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Posts Tagged ‘Sir Henry Cecil’

What a decade it has been! All over the horse racing world, champions emerged to dazzle us and lift our spirits. 

There were so many great thoroughbreds in the second decade of the twenty-first century, from Australia to Japan to the UK, Europe and North America, that I gave up on the idea of attempting to acknowledge each one here. Or to make a list of the “Top Ten” horses or moments of the decade.

When I look back, I’ll remember many, but the individuals that punctuate the passing decade for me are the ones who were more than figures on a screen. They touched me deeply in one way or other, inspiring imaginings as they took up residence somewhere close to my heart. Like a besotted paramour, I awaited each of their exploits with an anticipation so intense it hurt. They made my spirit dance.

So these are my stars of a kingdom filled with stars. I have made no attempt to compare them, because I know that comparisons are pointless; for that reason, they appear in chronological, not hierarchical, order.

To the connections of each of these great thoroughbreds, who so graciously gave of their time so that we could really get to know them, I give thanks. I also note that, the connections of all the thoroughbreds on my list save for one allowed their horses to race into their adult years, when their bodies and minds had matured, rather than pulling them off the public stage as 3 year olds.

In North America we have been conditioned to think that keeping older horses in competition is a risk but, in fact, campaigning babies before they have physically developed is far more dangerous. It was wonderful to be reminded what thoroughbreds at the height of their powers could do.

1) ZENYATTA

(2004, Street Cry X Vertigineux by Kris S.)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Native Dancer, Tom Fool, Nashua, Never Bend, Cosmah, Prince Rose, Hyperion, Mumtaz Mahal, The Tetrarch, Bimelech, Teddy.

It was the final year of the great Zenyatta’s racing career and as 2010 opened, she stood a Titan — undefeated in 12 starts, 2008 BC Ladies Classic and 2009 BC Classic winner, and about to garner her second Eclipse Award, as older female. In the latter case, fans were deeply disappointed by her loss of Horse of the Year for 2009, given that she was the first filly/mare to ever win the 2009 BC Classic and to ever win two different BC races. Instead, the title went to another remarkable filly, Rachel Alexandra, who was also winding down an incredible career. Rachel had won the Preakness, together with the Kentucky Oaks, Haskell and the Woodward against older males in 2009, and was as beloved by racing fans as Zenyatta.

By 2010, we all knew Zenyatta, our “Dancing Queen,” intimately. They were family.  We knew her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss and the other members of “Team Z” — trainer John Shirreffs, grooms Mario Espinoza and Carmen Zamona, exercise rider Steve Willard, jockey Mike Smith. We knew that Zenny loved her Guinness. A darling of the press, a star of 60 Minutes and the centre piece of her own website and “Zenyatta’s Diary,” written by the Moss’ racing manager, Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, Zenyatta was the flagship of racing for millions of fans worldwide.

She contued her winning ways, chalking up 19 wins before the 2010 BC Classic, where she would bid to win it for a second time, a feat only accomplished once before, by the incomparable Tiznow.

Zenyatta arrived in Kentucky on Nov 2, 2010 for her BC run and the world was there to greet her:

I wanted her to do it. She was one of the most exceptional mares in North American racing history and putting colts to the sword felt like a fitting way to close out a brilliant career.

But when it came, in the night at Churchill Downs, victory was not to be. Lagging behind the field for too long, then caught wide on the turn coming home, Zenyatta still ran what was arguably the most impressive race of her career, even though she crossed the finish line a head short.

The 2010 BC Classic was the only loss of a 20-race career in which 13 of her wins came in G1’s.

To say the loss was a heartbreaker to all, from Team Z to fans a continent or more away, is an understatement. But I will always recall the words of an Australian turf writer a few days later, who wrote “…While it stands as her only loss, you know nothing about thoroughbred racing if that’s all you take away from her defeat. Zenyatta did things most thoroughbreds can’t do — coming from over 20 lengths from the leaders and travelling at over 60 mph in her drive to the wire, to lose by a diminishing head. Most of us will never see anything that even comes close to that ever again. This is one absolutely incredible thoroughbred — and that’s what I hope you will remember about her final race.”

Zenyatta was retired in December of 2010. Arriving at Keeneland from California with her whole team, she was greeted by hundreds of people who stood out in the freezing cold to welcome her to Kentucky.

In January 2011, Zenyatta was awarded the 2010 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

 

2) FRANKEL

(2008, Galileo X Kind by Danehill)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Danzig, Northern Dancer, Nearco, Native Dancer, Buckpasser, Ribot, War Admiral, Man O’ War, Blue Larkspur, La Troienne, Bend Or, Commando, Domino.

Frankel started his career with a win that marked him as a “promising” juvenile, on a wet afternoon at Newmarket, crossing the finish line with Nathaniel, another Galileo colt, at his throat latch.

Named after the incomparable American trainer, Bobby Frankel, who had trained for Prince Khgalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte in the United States, Frankel was by Galileo out of the Prince’s Danehill mare, Kind. And even though his maiden win was in no way remarkable, we had all learned to “watch the Galileos.” I was intrigued by both Nathaniel and Frankel and resolved to keep an eye on both.

The British racing community is less inclined to “go over the top” about a horse than many other racing communities around the world, but by the end of 2011, it was pretty much impossible NOT to keep your eye on Frankel and his jockey, young Tom Queally. And even seasoned racing commentators struggled to find words to represent the history they knew they were living.

As for Frankel — he just kept going on and on.

 

After watching thoroughbreds for over 50 years, I knew I was a witness to an extraordinary individual, one who had been the product of 35 years of breeding by the Prince — as well as quite literally centuries in the making. Whereas the mysteries of breeding the ultimate thoroughbred have managed to elude even the most exacting scientific inquiry, what remains clear is that the evolution of the breed is not the work of any one person, but rather the combined efforts of breeders down through the centuries, together with the genetic contribution of many fine sires and dams. In Frankel, history and lineage had found its truest expression.

I often find myself wondering what it must have been like to experience Eclipse, or The Tetrarch, or Pretty Polly, or Man O’ War in their time, to have been one of the spectators, to have acxtually seen them in the flesh.

Frankel felt exactly like that kind of experience to me. I would be one who could say, “I was there.”

But running alongside Frankel’s unequivocal reign on the turf was another story, one that made each victory bittersweet: his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, was dying. The irony was cruel, that one of Great Britain’s greatest trainers should come upon his crowning achievement in his last years. However, as Sir Henry would acknowledge shortly before his death, “I had to be there for Frankel” and there he was, in every sense of the word, right up to Frankel’s very last race.

The story that was Sir Henry and his brilliant colt, together with all the emotion, came together on the Knavesmire at York in the 2012 Juddmonte International:

The lovely thing about a horse race is that it shows us how to live in the moment.

When you are watching the career of one of the most remarkable thoroughbreds of all time, it is indeed a blessing to live each and every moment fully.

 

3) BLACK CAVIAR

(2006, by Bel Esprit X Helsinge by Desert Sun)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Nijinsky, Northern Dancer, Vain, Nasrullah, Hyperion, Hurry On, Scapa Flow, Gainsborough, Ajax, Isonomy, Doncaster.

I stayed up deep into the early morning to watch her run and paid for it. But there was simply no better place to be: she was my “whirlwind from down under” and I adored her.

In 2012 in the UK it was all about Frankel — and so a (usually) good-natured, if hard-nosed, rivalry rose up between the devoted on two sides of the world:

I’m never tempted to enter into such rivalries, but I will say that neither Frankel nor Nelly took a backseat as far as power and turn-of-foot were concerned.

“Hear The Angels” …..”The Pride of Australia” ……. “Regal Power Wrapped in an Elegant Machine” …. “And the Legend Lives On,” such were just a few of the calls that greeted the big, dark mare as she crossed the finish in her native land, her polka dot silks rippling on jockey Hugh Bowman, the field toiling behind her. She was the fullest expression her ancestors’ majesty, courage and heart.

If it was the signature shake of the reins and the immense surge of chest and forelegs in answer that I waited for when Frankel ran, in Nelly’s case it was the relentless, driving force of her sweep to victory that made my heart leap up.

Travelling to England in her much-publicized rubber suit to run in the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Nelly delivered, though not in the style we were accustomed to see.

It was race #17 and never before had the great mare finished in a photo. Looking back, I still see it as a blip on the screen. After all, Nelly had journeyed from halfway around the world to appear at Royal Ascot.

Nelly went on to secure 25 straight victories in as many starts, 15 of which were G1s. It was an absolutely astounding record, by any standard.

So astounding, that as I look back on it, I still find Black Caviar’s brilliance difficult to fully register.

Sometimes it’s like that with the great ones.

 

4) TREVE

(2010, Motivator X Trevise by Anabaa)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Sharpen Up, Secretariat, Northern Dancer, Vaguely Noble, Bahram, Spearmint, Hyperion, Isinglass, Persimmon, St. Simon.

I can’t deny it. By the time Treve came into my life, I was pretty much convinced that I’d already witnessed the best it could get.

Then along came Treve.

I always paid attention to what the Head family was up to; this had been true since Freddy Head’s victories on Miesque grabbed my attention in the late 1980’s. After his retirement from riding, Freddy and his sister, Criquette Head Maarek, embarked on careers in training in France, with Freddy closing out 2009 with his brilliant mare, Goldikova. For her part, Criquette Head Maarek enjoyed popular successes with the likes of Three Troikas, Bering and Anabaa, who would go on to become an important sire and the BM sire of Treve.

Recording her first win (above), Treve looked a juvenile with possibilities. But her victory hardly left the world breathless — the tall, lithe filly was still a work in progress.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the premier grass race for thoroughbreds in the world and France is its home. There is nothing better, as far as the French racing public is concerned, than to have a French-bred and trained Arc winner.

Champions appear when hearts dream them, and are ready to receive them. And by 2013, Treve, bred by the Head family and trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, was ready to answer those French dreaming hearts.

Coming up to the 2013 Arc, Treve had won the Prix de Diane and the Prix Vermeille, both distinguished races in their own right. The undefeated 3 year-old entered the Arc partnered by Thierry Jarnet, Frankie Dettori having broken his ankle in a fall in England. Among the “big horses” were Japan’s brilliant Orfevre, Coolmore’s Ruler of the World, Intello, and Juddmonte’s Flintshire.

It was a scintillating victory for a youngster, and especially since the Arc traditionally favours more mature thoroughbreds.

Youngster or otherwise, to win the Arc once is considered the pinnacle of any turf horse’s career. But to win it twice? In 2014, when Treve took her second shot at the Arc, only six had won it twice, of which Corrida (1936, 1937) was the only filly.

At first, it didn’t look as though Treve would be ready. Plagued by less-than-perfect feet, it was late in the racing calendar before she was declared a starter. Partnered again by Thierry Jarnet, this time she would face Japan’s quirky but talented Gold Ship, England’s Kingston Hill, second to Australia in the Derby, and Sea The Stars’ champion daughter, Taghrooda, winner of the 2014 Oaks.

Not only did Treve rise to the occassion, but she did it in style. The daughter of Motivator had secured her place in history.

The decision was made to campaign Treve in 2015, with the goal a third tilt at the Arc. Her thousands of fans stepped up as well, even composing a song for her. And as the video portrays, hopes were high for a mare beloved by connections and racing public alike.

In the end, Treve was unplaced behind the winner, England’s magnificent Golden Horn, ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by John Gosden.

While hopes were dashed, it did little to diminish Treve. The Arc is a gruelling affair, one that asks all from those who run it. And Treve flew home a decisive winner twice in consecutive years.

The filly with the beautiful face and kind eye, who roused the hearts of a nation, accomplished the rarest of a feats — one that legends like Sea Bird, Ribot, Dancing Brave and Nijinsky couldn’t attain.

5) AMERICAN PHAROAH

(2012, Pioneerof The Nile X Littleprincessemma by Yankee Gentleman by Storm Cat)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Secretariat, Fappiano, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Brigadier Gerard, tracery, Pretty Polly, Fair Trial, Menow, Mata Hari, Man O’ War.

I can close my eyes and still see myself as a girl, watching Secretariat’s Belmont in complete and utter awe. Then came the finesse of Seattle Slew, followed by the heart-thumping charge of Affirmed to the wire, with the courageous Alydar glued to his throat-latch.

But then came a seemingly endless drought.

I don’t know that I’d given up on seeing another Triple Crown winner during my lifetime, but I sure was discouraged. Year after year, I was glued to Churchill Downs and then Pimlico, wishing for a Triple Crown. But defeats like that of California Chrome and Smarty Jones, and losses like that of the incomparable Barbaro, made dreams of another Triple Crown champion seem unlikely.

It had been 37 years — almost 4 decades — since Affirmed defeated Alydar at Belmont when a bay colt from California called American Pharoah hit the Triple Crown trail, mispelled name and all, for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

As a two year-old, Pharoah had them buzzing in California. Even though an injury kept him out of the Breeders Cup in 2014, the juvenile still took the Eclipse Award for outstanding two year-old.

At your own risk do you ever ignore a Baffert runner: the man has the magic and the skill of a great horseman. He can spot a champion-in-the-raw and knows how to condition them properly for the crucible that is the American Triple Crown, a run of three races beginning with the most prestigious, the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness and wrapping up with the Belmont Stakes in New York, over “Big Sandy,” the kind of track so deep and immense that it would dwarf a brontosaurus. There’s barely time for a young horse to catch its breath between the three of them, and each one is run over a different distance, the Belmont being the longest at 1.5 miles (2.4 km) with a long final stretch where many TC hopefuls have been caught — 37 by 2015, to be exact.

Pharoah had a beautiful pedigree — a son of Pioneerof The Nile, himself a son of the mighty Empire Maker (Unbridled X Toussaud by El Gran Senor). His dam, Littleprincessemma (Yankee Gentleman by Storm Cat, a grandson of Secretariat) similarly carried the potential of daughters and grandaughters of Storm Cat, who continues to influence the pedigrees of champions. But pedigree had been no guarantee of Triple Crown success over the decades since 1978.

When I watched the Baffert colt run away from the field over a sloppy track in the Rebel I was impressed….but was I ready to give my hopes and my heart away?

Then came the Arkansas Derby, Pharoah’s last prep before the first Saturday in May in Kentucky. Like the Rebel, the colt’s win seemed effortless, with jockey Victor Espinoza asking him for little and, once again, Pharoah crossed the wire with his ears pricked, as if to say, “So when do I get to really run?”

After this performance, he had me hook, line and sinker. And although it’s easy to have 20/20 vision in hindsight, the Arkansas gave me a glimpse of something unique, although what it was, I knew not. Thinking about it, it seemed to have something to do with his way of going that seemed deceptively slower than it actually was — and effortless, as though the colt could run for days.

By the time Derby day had arrived, Coolmore had already sealed the deal on Pharoah’s breeding rights. I took note of that.

Going into the race, I was most fearful of the gutsy Mubtahiij, and mindful of Carpe Diem and Dortmund, another Baffert entrant. Pharoah started from an outside post position — never ideal in a 20-horse field on a track where the first turn came upon you fast.

I wasn’t a fan of how Espinoza rode him on Derby day, but Pharoah got it done, persevering in the final strides, in spite of being so far from the rail around the turn. Meaning that he’d been asked to make a longer run than the others going in to the final turn and asked to do it early on. I could only respect the colt for his courage, getting up like that as the wire loomed, even though I’d been expecting him to lead the field home by several lengths. (As it turned out, Pharoah had “lost his A game,” according to Baffert, on the walkover to the saddling area when too many people got him riled up. Baffert also reported that Espinoza told him going into the final stretch “…he just didn’t feel the power beneath him.”)

Next up was the Preakness on a rainy day, over the slop. Having watched Pharoah’s Rebel win, I felt he had a decided advantage — rain didn’t faze him one bit. But I was mindful of the colt’s Derby because he hadn’t been quite himself, whatever the reason.

But, as it turned out, the pre-Derby Pharoah was back, taking the second leg of the Triple Crown with ease.

Now the heat was on. Did I dare to dream?

I had a modest “Belmont Party” on the day, with a friend whose dream was as hopeful as my own. By now, I knew Pharoah was special. Really special. But I’d been there before……

I almost choked on a chip, dropped my wine glass, hugged my friend and burst into tears.

It’s still impossible for me to describe all the feelings that rushed through me.

But I do know one thing: American Pharoah crossing the wire in the Belmont was most definitely My Moment of the decade.

6) WINX

(2011, Street Cry X Vegas Showgirl by Al Akbar)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Native Dancer, Cosmah, Halo, Hoist The Flag, Natalma, Hail To Reason, Man O’ War, Ajax, John O’ Gaunt, Pocahontas, Beeswing.

In 2014, Street Cry succumbed to complications of a rare neurological disorder. He was only 16 years old. The loss to Godolphin was immense, made even more tragic by the stallion’s success that seemed only to get better over time. Street Cry’s progeny included the Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, champion Carlton House, the ill-fated Delta Prince, Pride of Dubai, Australian multi-millionaire Trekkings, together with his brilliant daughter, Zenyatta, and many other very good individuals, particularly in Australia.

A short year later, in 2015, noise started coming out of Australia about another Street Cry daughter: Winx.

Owned by the partnership of Magic Bloodstock Racing, R G Treweeke & Mrs D N “Debbie” Kepitis, the four year-old had found her stride in winning fashion in the big leagues. Once again, I started to stay up deep into the Canadian night to check Winx out. But it was soon going to be a pattern for me, fueled by a big brown mare who seemed — no, who was — invincible.

This was one case where statistics actually said it all:

43 starts — 37 wins — 3 places.

4 Cox Plates in successive years.

33 successive wins and 25 Group 1’s.

Finished out of the money only 3 times in a career that spanned 5 years.

As Bob Baffert said, “…She {Winx} always gives you the Hollywood ending.”

The mechanics of her running style might not have been a thing of beauty, but they were devastatingly efficient. And there were shades of Zenyatta — Winx almost always made her run from far off.

And once again, riches fell from the horse racing gods and I adopted a new family on the other side of the world. There was the charming Peter Tighe, Debbie Keptis in her purples and her “Go Winxy,” the softspoken Chris Waller, the expressive Hugh Bowman and the mare’s “best man,” strapper, Turkish-born Umut Odemislioglu. 

I didn’t care that I spent the day after one of her races in an absolute stupor, since I knew I’d never see another one like her. As a veteran of thoroughbred racing, I’d never witnessed any thoroughbred win 33 races in a row, most of them Group 1’s. And as a North American, sadly used to brilliant colts and fillies retiring at age 3 or 4, I delighted in the statement this mare was making to the racing world — Winx had come into her own at 4 and kept right on going. Had she been a North American thoroughbred, racing over here, the chances of her becoming the mega-star she became would have been zero.

It’s impossible to conclude such an amazing story in a few well-chosen words, so I’ll leave that to those who knew her best, as they were on her very last race, the 2019 G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes:

 

7) ENABLE

(Nathaniel X Concentric by Sadler’s Wells)

Some Powerful Ancestors: Miswaki, Roberto, Icecapade, Mr. Prospector, Forli, Native Dancer, Tantieme, Minoru, Pretty Polly, Hyperion, Persimmon, St. Simon, Newminster, Beeswing.

What a decade it has been for Juddmonte! First there was Frankel, then Arrogate and, as 2019 closed, the prospect of the return of Britain’s Racing Queen, Enable. All homebreds from the stable that campaigned the likes of Dancing Brave, Zafonic, Commander In Chief, Midday and Kingman, among others.

“Have we seen the annointing of the 21st century’s Man O’ War?” called the track commentator at Meydan, as Arrogate came from far off the pace to win the 2017 Dubai World Cup. The colt had already won the 2016 Breeders Cup Classic and the first running of the Pegasus in Florida, before shipping to Dubai and was what horsemen call a “phenom.”

Love has smitten me again, this time in the form of a beautiful filly with a devastating kick and her team, the charismatic Frankie Dettori, masterful John Gosden, Tony Proctor, head travelling lad, and Imran Shahwani, Enable’s head lad and BFF.

Across an ocean she came, charging right into my heart as I watched her rise above all comers over the last 2 years, netting the Epsom, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks (the latter twice in 2017 & 2019), the King George & Queen Elizabeth (twice, in 2017 & 2019), the 2018 Breeders Cup Turf and, most amazing of all, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice in successive years (2017 & 2018).

Her performance in 2018, when surgery sidelined her, was particularly impressive, even though this is a filly with a strong, focused mind when it comes to racing. But that doesn’t change what Enable and her team served up in 2018, when she was only about 90% fit: a scintillating win against Magical in the BC Turf and a determined second Arc win against the fabulous, fast-closing Sea of Class. 2018 wasn’t the same as her Arc win in 2017, when Enable led the field home, but this took nothing away from the fact that courage and determination got her to the wire first in a dramatic, heart-pounding finish.

 

In 2019, after taking Cartier honours as the Champion Older Horse of 2018, Enable was back and the goal was a third tilt at the Arc. It was also speculated that this would be her final year on the turf, making each victory leading up to the Arc both sweet and nostalgic. Frankie wept, declaring “…she’s taken me places emotionally I’ve never been to before.” And my eyes filled with tears too, knowing the kind of superstars Frankie has ridden over the decades and realizing that it wasn’t only my spectator emotions that Enable had engaged: she owned Frankie too.

Her 2019 battle with Crystal Ocean in the King George & Queen E. takes highest grades for sheer drama, but I like to think her most dominant performance came a short 4 weeks later, at Ebor in the Yorkshire Oaks, where she and Magical again met up:

Then it was on to the Arc. To be honest, history seemed against her, but as the date approached I was buoyed by Criquette Head-Maarek’s endorsement of Enable, her assuredness that there was no other horse in the field that could touch her for sheer ability. My chief worry was the eventual winner, Waldgeist, because Longchamps was his home turf and he, too, was training well for the legendary Andre Fabre.

Enable had beaten Waldgeist before, but when the turf at Longchamps came up as soggy, I knew “my girl” was at a disadvantage because, as trainer John Gosden would explain, her famous turn of foot would be relatively ineffective. I’m inclined to throw this race out, not because Enable didn’t do her best — she absolutely did — but because the turf conditions were so against her and that, combined with the early speed, took its toll. It’s to Enable’s enormous credit that she finished up in second place. Waldgeist was a worthy winner, although his owner expressed complete shock that anybody, let alone his gallant boy, could actually beat Enable.

I was so saddened that Enable’s final race had ended in defeat — but then came the news that, as long as she was fit and still interested in racing, Enable would return in 2020. I applaud the sportsmanship and generosity of Prince Khalid and his team, and was elated to see Enable again crowned Cartier Horse of the Year, as well as Champion Older Horse.

It will be absolutely wonderful for racing. And as for Frankie — I imagine he’s stocking up on polo mints for his girl.

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Zenyatta: Love Thing (AnimalsRock4Love)

 

2) American Pharoah: The 2015 Breeders Cup Classic. It was his final start — and he led them home with a flourish, in a new course record.

3) Frankel’s last race

4) The Trainer & The Racehorse, Part Two

 

5) Winx: A tribute

6) WInx : 60 Minutes

7) Enable: “…she’s always been a very proud filly…”

8) ENABLE: 2017 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

 

9) Black Caviar’s Story

10) Treve Feature (At The Races)

11) Treve: 2013 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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It’s early days yet. But the mighty Frankel has already bested the record of first non-stakes winners in their first crop of both his sire, Galileo, and of one of Europe’s most consistent sires, Sea The Stars.

 

 

Of the 130 mares booked to Frankel in 2013, the first eight have hit the turf running, with seven winning on debut. The eighth, Last Kingdom, finished second in his first start. Two of the eight, Cunco and Queen Kindly, earned black type based on their performances at Royal Ascot, where they both finished third in two different stakes races. And all of this has sent the British press into the same tizzy of delight as they evinced during Frankel’s racing career.

It is easy to forget that Frankel represented over 40 years of breeding by his owner, HRH Prince Khalid Abdullah, making him a “jewel in the crown” like no other. Too, as we have indicated in previous articles about Frankel, the colt demanded the skill of the incomparable Sir Henry Cecil, of work-rider Shane Fetherstonhaugh and jockey, Tom Queally, to get his exuberance under control in a manner that didn’t quench his spirit and allowed him to dominate on the turf. In the early stages it was hard work, and the colt didn’t make his two year-old debut until mid-August of 2010 where he was shadowed home by the brilliant Nathaniel who, of all the Frankel challengers in his 14 starts, remains the colt who got closest to him.

 

Like everything else in his life, Frankel’s stud career has been meticulously planned. It was anticipated that 100 mares would be accepted from outside breeders, including Japan and America, and in all cases, preference was given to Group 1 winners and/or producers of Group 1 winners. (The remaining 30 would come from Juddmonte bloodstock.)

Said general manager of Banstead Manor Stud, Philip Mitchell, shortly after the champion’s retirement:

“We’d always try and keep a restriction on the number of mares he covers … This is an exclusive horse and we want to keep him exclusive.

“If someone is spending that level of nomination fee [£125,000] to use Frankel, you don’t want to get to a situation where you find a large number of his progeny being sold. By keeping him to 130, we won’t be flooding the market. Juddmonte are owner-breeders and we’ll aim to get the right balance between owner-breeders and commercial breeders.”

“… We have certain mares that whatever we send them to, they produce the business … For instance, Clepysydra is one of those mares. The stallion could be the best in the world but I feel it’s hugely important to get the right calibre of mare.

“It’s still early days for us [Juddmonte] with the matings for next year but Frankel will be getting first pick. We want to give Frankel every opportunity at stud and we’ll be supporting him as much as possible. But it is very difficult – we’re spoiled at the moment because we’ve also got Dansili and Oasis Dream and we can’t ignore them. It’ll be a balance.” (Racing Post, November 23, 2013)

FRANKEL and OASIS DREAM at Banstead Manor.

FRANKEL and OASIS DREAM at Banstead Manor.

As trainer John Gosden said of a recent Frankel winner, Seven Heavens, “He has a positive attitude on life and he likes to get on with things. He is a strong-willed horse and is like his father in that way. I think he (Frankel) will probably pass that on to his offspring.” (Sky Sports, July 8, 2016)

Bred by Cheveley Stud, Seven Heavens was a rare Juddmonte purchase at Tattersalls October Yearling Sale last year.  “Rare” because Juddmonte is a huge breeding enterprise all on its own, making the purchase worth noting. Seven Heavens is beautifully bred: his dam, Heaven Sent (2003), a daughter of Pivotal (1993), was a dual winner of the Dahlia Stakes. And Pivotal is a world-class leading sire, with 100 stakes winners to date, including Farhh (2008) and Excellent Art (2004).

 

SEVEN HEAVENS as a yearling in 2015. Photo and copyright, Tattersalls.

SEVEN HEAVENS as a yearling in 2015. Photo and copyright, Tattersalls.

Watching Seven Heavens’ debut was the kind of thing that makes you believe time and space really is curved: the youngster looks so much like Frankel and, unlike his other winning progeny to date, Seven Heavens shows that “pumping” action in his fore that we so associate with Frankel’s distinctive running style. Add to that the parallels in performance between Seven Heavens’ maiden race and that of Frankel’s own debut (above), and the picture is complete.

Video of Seven Heavens’ win, with the beautifully-bred Lockheed (Exceed and Excel/BM sire Motivator) chasing him home. (Please advance the video to 2:46 to see the whole race without the preamble, or click on the link under the video that just offers the race itself.)

 

 

http://www.tdn.premiumtv.co.uk/streaming/watch/RacingUKFlashVOD/partnerId_166/videoFileId_15587411/clipId_2612660/index.html

Said his jockey, Robert Havlin, after the win:

“He’s a nice horse … They didn’t go very quick early on, and following Tom (Marquand on Monoshka) he was struggling after three and a half furlongs and couldn’t take me any further, so literally from the two-pole to the line he had to do it all on his own.

“He’s never been off the bridle in his life before, so it was a big ask, and he just got a little bit lonely and just started to drift to the left a little. I was impressed with him.

“I’ve ridden two Frankels now and they’ve both wanted to get on with things at home, but come raceday they are as good as gold.”

SEVEN HEAVENS strides clear of the fast-closing to win on debut.

SEVEN HEAVENS strides clear of the fast-closing LOCKHEED to win on debut.

 

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An unmistakeable likeness: FRANKEL takes a rehearsal run at Newmarket before his final start.

Seven Heavens isn’t the only first crop Frankel that makes you blink: Cunco and Majoris, to a lesser extent, both have the “Frankel look” about them. Another son, Frankuus, is a grey and his two daughters to race, Queen Kindly and Fair Eva, are both chestnuts. But the whole of this select group seem to have Frankel’s precocity, indicating that at least some of this first crop may have been similarly stamped by their famous sire. Too, as was the case with Team Frankel, will it take patience, together with skill, to harness the inclination of these first few (as well as those to come) to “get on with things” without dampening their love of the race?

Cunco (named after a city in Chile and owned by Don Alberto Corp. Ltd.), Frankel’s firstborn son was also the very first Frankel to hit the turf, winning nicely at Newbury on May 13, ridden by Richard Havlin. Needless to say, there was keen interest among Frankel followers and much praise for his debut effort. Cunco also treated spectators to some of his sire’s spunk, rearing up in the saddling enclosure on his second start at Ascot. Since his May win, Cunco has started twice, coming in third (at Ascot) and fourth, respectively.

Baby CUNCO with his dam, Chrysanthemum.

Baby CUNCO with his dam, Chrysanthemum.

Blink: CUNCO as a yearling looks the picture of his sire.

Blink: CUNCO as a yearling looks the picture of his sire.

As of this writing, Queen Kindly is the first Frankel to chalk up 2 wins (in 3 starts), bringing the stallion’s overall strike rate to 8 winners from 14 starters. The filly is also Frankel’s first-born daughter and her dam, Lady of the Desert, by the great Rahy, gives the filly’s story a distinctly American connection.

The lovely QUEEN KINDLY after her debut win.

The lovely QUEEN KINDLY after her debut win at Caterick.

Please click on the link below for a video of Queen Kindly’s second win:

http://www.tdn.premiumtv.co.uk/streaming/watch/RacingUKFlashVOD/partnerId_166/videoFileId_15595124/clipId_2613781/index.html

Nor is Frankel’s talented daughter the only offspring in his first crop with American connections. Waiting in the wings are: Brooklyn Bobby (colt by Balance), In Luxury (filly by In Lingerie/Japan), Aspirer (filly by Nebraska Tornado by Storm Cat/Juddmonte), an unnamed filly by Oatsee, the dam of Shackleford, Elphin (filly by Aspiring Diva by Distant View, dam of Emulous/Juddmonte), Finche (colt by Binche by Woodman, dam of Proviso/Juddmonte), Solo Saxophone (colt by Society Hostess by Seeking The Gold), Mirage Dancer (colt by Heat Haze by Green Desert/Juddmonte), Mi Suerte (colt by Mi Sueno by Pulpit/Japan) and Aljezeera (colt by Dynaforce by Dynaformer).

IN LINGERIE with her FRANKEL baby, IN LUXURY.

IN LINGERIE (Empire Maker) with her FRANKEL baby, IN LUXURY, in Japan where the filly was born.

However, as has been pointed out by the Racing Post’s Tony Morris, with about 100 or more runners to come, Frankel’s record won’t stay anywhere near his initial wins-starters ratio. It will, in fact, substantially decline — unless every Frankel proves a winner and that is, even for this great, great horse, an impossibility. As for the precocity of these first few, one can’t really talk about Frankel’s tendency to breed precocity into his offspring when so few of them have raced to date. Nor does he occupy the top spot for freshman sires, currently occupied by Mayson (a son of Invincible Spirit with 8 winners of 24 runners), since none of Frankel’s eight progeny to run have scored in stakes company. Frankel currently ranks ninth, but look for that to change.

MAJORIS who was very green in his first start nevertheless showed some depth in coming home first.

MAJORIS showed some depth in coming home first in his first start.

 

The grey FRANKUUS shown winning on debut.

The grey FRANKUUS shown winning on debut. He was very green but still had the turn of foot to get the job done.

 

The lovely FAIR EVA won impressively in her first and only race to date.

The lovely FAIR EVA won impressively in her first and only race to date.

Here’s the thing: these early Frankels don’t even represent the best of what he’s got coming, in terms of sons and daughters of champion and/or Blue Hen mares. Together with those listed above in “American connections,” we can add: Nothing But Dreams, the daughter of Arc winner champion, Danedream, who is training in France with Roger Varian; Erdogan, the son of triple G1 winner Dar Re Mi (dam of the impressive So Dar Mi) who is training with the brilliant John Gosden; Mori, the son of the great Midday, training with Sir Michael Stoute; La Figlia, the priciest Frankel to pass through auction, by the dual Guineas champion Finsceal Beo is with William Haggas; and in Japan, there is the daughter of the brilliant Stacelita, Soul Stirring. Consider too: Aurora Gold, the daughter of Juddmonte’s Midsummer, the dam of Midday, who is with John Gosden; Australian champion More Joyous’ unnamed daughter, in training with Gai Waterhouse; the aforementioned Clepsydra’s filly, Amser, who is training with Andre Fabre; champion Alexander Goldrun’s daughter, Gold Rush, training with Jim Bolger; and Dancing Rain’s filly, Rainswept, a Darley purchase, is in the stable of Andre Fabre.

MIDSUMMER, the dam of MIDDAY and her FRANKEL filly join other mares with their baby FRANKELS at Banstead in 2014.

A FRANKEL troupe: MIDSUMMER, the dam of MIDDAY and her FRANKEL filly join other mares with their baby FRANKELS at Banstead in 2014.

 

DANEDREAM and her 2014 FRANKEL filly. She also has a 2015 FRANKEL colt.

DANEDREAM and her 2014 FRANKEL filly. She also has a 2015 FRANKEL colt.

DAR RE MI'S colt by FRANKEL looks a good deal like his sire.

DAR RE MI’S colt by FRANKEL looks a good deal like his sire.

STACELITA'S filly by FRANKEL as a yearling.

STACELITA’S filly by FRANKEL as a yearling.

MORE JOYOUS with her as yet unnamed FRANKEL filly.

MORE JOYOUS with her as yet unnamed FRANKEL filly.

So, yes, it’s early days.

But this is surely what it’s all about: the courage to dream, the courage to hope ……. that one great thoroughbred will slip the bonds of time to go on and on and on.

 

 

 

Sources

The Racing Post, “Frankel’s Flying Start” by Tony Morris

Juddmonte website: http://www.juddmonte.com/stallions/frankel/default.aspx

 

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