Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2012

For all she has been in the past and all that she promises in the future, Saratoga is a symbol to those who love the thoroughbred that is far greater than any one event, regardless of its cachet. As such, Saratoga is a subject for a writer that presents the greatest of challenges. 

Saratoga is, metaphorically, like a woman who has fully matured into the essence of herself. She may have creases and a more generous waistline, but she also has a deep lustre in her eye and a way of being in the world that bespeaks an awareness of the narratives that have informed her life. 

The great American writer H.D. was fascinated by the idea of the palimpsest and its implications in the telling of stories. A palimpsest is defined as ” … a piece of manuscript or writing material in which the original has been effaced to make room for new writing” or “something reused or altered that still bears the traces of its earlier form.” This image befits Saratoga, a place where history comes to life again each midsummer.

A generous history that embraces new narratives even as it respects the old. 

 

The 3 H’s of Saratoga Springs.

Named after the Iroquois “Sarachtogue” meaning either “place of swift water” or “hillside by great river,” Saratoga was recognized as a village in 1826. Gideon Putnam had earlier made a savvy investment in the little community’s future by erecting two hotels, the Grand Union and the Congress. It didn’t take long before the rich mineral waters and beautiful surroundings beckoned the wealthy, and still more hotels were built to accommodate a steady stream of affluent Victorian ladies and gentlemen.

An early lithograph of the Grand Union Hotel, which first served as a boarding house before its evolution into the opulent headquarters of the rich and famous.

The Grand Union Hotel in its heyday.

The parlor of the Grand Union bespoke luxury and fine furnishings.

The dining room boasted exquisite crystal chandeliers that were bought for a hotel in Washington D.C. in 1950, when the hotel contents were sold prior to the demolition of the Grand Union hotel. A supermarket  — Grand Union — was erected on the site.

The front piazza of the Grand Union Hotel from the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views.

In 1863, John Morrissey arrived in Saratoga with a vision. He wanted to open a site that would feature thoroughbred horse racing and he piloted the idea in that year, in the form of a 4-day meeting. It was a great success and Morrissey joined forces with William Hunter, Leonard Jerome and William R. Travers to build the Saratoga Race Course on 125 acres, situated across from the trotting grounds. The track opened for business on August 2, 1864.

Travers, a wealthy New York lawyer and socialite, served as the track’s first president. The Travers Stakes, America’s oldest thoroughbred horse race, was named after the ebullient and well-loved millionaire and was won for the very first time in 1864 by a colt named Kentucky. A case of history turning in unexpected ways: had it not been for John Morrissey, there would likely have never been a Saratoga Race Course at all. In truth, Morrissey was not really the type of character that one would immortalize: he was brilliant, but in a world of crystal chandeliers, ladies in rustling silk and powerful men, a cocky young Irishman who’d earned fame in boxing rings and gambling houses would definitely have been perceived as the “rough edge out.”

An engraving of Kentucky, the first winner of the Travers Stakes, who won 21 of his 23 starts and won 20 races consectively. By the great Lexington, Kentucky was born in 1861. In that year, the other 2 colts sired by Lexington were Norfolk and Asteroid, who were both undefeated throughout their careers. In fact, one of the 2 races that Kentucky lost was to Asteroid! Kentucky was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1983.

John Morrissey was a champion boxer and a gambler, as well as a visionary.

Standardbreds like the great mare, Lou Dillon, came to Saratoga to compete before Saratoga Race Course opened. Lou Dillon, the first standardbred to trot a mile in under 2:00 is pictured here in 1903 driven by her owner C.K.G. Billings in an exhibition trot for her many fans. Lou Dillon thrilled spectators in Berlin, Moscow and Vienna in similar exhibitions before her retirement in 1906.

Of course, there are other races run at Saratoga that have become as famous as the Travers, each carrying its own history and narratives. Among the better known Grade I stakes are the Alabama, Coaching Club American Oaks, Hopeful, Spinaway, Whitney and the Woodward. At Grade II, there is the Jim Dandy and the Sanford, while at Grade III, the James Marvin. For the steeplechasers, there are another two graded stakes: the NY Turf Writers’ Handicap and the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap.

Often, the most famous of these stories recount the defeat of a legend, adding credence to Saratoga’s darker reputation, as the “graveyard of champions.” Too, there have been performances that dazzled even the most experienced of racing fans.

Upset defeats Man O’ War in the 1919 Sanford. The loss would be the only defeat of Big Red’s career.

A gutsy Onion shown defeating Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney, a loss that was a heart-breaker for the throngs of fans who had come to Saratoga just to see the Triple Crown winner.

But then, there were moments that will never be eroded by time. Above, Ruffian winning the Spinaway. Below, the magnificent Go For Wand running in the Alabama, having scared away almost all the competition with her brilliance. She set a track record.

Go For Wand is buried in the Saratoga infield. The champion, considered by many to be the best since Ruffian, broke down in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Her bereft owners requested that she be laid to rest at Saratoga, the scene of her great victory in the Alabama.

Nor does the historical patina of Saratoga Race Course end with the narratives of great races. There are a number of graded stakes named after champion thoroughbreds too, equine beings who graced the track and became immortal: Jim Dandy, Forego, Go For Wand, Personal Ensign, Ruffian, Sword Dancer, King’s Bishop, Fourstardave, Honorable Miss, Victory Ride, With Anticipation, De La Rose and most recently, champions Funny Cide and Curlin.

Nijinsky’s brilliant daughter, De La Rose, is honored in an ungraded stakes race, as are Funny Cide and Curlin.

Fourstardave, a great local favourite, is remembered in a Grade II Stakes race that carries his name. He was laid to rest at Claire Court on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course, a rare honour that he shares with only 3 other horses.

The incomparable Personal Ensign lends her name to a Grade I Stakes race.

Funny Cide, a Saratoga-born champion and the first New York bred to win the Kentucky Derby. shown leaving his mark on the 2012 Kentucky Visitors’ Guide. The champ now resides at the Kentucky Horse Park where he can meet many of his fans.

Magnificent Curlin, shown here working over the main track at Saratoga. He’s the most recent equine star to have a stakes named in his honour at Saratoga Race Course.

A who’s who of great Americans are also associated with Saratoga, among them MaryLou Whitney, Barbara Livingston, Monty Woolley, Jerry Bailey, Danny Hakim, Steven Millhauser, Ulysses S. Grant, George Crum and Nick Steele. Another American icon — the potato chip — was invented in or near Saratoga. And the town has been the site of a number of well-known movies, among them: Saratoga (1937), The Way We Were (1973), The Horse Whisperer (1998) and Seabiscuit (2003).

A movie still from the 1937 movie, Saratoga, starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. It was to be the actress’ last film. She died of kidney failure before it could be released.

Yes, the romance of Saratoga was not wasted on movie moguls and in its first few decades, horses who have become the elite of American racing lent their hooves and hearts to the image.

In Saratoga of old, this scene was re-enacted daily throughout the summer.

Saratoga race course captured in an old postcard of the day.

Old Rosebud pictured at Saratoga in 1913 before the running of the Flash Stakes. This photo, along with thousands of others, is housed in Saratoga’s Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The decade of the 1870’s was framed by the battle of two equine titans in the 1872 Saratoga Cup: Harry Bassett and Longfellow. Racing right down to the wire, it was almost impossible to call the winner. But in the end it was Harry Bassett — only later would it be learned that one of Longfellow’s shoes had turned, embedding itself in the loser’s foot.

The contest between Harry Bassett and Longfellow, as represented by Currier & Ives.

In the 1880’s it was the greats Luke Blackburn (winner of 22 of 24 starts), Hindoo (who won the Travers, the Sequel, the US Hotel and Kenner Stakes at Saratoga), Miss Woodford (winner of the Spinaway and the Alabama), as well as Hanover, Emperor of Norfolk and Kingston who wowed them at Saratoga.

Luke Blackburn was a horse who tended to pull his jockey’s arms out of their sockets. By Bonnie Scotland, his broodmare sire was the incomparable Lexington. Luke Blackburn made 39 starts, winning 25, including the Kenner and Grand Union at Saratoga in 1880. As a sire, he produced one great son in Proctor Knott, the only colt Salvator could never beat.

The wonderful Hindoo won 30 of 35 starts, including the Kentucky Derby, the Travers and the Clark Handicap. He sired the pre-potent Hanover, as well as Preakness winner, Buddhist.

At the ages of 3, 4 and 5, Miss Woodford won 16 consecutive races and was America’s leading money winner at the age of 5. As a 6 year-old, Miss Woodford won 6 races in less than 2 months.  This stupendous filly was trained by James G. Rowe Sr. who also campaigned Colin, Sysonby and Commando.

Hanover won his first 17 races and ended his career on the track after making 50 starts, winning 32 and showing or placing in another 16. As a sire, he headed the American Leading Sire list for 4 straight years — a record only duplicated when Bold Ruler came along. Hanover was also the damsire of Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton.

Emperor of Norfolk was a mighty race horse who won 8 consecutive races, including the American Derby where he was ridden by the legendary Isaac Burns Murphy. As a sire, he counts Mumtaz Mahal among his descendants.

Bred by James R. Keene, Kingston was sired by Spendthrift. Kingston was one of the first horses to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga.

Perhaps, though, it is indeed America’s oldest thoroughbred horse race — the Travers — raced on America’s oldest race course, that trumps all other stakes during the Saratoga meet. Even today, it is the race that socialite, sports writer and racing fan alike cannot afford to miss. No surprise there. The sheer number of great thoroughbreds who have appeared in the Travers since 1864 is mind-boggling.

The race itself has varied in distance since the first running. From 1864-1889 it was run over 1 3/4 miles; from 1890-1892 over 1 1/2 miles; in 1893-94 at 1 1/4 and in 1895 and 1901-1903, at 1 1/8. Finally, in 1903, the distance was set at 1 1/4 miles. The Travers Trophy, known as the Man O’ War Cup, was designed by Tiffany & Co. and first presented by Mrs. Samuel Riddle to commemorate Man O’ War’s Travers victory in 1920. A gold-plated facsimile of the original cup, now known as The Travers Cup, is still presented to the winner each year. As well, a canoe that sits in the Saratoga infield is painted in the winner’s colours and a jockey statue that sits at the entrance is similarly refurbished in the jockey’s silks.

The Travers Cup and its gold-plated presentation copy, held aloft. Traditionally, a member of the Riddle family and either the Governor or Lt. Governor of New York are on hand to make the presentation.

The Great One, Man O’ War, shown working over the Saratoga track.

Man O’ War after his Travers win.

In its second running, at 1 3/4 miles, it was the filly, Maiden, who won the Travers. Her win christened a trend: in its first 5 years, fillies would win the Travers 3 times and colts, twice. In the first dozen years of the race, fillies would win four times, all going at the original distance of almost 2 miles. Their names were: Maiden (1865), Ruthless (1867), The Banshee (1868) and Sultana (1876). And of these 4, it was Ruthless who is remembered today.

Ruthless, depicted by the famous equine artist Edward Troye.

A bay filly with two white feet and a white snip on her brow, Ruthless was owned and bred by New Yorker, Francis Morris and raced for his Holmdell Stable. Her sire was an imported stallion named Eclipse (1855) and her dam, Barbarity (1854) by Simoon (1838), another British import. The pair also produced four full sisters to Ruthless — Relentless, Remorseless, Regardless and Merciless — who were very good indeed, although none was as accomplished as Ruthless. The sisters became known as the “Barbarous Battalion.” (Eclipse and Barbarity also produced colts, none of whom distinguished themselves.)

Ruthless won both the inaugural running of the Belmont Stakes and the second running of the Travers in the same year. In all, she raced 11 times and finished first or second in each start, all of which were in mixed company. The mighty mare was retired and produced 3 foals, including one by her own sire, Eclipse. Of these, only BattleAxe2 appears to have done much on the track.

Tragically, the champion was shot by a hunter while grazing in a pasture on her owner’s property in 1876 and died a short time later of her injuries.

The romance of Saratoga, represented on an old postcard from the 1930’s.

Over the years, the list of winners of the Travers consistently impresses. Twenty Grand (1931), Whirlaway (1941), Native Dancer (1953), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1967), Thunder Gulch (1995), Birdstone (2004) and Street Sense (2007) are only a few of the champions to be recorded on the Travers’ roster. Most recently, sires Medaglia d’Oro (Rachel Alexandra) and Flower Alley (I’ll Have Another) won the Travers, underscoring the connection between this historic contest and the evolution of thoroughbred bloodlines.

The great thoroughbred Twenty Grand, shown here during a work, won the Travers in 1931, together with the Wood Memorial, Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, the Dwyer, the Saratoga Cup, the Laurence Realization and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

John Nerud’s talented Gallant Man won the Travers in 1957. That same year, the colt also won the Belmont Stakes, the Jockey Gold Cup, the Peter Pan, the Nassau County Handicap and the Hibiscus Stakes. He ran second in the Kentucky Derby, when his jockey Bill Shoemaker misjudged the finish line.

Alydar shown arriving at Saratoga where he would again meet his nemesis, Affirmed, in the 1978 Travers. Although Affirmed won it, the Triple Crown champ was disqualified for interference and Alydar proclaimed the winner. It must have been a bittersweet victory given the circumstances.

Secretariat’s son, General Assembly, won in 1979.

The Lemon Drop Kid comes home to win the 1999 Travers.

Flower Alley, trained by Saratoga’s leading trainer, Todd Pletcher, captures the 2005 Travers in style. He went on to produce the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner of 2012, I’ll Have Another.

One of the most exciting Travers ever run was arguably contested in 1962, when rivals Ridan and Jaipur went at it still again ……

In 1982, Canada made history at Saratoga when her Triple Crown winner, Runaway Groom, captured the Travers and became the only horse to ever defeat the winners of the Kentucky Derby (Gat Del Sol), Preakness (Aloma’s Ruler) and Belmont Stakes (Conquistador Cielo) in one race.

It was Holy Bull in 1994 under jockey, Mike Smith. And the great champion did not disappoint……

Our tribute to Saratoga Race Course and its central place in the story of American thoroughbred racing ends with Bernardini’s breathtaking victory in the Travers of 2006.

The day was sweltering, but the elegant son of A.P. Indy hardly shed a single bead of sweat as he walked into the starting gate. That day, there would be no tragedy on the track to dwarf the winner’s talent and drive, as had been the case in the Preakness. As Bernardini turned for home, leaving Bluegrass Cat and the others in his wake, the sense that they were watching a great horse hushed the spectators. When he crossed the wire, Bernardini joined a very select group of Man O’ War and Damascus as only the third horse in American racing history to win the Preakness, the Travers and the Jockey Gold Cup in the same year. As a sire, it only took 5 years for Bernardini to sire his own Travers’ winner: Stay Thirsty (2011).

Even though it is only one layer in the palimpsest that is midsummer horse racing at Saratoga, the Travers’ remains a test of thoroughbred excellence — as revered today as it was that very first day in 1864 when Kentucky came home a winner.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In November 2009, shortly after Robert J. Frankel succumbed to lymphoma,  one of the trainer’s patrons, Prince Khalid Abdullah (Juddmonte Farms), articulated his deep sense of respect for the Hall of Fame trainer by naming a thoroughbred after him.

The colt was of royal pedigree, born on February 11, 2008 and it must have struck Prince Abdullah that the bay son of Galileo was a fitting vessel to carry the spirit of one whose accomplishments celebrated the thoroughbred and the sport.

From the first moment he set foot on the turf as a 2 year-old juvenile, Robert Frankel’s namesake would demonstrate how a legend becomes.

(“Become” derived from the Old English becuman, meaning [to] happen, [to] come about, [to] arrive.)

Frankel watches training.

The Namesake: Frankel (Galileo ex. Kind)

Trainer Robert J. Frankel — who was quickly dubbed “Bobby” by the press, but who preferred to be called Robert by those who knew him best — was a legendary thoroughbred trainer.

Born in Brooklyn to a family of very modest means, Frankel would come up through the ranks to become successful and respected, modelling his methods after another superstar, Charlie Whittingham ( Ack Ack, Ferdinand, Sunday Silence and Exceller). Frankel ran his horses on both the East and West coasts, but it was his move to California that brought him the best horses and mighty clients. Dottie Ingordo- Shirreffs became his business associate, managing his stable and his life (by her own admission) and over the years, the two became like brother and sister.

Frankel acquired patrons like Prince Khalid Abdullah, Jerry and Ann Moss, William and Marion Frankel (no relation), the Firestones (owners of, among others, Genuine Risk), Ed Gann, Frank Stronach and Stavros Niarchos. And Frankel rewarded their faith in him. From 2000-2009, Frankel-trained horses won over 10 million dollars.

Ginger Punch with trainer Frankel in the foreground.

Some of Bobby’s stars included Ghostzapper, Mineshaft, Empire Maker, Aldebaran, Ginger Punch, Bertrando, Lesroidesanimaux (sire of Animal Kingdom), Squirtle Squirt, Toussaud (the dam of Empire Maker), Marquetry and Medaglia d’Oro (the sire of Rachel Alexandra). Most noted for his skill at developing horses to run on North American turf, Frankel horses won the Eclipse Award 11 times. Frankel himself won the Eclipse for Best Trainer another 5 times.

In his private life, Frankel was a man who inspired great loyalty and respect among staff and patrons. He was kind and revered all living things, forming close relationships with champions Sightseek, the feisty Toussaud and her son, Empire Maker. Of the latter he said, “How could he not be great? He’s out of Toussaud.”

Frankel’s other great love were his dogs: he stayed home from the 2007 Breeder’s Cup with his beloved Australian shepherd, Happy, who was dying. He let it be known that his place was first and foremost with his canine companion. Frankel seemed more at ease around horses and dogs than he was around most people. He understood them in ways that most of us don’t and, although he would have rued the comparison, he was as much an animal whisperer as he was a shrewd and strategic trainer.

Bobby with one of his beloved dogs, who travelled the country with him during his career.

Sharing a kiss with Happy.

To those of us who knew him as he appeared through the television lens, Bobby Frankel seemed a shy, modest man. Eyes frequently shielded behind sunglasses, he responded to interviews about some of his most colourful charges as though talking to the press was a kind of necessary evil. There was something about his demeanour that cautioned the uninitiated to steer away from silly questions, or inquiries that were overtly personal, even though Frankel was disinclined to be scathing. But he could be “crusty” and we accepted this quirk lovingly, because the man was a giant in the world of thoroughbred racing, the kind of genius that made you hang on his every word. But even his delight at winning his first classic race in the Triple Crown series, with Empire Maker, was measured by the time the television cameras caught up with him. Just minutes before, in the privacy of a trackside viewing room, rare footage had caught him smiling and jumping as he watched the big bay son of Toussaud cruise across the finish line.

“When the Almighty One created the horse, he said to the magnificent creature: ‘ I have made thee as no other. All the treasures of the earth lie between thy eyes. Thou shalt carry my friends upon thy back. Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me. And thou shalt fly without wings, and conquer without any sword.’ “  -The Koran

The Namesake, as might be expected, is also a turf specialist. To date, his record is impeccable: 11 for 11. In his most recent victory at Royal Ascot last month, the colt awed pundits and fans alike. He quite simply put on one of the most devastating shows of equine superiority anyone had ever seen.

Frankel, following his win in the 2011 Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood is flanked by jockey Tom Queally, owner Prince Khalid Abdullah (Juddmonte Farms) and, in the background, trainer Henry Cecil.

Kind, Frankel’s dam is a daughter of Danehill (Danzig).

Danehill, depicted here by artist Suan Crawford, was cut down in mid-career in a terrible paddock accident. The son of Danzig and Frankel’s BM sire was well on his way to becoming a sire as prepotent as Northern Dancer.

Frankel’s BM sire, Sadler’s Wells, and his millionaire sons out for a walk at Coolmore Ireland. The grand old man is followed by Galileo, Montjeu and High Chaparral.

Frankel descends from a royal line, carrying the genes of Urban Sea, Danehill, Sadler’s Wells, Danzig, Miswaki, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Buckpasser, Nearctic, Natalma, Native Dancer and Ribot in his second to fifth generations. The Galileo-Danehill cross has proved itself to be auspicious; classic winners like Maybe, Roderic O’Connor and Golden Lilac also descend from this mix.

Frankel as a yearling already shows the promise of powerful hindquarters and a good shoulder. As a colt, his build was very like that of his dam sire, Danehill. But as a 4 year-old, his conformation is also reminiscent of that of his BM sire, Sadler’s Wells.

A young Sadler’s Wells during his racing career, which paled in comparison to his phenomenal success as a sire. Photo and copyright, John Crofts Photography, Newmarket, Suffolk, UK.

When The Namesake first arrived at Henry Cecil’s barn he was a hot-headed, pushy youngster who had a lot to learn. The Galileo’s do tend to be rather “hot” in temperament generally, so that aspect of things was really no surprise to Cecil. It was the colt’s attitude that got him tons of attention, right from the start.

Put simply, young Frankel not only wanted everything his own way, he also wanted the other horses to get out of his way.

The Namesake had successfully completed his initial training when he arrived in Sir Henry Cecil’s yard. Now, one of his first lessons as a race-horse-in-training would be to walk with a string of other Cecil juveniles in a more-or-less orderly fashion, followed by the famous “gallops” over Newmarket Heath, considered an ideal way to build body strength and stamina.

It can take a long time to train juveniles to walk in line and, as his distinguished trainer was quick to observe, Frankel liked to bully his peers along. He would butt at the horse in front or kick the one behind him and the whole training session would descend into havoc. On the gallops, he was a speedball unless throttled half to death. Never mean, the young Frankel was a personality to be reckoned with — spirited, overly confident and fast. Very fast.

The colt had met his match, however, in Sir Henry Cecil. Acknowledged as the pre-eminent British trainer of all time, the brilliant Cecil has been a controversial figure throughout his career. Today, at age 69, he may have mellowed some. But behind an otherwise steely gaze, the “bad boy” still glimmers — and, occasionally, makes his presence known during interviews about his most famous charge. Cecil is no stranger to the press, however. He has trained the champions Kris, Ardross, Diesis, Skip Anchor, Oh So Sharp, Commander In Chief, Bosra Sham, Twice Over and Midday, with whom he won the 2009 BC Filly & Mare Turf, among others.

Sir Henry with champion, Twice Over.

The exquisite Midday, another Cecil superstarl.

Sir Henry Cecil being interviewed by AT THE RACES (UK).

To date, Henry Cecil has been named Champion Trainer 10 times, had 25 domestic Classic winners in Great Britain alone and is Master Trainer at Royal Ascot, having saddled no less than 70 winners there over the years. Cecil is credited with having particularly good results with fillies, of which Bosra Sham and Midday are shining examples. In this, he shares a connection with American trainer Bobby Frankel.

But of all his former and current champions, it is Frankel who has given him the penultimate thrill and whom he describes as “… the best I’ve ever had. Maybe the best there is.”

Cecil certainly knew what to do about the rowdy Frankel. But would he manage to get him right? This is always what haunts the great trainers, who can not only spot a future champion, but can also get into their minds to see what makes them tick. In Frankel’s case, it was that he loved to run and just wanted to get on with it.

Brilliant jockey Tom Queally takes The Namesake through a gallop.

To allow the colt to have his own way would have probably ended in disaster. His young bones could shatter, taking others down with him. Or a rider could be paralyzed for life. Or he could develop into a monster, too dangerous to have on the turf. Or end up racing himself into the ground at the start, only to be left far behind at the finish. The answer was not to dampen The Namesake’s spirit and drive but, rather, to channel them into a productive racing style.

Going down to the start of the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (April 30, 2011).

Frankel was ridden and handled by only the best lads Cecil had and that meant, among other things, lads with quiet hands. Together, trainer, rider and handler began to teach the precocious colt how to listen to commands, calm himself down and pace himself, as well as all the other “basics,” such as loading into a starting gate. The Namesake’s best distance was tougher to determine. Would he be a sprinter like his dam? Or a Classic individual, like his sire?

And although Frankel began to show signs that his eagerness could be harnessed, in his first win he jumped out of the starting gate, was throttled by Queally to slow him down and then, once he’d relaxed a little, responded when asked to beat Nathaniel, a really good colt who would go on to forge his own star status. Surprisingly, Cecil chose a race run over a mile for Frankel’s first start, probably to see if he had a stayer or a horse who needed a shorter distance.

In the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (2010) at Newmarket, Frankel is still contesting who’s in charge. He wins again though, despite fighting with Queally to get his head a good three-quarters of the way:

At 3, The Namesake was starting to show a more integrated side of himself, working with young Tom Queally in a much more willing and professional fashion than he had done as a juvenile. But it wasn’t easy getting there: Frankel was still a challenge to handle. The public, not really understanding anything except that they wanted him to go on winning, blamed Queally instead. Fortunately, both trainer and jockey shrugged off the criticism and maintained cool heads. By the time Frankel arrived at Glorious Goodwood for the Qipco Sussex Stakes, the transformation was complete. It is in the Sussex that we see Frankel’s signature as we have come to know it: loping along, until he gets his cue from Queally to go on. And then comes a devastating turn of foot, followed by an acceleration that tends to make the other horses look like they’re standing still.

Here he is in the Sussex, beating 5-time Grade One winner, Canford Cliffs.

When Frankel returned to race at 4, he had matured physically. Despite a build that some might find stocky, a large part of Frankel’s success owes to his ability to stretch that frame out, lowering himself as close to the ground as possible to achieve top-speed. In fact, this trait has the advantage of cutting down resistance, like an arrow or an airplane or an Olympic swimmer.

Frankel’s racing style is to get as close to the ground as possible.

And it’s not only his unlikely transformation from a bull-like presence to a torpedo on the turf. At home, Frankel’s personality is quite different than the calm fellow we see in the walking ring before a race. If trainer Cecil looks a bit bleary-eyed at times, it would be because he goes to Frankel’s stall each and every night to be certain that The Namesake hasn’t gotten himself into trouble. The colt is noted for disassembling his stall — manger, bucket….pretty much anything he can get his jaws around or pummel to death with his forelegs. He seems to regard this kind of bludgeoning as recreational. Cecil confessed that he can’t sleep at night until he’s checked on Frankel  “…just to see what he’s gotten up to. I like to make sure he isn’t turned upside down or something….”

Kisses aside, the “real” Frankel is…..a brat!!!

Frankel’s most recent victory has been described as “the British version of Secretariat’s Belmont.” In a sense, it was the race his fans were waiting for — and the Frankel-Queally duo were most obliging. Taking on some really good competition, Frankel seemed to walk away from the entire field 3 furlongs from the finish, winning the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June by 13 lengths.

(NOTE: Below is the long version of The Namesake’s victory in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot 2012, featuring the post-race analysis of another racing legend, former jockey Willie Carson.)

Read Full Post »