Phenomenon - by Eric Mitchell

(Originally published in the September 1, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Eric Mitchell - @BH_EMitchell on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell The Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I) Aug. 22 at York Racecourse (View photos here) had no shot to be considered anything but an extraordinary race. The presence of international superstar Frankel assured the race would be one for the ages.

Two furlongs from the wire, however, with jockeys scrubbing furiously away on their mounts while jockey Tom Queally sits oh so still atop Frankel, the track suddenly took on the feel of an old-time religion tent revival.

“And here it goes down to the final two, into unknown territory,” said York’s track announcer Stewart Machin, referring to the 4-year-old son of Galileo’s first try in a race longer than a mile. “Queally shakes the reins and the response is immediate. It’s all over. Frankel scorching away.”

Machin is warmed up and rolling. If he were a tent-revival preacher, he’d be center stage at this point, his arms raised skyward, a worn King James Bible in one hand, sweat pouring off his forehead and drenching his shirt. The followers before him all on their feet stomping, shouting, celebrating.

On the York turf one furlong to go, Queally offered a light tap, shook the reins a bit more, and away Frankel flew from group I-placed Farhh and 2011 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner St Nicholas Abbey, opening up a seven-length lead.

“This poetry of destruction. This glory of rhythm, power, and majesty,” Machin’s voice boomed across the track. “The undisputed champion of the world.”

As we watched Frankel gallop spryly beyond the wire, we’ve reached new territory ourselves, where words fail to capture the phenomenal, jaw-dropping performances we’ve seen from this colt again and again. The singular phrase that sticks is how remarkably easy Frankel wins. Undefeated, and yet you can see he’s capable of more. Thirteen consecutive victories and a European record of eight consecutive group I wins and it seems we’re nowhere near seeing his best.

How can this be?

“The extraordinary thing with this horse is what is so originally extraordinary almost becomes the norm,” Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager for Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, told Racing UK in a video interview Aug. 15. Juddmonte bred and races Frankel, whom the farm named after the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, the conditioner of many graded/group stakes winners. “After the (QIPCO Two Thousand) Guineas, then the Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Anne (all Eng-I)—on their own would be a lifetime best. This horse has been so incredibly consistent at the very top level; it is a huge tribute to Henry and his team.”

Frankel is trained by Sir Henry Cecil.

Forget struggling for words; some handicappers in Europe were left struggling to even give Frankel’s Juddmonte International performance a rating of some kind. In 2011 the World Thoroughbred Rankings rated Frankel at 136, the same rating given Sea The Stars for his Horse of the Year performance in 2009. Following the QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Eng-I), the Racing Post rated Frankel at 140 and kept him there after the Juddmonte International.

Globeform editor Geir Stabell, however, said he had Frankel at 142 plus after the Sussex and considered that rating a guess. After the Juddmonte International, Stabell said Frankel’s performance was impossible to assess.

“This phenomenal horse simply cannot be rated because no other horse is good enough to test him,” Stabell said. “Could he have won by 10 at York? Probably. Could he have won by 12, 14, 16 lengths? Who knows. I certainly don’t. All I know is I am happy to use ‘?’ as his rating from now on.”

What’s next for Frankel is hopefully an appearance in the 11⁄2-mile Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) at Longchamp in October. As easily as he won the Juddmonte International, few expect him to have any trouble going an additional quarter-mile.

And if Frankel goes in the Arc, forget ratings and forget odds. Just sit back, enjoy, and celebrate the brilliance of a horse whose likes we won’t see again in a long, long time.

26 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Lammtarra's Arc

brilliant Piece.  He is by far the best horse in the world, and mark my words, if His royal highness enters him in the Arc he wins by 10 lengths.  Only Danedream with her closing kick will give him any competition, or maybe the Japanese triple Crown winner Ofevre.  The rest are simply not at his level.  The ARC could be the best field in the world in any race at any time.  To Think that Frankel, Danedream, Ofevre, Nathaniel, Farrh, St.Nic, Camelot, Monterosso, Dunaden, Cirrus Des Aigles etc could all feature in one field would be possibly the race of the decade.  Three Cheers for Sir Henry!...

28 Aug 2012 4:56 PM
chucky

I think Frankel is a brilliant horse but forgive me if I disagree how much adulation he is getting.

Three year olds were doing the 8, 10, 12 furlongs against strong competition in very prestigious races such as the 2K Guineas, Derby, Arc de Triomphe.

Frankel did his first 10 furlongs at 4 almost 5 years old. His first 10 furlongs were against Farhh a decent 10 furlongs horse but not great and SNA is really a 12 furlongs horse.

If you are going to miss your greatness at 3 years old, you better do something extra-ordinary at 4 or older.

I think he is arguable the greatest miler ever on turf but horses like Dancing Brave and Sea The Stars showed their real greatness at 3 years old.

Older and stronger at 4, hopefully he would run in the Arc and win. Anything less than that and Brigadier has a more accomplished 4 year old campaign.

28 Aug 2012 6:17 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Chucky- Sea The Stars had a good crop of opponents  Mastercraftmen, Rip Van Winkle, Conduit, Stacelita, Youmzain, Fame and Glory, Debussy.  But if you look at who Frankel has run against, or who he could run against in the ARC, he has just as talented crop.  St.Nicholas Abbey, Nathaniel, Danedream, Dunaden, Camelot, Cirrus Des Aigles, Sea Moon, Carlton house, Masked Marvel, Reliable man.....If Frankel enters the ARC he WILL destroy that field, and then he goes down as the best ever.  Nobody has beat horses of this caliber with such ease like Frankel has.  I mean with complete and udder EASE.

29 Aug 2012 12:39 AM
lunar spook

Id say its time to mention frankel in the same breath with shurgar , high chapperal , and goldikova ,if he keeps it up dare i say . . . . . . count fleet  , man o war  ,  and  gasp ! secretariat ?

29 Aug 2012 8:52 AM
chucky

Midnight Lute - That is assuming he evens runs in the Arc. I think that is very doubtful since they did not take a chance of him running in the great races at 3 years old. No Arc and Frankel would just be a product by a British based Timeform patronizing a British horse. Now, let us hope he does run in the Arc.

29 Aug 2012 2:45 PM
Deltalady

The owners, trainer, managers, and whoever else has had a hand in shepherding Frankel through his career, kudos.  Seems no matter what they do, some will find room to criticize. I doubt any of Frankel's connections are losing any sleep over some grumblings here and there. We are so fortunate to be able to witness a horse of this calibre in our lifetimes. All hail, Frankel, the conquering hero!  

30 Aug 2012 4:05 PM
EJMitchellKy

No Arc for Frankel. Prince Khalid Abdullah has decided Frankel will start next in the Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot Oct. 20.

Read the full story.

31 Aug 2012 8:30 AM
chucky

To Deltalady -

What exactly did Frankel conquer? He did not race in any prestigious races as a 3 years old besides the 2000 Guineas and then he waited as an older stronger horse before he ran 10 furlongs. He never traveled and never left England. His resume lacks the top races like Epsom Derby, Arc de Trioumphe, Eclipse, Irish Derby, King George VI. He will never run in any handicap race and never really be in any championship caliber field. The top group 1 horses he beat was on his wheelhouse of a mile. His claim to fame is Timeform and without those number and just looking at his resume he does not even come close to Shergar or Brigadier Gerard.

31 Aug 2012 11:54 AM
robinm

Not surprisingly, Frankel is staying home for another 10 furlong "test".  I think Frankel is a brilliant horse, but I am not impressed with his campaign.  He may be the best in the world, but he is not being given the opportunity to prove it.

31 Aug 2012 2:08 PM
sceptre

Never has a horse accomplished/displayed so little to receive such lofty recognition. He's given no weight, ventured nowhere, repeatedly raced at essentially the same distances, had the good fortune to defeat opponents who were generally several pounds below their best, and his times have been less than eye-popping. While not by intent, his career has been managed beautifully-from the standpoint of reputation building. Both in performance and look, Frankel does little for me. Anticipate his failure at stud.    

31 Aug 2012 8:44 PM
JerseyBoy

Deltalady:

I agree with you totally.

I would that Frankel can only beat horses who choose to run against him. Poor chap.

Funny, someone mentioned the great Brigadier Gerard. He was beaten by 3yo Roberto who did not even make the Timeform All-Time Highweights List.  Sea Bird was beaten by Grey Dawn who did not make the list.

No horse has ever beaten Frankel. But all are still free to try.

The cutoff point for the Timeform All-Time Highweights List is 135.

Excelebration, Farhh and St Nicholas Abbey are witihin 5 points of the cutoff.

Here is the top portion of the latest Timeform update:

147 FRANKEL

133 CIRRUS DES AIGLES

133 EXCELEBRATION

132 SO YOU THINK

131 DANEDREAM

131 NATHANIEL

130 CITYSCAPE

130 FARHH

130 MONTEROSSO

130 ST NICHOLAS ABBEY

03 Sep 2012 7:10 PM
chucky

sceptre -

Besides the mediocre breeding we have today, the world of racing has put more weight in numbers like Beyer and Timeform. Both are man made measure that has no bearing with reality and unjustly gives higher numbers on shorter races. Groovy's 133 Beyer would be admired by those who did not know it was done at 6 furlongs and as exaggerated as Frankel's 147 at a mile.

04 Sep 2012 12:49 AM
PNkt

Chucky - I must take exception with your statement that Frankel did not run in prestigous races at 3.  He ran in 5 races, 4 of them Group 1s.  You may not consider the St James's Palce, The Sussex Stakes or the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes "prestigous" but we sure as heck do!

I've done the research, over his career he has defeated 20 individual G1 winners, the winners of 45 G1s between them:

Canford Cliffs

Casamento

Colour Vision

Dick Turpin

Dream Ahead

Excelebration

Immortal Verse

Grand Prix Boss

Helmet

Nathaniel

Pathfork

Planteur

Poet’s Voice

Rio de la Plata

Roderic O'Connor

St Nicholas Abbey

Treasure Beach

Twice Over

Wootton Bassett

Zoffany

Im not convinced that that list is an average bunch!

Sceptre - as for times in races, times mean nothing in Europe.  It is the US obsession with speed that has got it into the trouble it is in today.  We have far more variety in our racecourses and going than in the US, so it is impossible to compare the time for a mile race from one racecourse to another.

My final comment would be, to those complaining that he has not raced outside of Great Britain, name me the US Champions that have raced outside of the US.  When US horses travel globally in the way that European horses do, then your arguement will hold substance.

04 Sep 2012 5:45 AM
lunar spook

I SURE WISH FRANKEL WOULD RUN IN THE BREEDERS CUP TURF TO SHUT THE EURO BASHERS MOUTHS , BUT NO FEAR , WHOEVER THEY SEND OVER HERE WILL DOMINATE THE TURF WARS AS USUAL , AND HEY SCEPTRE 13-0 IS 13-0 !!!!!!!!!!!!

04 Sep 2012 2:19 PM
chucky

PNewmarket -

Everytime Frankel's name is mentioned against all-time greats in europe please notice those horses greatest race was the Arc de Trioumphe..and most have other very prestigious races in their resume like the Derby, Eclipse, King George VI..yes those races Frankel won are kool but they are not the same in prestige as these races. Like I said take out the Timeform 147 (lol) and what do you have? A less than stellar career. The greatest from europe or ever on turf and not once entered in the greatest race in europe the Arc? and note that the timeform 147 was done at 8 furlongs..not at 12 furlongs...like I stated and it is fact...shorter races tends to get high beyer and timeform...Even Quality Road had a higher timeform than Zenyatta because of his 8 furlongs race and nobody in his right mind would ever think Quality Road is better than Zenyatta. How about Excelebration rated higher by Timeform over So You Think!! that is just insane.

But let's forget timeform, Frankel's career resume is lackluster compared to the real-greats of europe.

05 Sep 2012 11:19 AM
chucky

PNewmarket -

I have been reading that argument about US Champions racing outside of the US and we should not critique Frankel for it. That is true, what we should critique Frankel with is the greats he was being compared to in europe did travel IN EUROPE. Ribot, Sea The Stars, Sea Bird to name the horses he is being compared with.

The other thing I find so incredible is the great anticipation of the greatest ever running his first 10 furlongs as an older more mature horse! Like it was something special when past greats 3 years old were running in great 10 and 12 furlongs races in europe. I never got that hype at all. Actually, a few of my racing buddies were also shaking their heads. It's like the racing media in England build this up like it was something special. If he raced in the Arc it would be a thousand more special than the Juddmonte.

05 Sep 2012 11:43 AM
sceptre

Re-Frankel's failure to race outside of Great Britain:

The concern isn't so much the "scenery" change as it is (without such venturing) the lack of diversity of competition. This is somewhat less the case within the US (particularly in times past)...Also, take a look at Dubai Millennium's career as comparision. And, take a look at some of his winning times. OK, he lost once and Frankel remains undefeated. But, that lone loss occurred in the Epsom Derby (1 1/2 M undulating course, at age 3). Rather likely, wouldn't you say, that had Frankel competed in that race, his record would also now be blemished. It's a joke that Frankel is Timeform rated over Dubai Millennium.  

05 Sep 2012 5:47 PM
JerseyBoy

There are 14 horses with a Timeform ranking of 140 or higher.

Of these 6 won the Prix de l'Arc .

Included in the 14, are sprinters and a miler.

The following did not run in the ARC:

Brigadier Gerard, Tudor Minstrel, Windy City, Dubai Millennium, Harbinger, Shergar,

Frankel,  Abernant.

Tudor Minstrel (ranked 144) failed to stay when 4th in the Epsom Derby.

Dubai Millennium (ranked 140) finished in midpack  when tried at 12 furlongs in the Derby. He was beaten 9 lengths. He failed to stay.

06 Sep 2012 1:53 PM
chucky

Sceptre -

I agree! Frankel would have already lost as a 3 year old if he tried courses like the Epsom or Longchamp.  It is not about undulating course which he handles pretty well because he is a very strong horse, it is mostly courses with plenty of bends and turns and long looping curves that imo he was campaigned to avoid. He never ran on those type of courses because he probably cannot handle it. He is primarily a sprinter in a straightaway. He is somewhat like Easy Goer, a great horse who imo would have been undefeated and ranked higher except for those 3 losses to Sunday Silence. Easy Goer just cannot handle the far turns at 10 furlongs and a great 10 furlongs horse like SS was enough to beat him at that distance. The Belmont curve is more forgiving and the extra 2 furlongs help him win that race. Contrast Frankel to a big horse like Zenyatta who accelerates and gobbles up far turns like they were straightaways.

Therein lies the problem with Timeform or any other numbers game like Beyer. The heavy marketing on Frankel with his 140-147 marks were very deceiving since these marks were done on straigthaways and at a shorter distance of 8 furlongs. It is no secret (to me anyways) that Timeform and Beyer are biased towards shorter distances and it is one of their glaring weakness people seem to ignore or not notice.

Timeform had Quality Road rated higher than Zenyatta and Excelebration rated higher than So You Think. Both timeform snapshot for QR and Excelebration were taken at a mile. No serious horseman would consider QR better than Zenyatta of Excelebration better than SYT.

Groovy had the highest Beyer ever at 133 at 6 furlongs.

Eventually, when the Frankel news dies down and years later they review his accomplishments, it will eventually fall short of horses like Dubai Millenium, Brigadier Gerard. Frankel's accomplishments never even came close to the Ribot, SeaTheStars or Seabird.

In a nutshell, Frankel arguably is the best turf miler ever on straightaways. His long ground gobbling strides on straightaways is something we will probably never see again.

But I doubt Frankel would even defeat the great Goldikova or Miesque on our 2 turns miles.

He shouldn't even be compared to a SeaTheStars a complete thoroughbred who has enough quality speed to win at 8 furlongs and the stamina and agility to deal with the twists and turns at Epsom and Longchamp.

imo of course!! :)

06 Sep 2012 2:16 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

I am sorry but Frankel has, and CAN win running around turns.  Did you only watch the Guineas last year?...He ran at Goodwood in the sussex vs Canford Cliffs around a turn, he raced the Internationl around a turn, the Royal lodge around a turn, he ran the St.James Palace around a turn......i guess I am making this up?..  also he was campaigned as a miler because he was a VERY difficult 3 yr old to rate, far to much power, and far to head strong.  It took Sir Henry a very long time to transform Frankel to a horse who can rate, and not a horse who would blow out of the gates, and leave the field for dead after 3 furlongs.  His goal was to train him, and race him by rating behind a pacemaker, or the field in general so that when he went longer he was prepard to do so.  Sea The Stars was Perfection in everyway, but mostly because of his temperment.  Now STS was head strong at time, but he was very laid back in his personality,which allowed John oxx to train him the way he wanted to earlier then what Sir Henry had to deal with,  and not to mention that the pundits didn't think he would get 1m4f until he won at Epsom.  Then he went to back to Back 1m2f races , then preped for the ARC in the Irish Champions stakes.  STS did what no other horse will do, he won everything, vs everyone of any age.  truely a Legend, and the best of the last 30yrs.  Having said that Frankel's natural athletic ability IMO surpasses STS, and Since The prince wanted the Champions stakes it is a real shame that he won't run the ARC, and prove to all the doubters how truely remarkable a horse he is. But keep this in mind, if Frankel ran in the ARC, who would have shown up?.  Aiden O said Camelot, and St.Nic would have NOT run there if he entered, and John Gosden(Nathaniel), would have run and hid like they did prior to the Juddmonte, also the connections of Cirrus Des Aigles, and the Connections of Meandre two incredibly talented GR1 winning middle distance runners have dodged Frankel already, and that was spoken about in multiple European media outlets.  Where ever Frankel the Great would have run, nobody would have followed.  I just hope that the Champions Stakes doesn't end up like The BID'S Woodward Walkover..

07 Sep 2012 8:48 PM
JerseyBoy

From the master, Lester Piggott, a man who would know:

"Frankel is amazing, isn't he? It's possible he'd have been all right over a mile and a half in the Arc, but I don't know about that.

Up to 10 furlongs, he's the best horse we've seen in our time."

RacingUK.com, 9-8-12

09 Sep 2012 8:09 AM
chucky

Midnight Lute - sorry but you need to see the layout that Frankels runs. There are not long turns, they are quick short bends where everbody has to slow up and most of his races were fairly straightaways...That is why no Epsom and no Longchamp with their long winding turns....

Again the York was 2 straightaways with just one quick turn....

11 Sep 2012 11:33 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Chucky-  I am not sure I understand...Tell me what European course has turns like american turf courses?....Even at woodbine the course is FAR different then any american turf course, which is why woodbine gets incredible praise from all trainers all over. which is why the Canadian international field is more then half loaded with Euro's.  No where in the world that I know of do they run Mile races around two turns. But let me flip that around on you and Ask....did Zenyatta or any other horse run on courses like Newmarket, Ascot, Goodwood etc where the track dips, and rises, and dips??...cause THAT is more of a true course if you ask me..also How many races did Goldikova run that were straight?....3/4 of them.  get rid of this two turn mentality...because that is a joke if you ask me.

12 Sep 2012 6:38 PM
chucky

Midnight Lute - not American courses but european courses like Epsom and Longchamp with their long winding turns. and multiple little turns.

Frankel has basically ran straightaways on all his miles and when he won at York at 10 furlongs it was 2 straightaways with a small bend.

He has never ran a course like Epsom or Longchamp and at 12 furlongs that is some tough course. He has to show agility which he never had to do with all his races and that would include his last race the Champion Stakes.

And that is why imo they avoided running him at 12 furlongs.

13 Sep 2012 12:28 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Chucky-  Longchamps is MUCH flatter then the tracks I listed.  When Firm Longchamps is a runway, look at Danedream last year over turf rated good, and she broke the track record.  Epsom yes is a true course, but certainly York, Ascot, and Newmarket are certainly difficult courses especially the Rowley Mile at Newmarket....(The straight away) that rises and has that difficult dip, and is not flat at all.  

15 Sep 2012 7:52 PM
chucky

Midnight Lute - somehow you either misunderstand what I am trying to tell you or you just plain ignoring it. Let me try one more time.

Frankel has basically won all his races running STRAIGHTAWAY COURSES.

Running 8 furlongs in europe is not like running 2 turn mile races in USA. I hope that clears that up.

His win at York at 10 furlongs were 2 straightaways with one small bend in the middle of the race.

He has never ran long looping turns with more twist and turns like he would have at Epsom or Longchamp AT 12 FURLONGS.

I hope that is clear. He has never shown great aGility that a thoroughbreds like Ribot or Shergar or SeaTheStars have shown.

ONE MORE TIME...

short 8 furlongs races in europe are basically straightaways. His York win is basically 2 straightaways with no long looping turn because he only did 10 furlongs.

For his finally at Ascot at 10 furlongs he will again not run any long looping turn. If he did 12 furlongs he would have but he is not and never had.

IMO he cannot run that great on long looping turns and/or courses with a lot of twist and turns.

He does not have to confront this hurdle at 8 furlongs, his wheehouse. That is why his 147 at 8 furlongs is decieving, all he had to do was run straight. When Seabird did his 145 at longchamp and Ribot did his 143 also at longchamp. a much more difficult rating to achieve when running turns.

17 Sep 2012 12:37 AM

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