

Kind’s sire is a horse who was the leading sire in four different countries, the incredible Danehill, who has sired over three hundred stakes winners. He has been a highly successful broodmare sire, siring the dams of such horses as the group one winners Art Connoisseur, Cima de Triomphe, Danedream, Teofilo, and Vengeance of Rain.

The dam of Kind is the group stakes-winning Rainbow Lake, who also produced the multiple group one-winning Powerscourt and the group one-placed Last Train. Rainbow Lake is a daughter of Rainbow Quest, a son of Blushing Groom who has been a top broodmare sire. The champion is the damsire of such group one winners as Look Here, Samitar, and Spanish Moon.

Frankel is a descendant of the prolific female family one, the same female family responsible for many of the greatest racehorses to grace the racetracks of the world. Such descendants include the all-time greats Buckpasser, Genuine Risk, Rachel Alexandra, and Sword Dancer.

Yes, Frankel’s pedigree is a large part of his greatness, but one must believe it was meant to be that this special colt would become one of the greatest horses of all-time – or, as some people see him, the greatest of all-time – to honor Bobby Frankel. This horse has captured the hearts of not only racing fans in England, but racing fans across the world, inspiring people with his brilliance. The legacy of Frankel will never be forgotten – trainer nor horse.

Farewell, Frankel! Thanks for the memories! The world is still cheering for you.

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