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Royal Ascot Day 1: Frankel!

"He's not a horse, he's a bloomin' steam engine..." We were reminded of that statement, made by the legendary jockey Fred Archer, after being run off with on the Newmarket heath by the mighty St. Simon. Frankel didn't quite bolt off on Ascot heath yesterday, although it did take Tom Queally about half a mile to pull up after the finish of the Queen Anne Stakes (gr. I), the opening race of Royal Ascot, 2012. However, his opponents in that one-mile contest might have been forgiven for feeling they were racing a machine rather than a creature of flesh and blood, as Frankel drew away through the final two furlongs to open an 11-length winning margin.

We remembered Brigadier Gerard as the best miler in our lifetime, and questioned whether Frankel might be even better. Conformation of that subjective view came from the Timeform organization, who have been compiling ratings for 64 years. Provisionally, they credited Frankel with a score of 147, and had to regard the runner-up, group I winner Excelebration as producing an effort 14 lbs. below his best to get that number. To put that in perspective, undefeated Sea-Bird II, who crushed a superlative Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe field was rated 145, Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel at 144, Ribot at 142, Mill Reef at 141, and Dancing Brave, Dubai Millennium, Sea The Stars, Shergar, and Vaguely Noble at 140. For another angle on Frankel's performance we can go to the King's Stand Stakes (gr. I) won by Little Bridge. The New Zealand-bred covered the uphill five furlongs in :59.69, a very quick time (we remember Amber Rama, a member of the same crop as Nijinsky II, as the first horse ever to break the minute for the trip). The fastest furlong section for Little Bridge was :10.78. Frankel, travelling three furlongs farther, made his move to assume command just before the two-furlong marker, and covered that furlong in :10.58.

Frankel (TrueNicks A+) is a son of Galileo, who is generally regarded as having assumed the mantle of his sire, Sadler's Wells, as the world's leading sire. A share of the credit for his pace should also go to his dam, the Danehill mare Kind, who broke her maiden at seven furlongs but subsequently spent the rest of her career racing over shorter, and was a stakes winner at five and six furlongs. Kind has made a tremendous start to her stud career as her first three runners are Frankel; Bullet Train (by Sadler's Wells), winner of the Derby Trial (gr. III) and now doing yeoman service as Frankel's pacemaker; and Noble Mission, a brother to Frankel who won the Newmarket Stakes at 3 this year. The affinity for Sadler's Wells extends to the next generation, as Kind is a half sister to the Sadler's Wells horse Powerscourt (GB) (TrueNicks,SRO), whose victories included the Arlington Million (gr. I) and Tattersalls Gold Cup (gr. I). The second dam, Rainbow Lake, won the Lancashire Oaks (gr. III), and is by a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (gr. I) victor Rainbow Quest out of a mare by Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Stage Door Johnny, which may well give Frankel the "bottom" for his planned move up to 10 furlongs. The cross of Galileo over mares by Danehill has now produced 14 stakes winners from 85 starters, six group I. We had a detailed look at this nick last year, which can be reviewed here.

Frankel's allure as a stallion is further enhanced by the bright start to their stud careers made by the sons of Galileo. Teofilo (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO) (like Frankel, out of a mare by Danehill), whose first crop are now 3, has five stakes winners so far, three group, including Parish Hall, who took last year's Dewhurst Stakes (gr. I). The less well-known Heliostatic, who was only a group III winner, sired 2011 group winning 2-year-old Crius in his first crop. This year, the St. Leger (gr. I) winner Sixties Icon has proved a surprise package with his first 2-year-olds, which include stakes winner Chilworth Icon. New Approach (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO) has Dawn Approach (TrueNicks A++), who won the Coventry Stakes (gr. II) yesterday, in his first crop.

New Approach was the best of his crop at 2, but stayed well enough to win the English Derby (gr. I) at 3, and some of Dawn Approach's speed doubtless comes from his broodmare sire, Phone Trick. The second dam, Colonial Debut, is by Pleasant Colony out of the Alydar mare Kittihawk Miss, a sister to the excellent mare Miss Oceana. This is the Kittihawk/Ole Liz family, that was also represented by weekend U.S. grade I winner Love Theway Youare.

We're not sure if there has previously been a Hong Kong-trained group I winner in England, but there certainly is now, in the shape of New Zealand-bred Little Bridge, who took the King's Stand. Little Bridge is by Faltaat (TrueNicks), a champion sprinter in the UAE by Mr. Prospector out of Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) scorer Epitome. He's been a very successful sire in New Zealand, and has 20 stakes winners, including other grade I scorers Tit For Taat, Taatletail, Sedecrem, Jurys Out, Miss Raggedy Ann, and Sight Winner.

Little Bridge and Miss Raggedy Ann (both TrueNicks A++) are group I winners from only seven starters sired by Faltaat out of mares by Gold Brose (by Huntingdale, by Double Form, by the Sir Gaylord horse, Habitat). The second dam is by another son of Mr. Prospector to do well in New Zealand, Straight Strike, giving Mr. Prospector 2x4.

Most Improved was among the leading fancies for the English 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) through the winter, but a minor setback saw him miss the race, and he then ran off the board in a very scrappy renewal of the French Derby (gr. I). The one-mile St. James's Palace Stakes (gr. I) saw him gain redemption with a win over a 16-horse field than included the French and Irish 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) winners Lucayan and Power, who both ran off the board.

Most Improved is from the first crop of the French Derby winner Lawman (by Invincible Spirit, by Green Desert), also sire of group winner Loi, stakes winner Mustaheel, and the Prix Saint-Alary (gr. I) third Forces of Darkness. The dam, Tonnara, a daughter of Linamix (whose turning out to be a pretty good broodmare sire), is a half sister to French group winner Alibisola. The second dam, Mahalia (by Danehill), was a listed winner in France and goes back to the Gerry Oldham tap-root mare Caprera. Most Improved (TrueNicks B) is one of 17 stakes winners bred on a Danzig/Linamix cross. Most Improved is also inbred to Danzig through Green Desert and Danehill, who are paired in more than 30 stakes winners including group/grade I winners Able One, Nayarra, Mount Nelson, Rockdale, Bushranger (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO), Alfred Nobel, and Samitar.

The day closed out with the five-furlong Windsor Castle Stakes for 2-year-olds. This went to Hototo, who is by Sleeping Indian (by Indian Ridge) out of a mare by Dr Devious (by Ahonoora), and so is the first ever stakes winner for an Ahonoora/Ahonoora cross. Perhaps it won't come as a surprise to note that Hototo is a "parallel pattern" horse, as both the sire and the dam are Ahonoora/Northern Dancer crosses, with the Northern Dancer through a couple of Northern Dancer/Turn-to crosses.

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