Friday night affairs on Newmarket’s July course are not always to the taste of the racing purist. The debate about music nights rages on but love them or hate them, they draw a crowd. On the 13th of August 2010, Newmarket was packed with those who braved the wet and miserable weather to see Westlife perform. The Irish boyband were not to be the only stars on show that night as those present were about to witness the debut of a horse by the name of Frankel.
Sent off the 7/4 favourite, he was briefly nudged along a quarter of a mile from home but was straight back on the bridle when Tom Queally found a gap for him to accelerate through. It proved to be a very smart horse finishing the runner-up position as well in future Group 1 winner Nathaniel.
He would win another three starts as a two-year-old, kicking off with an uncompetitive three runner conditions race at Doncaster. The Royal Lodge and Dewhurst would see him step into group company with little difference to his superiority. Already at the head of the markets for the classics, a burgeoning fan base would keep warm over the winter clutching their ante post slips.
The race that so many fans come back to time and time again is the 2011 2000 Guineas. Held up in all five of his previous races, Queally set out to make the running, using Frankel’s long stride. None of his opponents were capable of going his pace, the better part of ten lengths clear at halfway.
He looked to get a little bit lonely out in front late on but he still powered to the line to score by six lengths, the largest winning margin in the race since 1947. Any talk of heading to Epsom for the Derby was quickly dismissed, the plan to keep him at a mile.
Duel On The Downs
Royal Ascot had seen Frankel scramble home by three-quarters of a length in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He would head to Glorious Goodwood to take on the best of the older horses for the first time.
Canford Cliffs arrived to take on Frankel off the back of beating Goldikova in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. She would close out her career as a fourteen time Group 1 winner. Frankel faced his biggest challenge so far in facing the horse who had turned her over.
Queally made the running again, though rather more reluctantly than at Newmarket. Frankel settled better than was often the case off slow early fractions, allowed his head after the opening quarter of a mile. In truth, he never looked in trouble. Queally pressed go and his older rival had no answer.
An eight-pound weight for age allowance played a part but a five-length winning margin suggests that even off levels Frankel would’ve won. It was the last time Canford Cliffs would be seen in action.
As Prince Khalid Abdullah has shown more recently with the likes of Enable, a love of the sport keeps his horses in training longer. Frankel was campaigned in a similar vein as a four-year-old, Newbury, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood saw the winning sequence extended.
The step up to ten furlongs that racing fans had been desperate for happened at York in August 2012. He fairly tanked through the International Stakes there, waltzing clear of Farhh who was an outstanding colt himself.
That left Champions Day back at Ascot. One final race to close out a perfect career and it came on the worst ground he’d encountered. In Cirrus Des Aigles he faced a horse who relished it deep and had won the race the year before. In front of a packed and nervous crowd, Frankel almost did the unthinkable. For a split second when the stalls opened, he stood still. An atmosphere to rival a certain Cotswold location in March suddenly turned silent.
Quickly back on an even keel, as was so typical of him, he tanked through the contest. Crowd murmurs as they turned for home turned to a deafening roar as he hit the front. Immortality. A story to be told to kids, grand kids and anyone in the pub who’ll listen, “I was there the day Frankel transcended the sport.” The moon landings, Kennedy’s assaissination, Frankel’s Champion Stakes. Hyperbolic perhaps but all racing fans can tell you where they were on the 20th of October 2012.
We have long since run the thesaurus dry of ways to describe his talent. Frankel will be remembered as an equine deity, a horse who attracted new fans to the sport. A sire who will have a long lasting impact on the sport. Perhaps most importantly though, he’s the horse who gave us the pleasure of the company of Sir Henry Cecil for just a little longer. For that, we will be forever grateful.