Frankel races to 10th win in 10 races with victory at Newbury
Wins Group One Lockinge Stakes by five lengths
Four-year-old Colt rated one of the great racehorses of all time
Clamor for head to head with Australian champion Black Caviar
Sports fans may have been deprived of another chance to see Lionel Messi stake his claim to be considered the greatest footballer of all time after Barcelona failed to progress to the final of the Champions League.
But far from the bright lights of Munich’s Allianz Arena, in a quiet corner of England, another athlete was busy rewriting the history books.
Humans have been selectively breeding racehorses for 300 years, always in search of that elusive specimen of equine perfection who can redefine our idea of what might be possible on four legs.
In Frankel, we may have found it.
In action for the first time since last October in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, for his trainer, Henry Cecil, it was a chance to show the world that his colt had overcome a leg injury sustained on Newmarket gallops, news of which had sent shockwaves throughout the racing world.
For his jockey, Tom Queally, it was a chance to prove that the four-year-old Frankel was a more mature, calmer beast than the Frankel of last season, without losing any of his domineering physicality or brutal beauty.
For Frankel, it was first blood in a senior campaign that could see him elevated to the ranks of the best Thoroughbreds ever to grace a racetrack.
Sent off at odds as short of 1-4 – meaning a $4 bet would earn you just $1 – the undefeated son of Galileo was always going to have to be at this best to overcome a field that included Aiden O’Brien’s improving colt Excelebration (who surely would be considered a superstar in his own right had he not had the misfortune to be racing in the same era as Frankel).
As expected, the pacemaker Bullet Train (a half-brother to Frankel) set a strong early gallop, with Frankel tucked in second place.
But when Queally pulled the pin with three furlongs to go, it felt more like a coronation than a contest, Frankel’s all devouring stride putting more and more distance between him and a somewhat subdued Excelebration, who finished five lengths back.
The victory means Frankel extends his unbeaten run to 10 from 10. His next appearance is likely to be the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, when he will face some of the best milers in Europe.
After that, Cecil has indicated a step up in trip will be the next logical step, to see if Frankel can reproduce his devastating form over distances of up to a mile and a half.
Such is Frankel’s superiority over his rivals that Queally rarely has to ask him to hit top speed (indeed, far more familiar is the sight of the hulking colt taking a strong hold as Queally tries to restrain him).
The result is the Frankel has not run a race to trouble the handicappers since his devastating performance in the 2,000 Guineas last year.
In spite of that, Frankel has a Timeform rating of 143, the third-highest of all time, behind the great Sea Bird II (145) and Brigadier General and Tudor Minstrel (both on 144).
Black Caviar showdown?
Is there a horse in the world who can push Frankel to the kind of performance that would see him take his rightful place at the top of the all-time list?
An Australian mare by the name of Black Caviar may have something to say about that. She will also be at Royal Ascot, although she will run in the sprinter’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Such is the clamor in the racing world for a Frankel-Black Caviar showdown, billionaire owner Sheikh Fahad al Thani has offered a purse of $1.6 million if they both line up for the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, a race that Frankel won last year.
Cecil has indicated he would love to see the two best horses in the world face each other, although Black Caviar’s trainer, Peter Moody, remains cautious about exposing his mare over Frankel’s preferred distance of a mile on the undulating Goodwood track.
Whether or not the equine ‘battle of the sexes’ ever materializes, the racing world has one more season to savor the exploits of the giant bay with the white star before his career follows its inevitable trajectory towards the breeding shed.
A horse like Frankel doesn’t come along every day. Enjoy him while you can.