Sir Henry Cecil and Frankel
Sir Henry Cecil and Frankel

Sir Henry Cecil and Frankel

(Photo : Daily Mail)


York, Turf, 2090m

22 August 2012

St Nicholas Abbey is a good horse, his three Group One victories are testimony to that. And that puts Frankel’s annihilation of yesterday’s Juddmonte International (Gr.1) field into perspective. We said it would be a tactical race, and the only thing that remained to be tested of Frankel’s spectacular powers, was his stamina. Team Coolmore brought along two others besides “St Nic” to subject the champion’s stamina to its most severe test to date, and that was evident when Robin Hood stormed to the front, spotting Frankel’s own half brother and pacemaker Bullet Train, a few lengths in the process. Meanwhile, trailing near the back of the field, Frankel tracked Joseph O’Brien aboard St Nicholas Abbey, whose connections obviously felt that a couple of lengths start turning for home up York’s punishing straight, would be a useful advantage.

There are those that would argue that St Nicholas Abbey has never quite lived up to his Coolmore billing, and that this was evident in the fact that he was unable to put away the Godolphin colour bearer, Farhh, but that doesn’t get away from the fact that St Nic is a multiple Group One winner, and he’s earned that status at the expense of some cracking horses. Yes, he’s no Camelot, and this race might’ve been two furlongs shorter than this optimum, but that’s not the point. Throughout the race, Frankel’s jockey Tom Queally was playing the predator. Everyone knew what he was going to do to St Nicholas Abbey. St Nic is pretty, Frankel is a killer. Ears pricked, Frankel broke his adversary’s heart in the straight. Quickly, clinically.

The real point is that in an instant, Frankel had paralysed a Group One field in a matter of strides, and if ever anyone harboured any doubts about his stamina, they were put away over the next two furlongs, as the greatest horse we’ve seen in our lifetimes, strode to an imperious seven length victory, ridden with no greater urging from his rider than his hands and heels and the odd tap down the neck. That he was easing down at the end with three Group One winners in his wake, was the most emphatic and convincing evidence that he is the greatest ever, and it might be another lifetime or two before his equal comes along, if ever. For the record, in compiling a perfect thirteen-for-thirteen, Frankel has put a phenomenal 76 lengths between himself and those that have chased him home, an average winning distance of six lengths per outing.

Frankel’s victory was a triumph of several things. Firstly, it gives hope to those who believe the world will get better. It also fuels the fire of those who like to see order. If racing were first of all an industry, it would be more rational. The corporate world likes good order and forecasts that come true; it thrives on yields and cost effectiveness. Racing is not rational and is seldom cost effective, but Frankel reminded us yesterday, that very occasionally a rare athlete can bring order, vindication and pots of money to those who invest in it. Even the business report on Sky News seemed impressed.

Secondly, it was a triumph of a man over adversity. Frankel’s trainer, Sir Henry Cecil and his twin brother David, are widely believed to be the illegitimate sons of what racing calls the “first” Aga Khan. Cecil was, in his “first” life as a trainer, an extraordinary talent who married the daughter of another equestrian genius, Sir Noel Murless. He had as his patrons the rich and the famous, the landed and the titled. Simultaneously almost, his marriage collapsed, his patrons deserted and he dissolved into an alcoholic haze. Suddenly, he went from champion trainer to “also-ran”. That he stood where he did in York’s Winner’s Circle yesterday, is a tribute to the man, and especially to the adage that where there’s hope, there’s a chance. Racing is a game which is never short of hope, and if there’s one thing its fans enjoy more than a fairytale ending, it’s a great comeback.

Just as flawed people are most times more interesting than saints, so that the outrageous Randolph Churchill always seemed a richer character than his canonised father, so the turf and its people fascinate, quirky and fickle, high-browed and low-browed, it combines the romantic and the tawdry, the glory of a Frankel with the sadness of the passing of a Big City Life.

And finally, this was a timely reminder that, unlike other businesses, no matter your resources, racing is a game which has room for us all. Admittedly Frankel’s owner is man of considerable means, but he is his own man, a competitor, a perfectionist, and a bloody good breeder. Despite the presence in the field of the properties of the leviathans of the game, Frankel has stood his ground manfully. Nay, not manfully; masterfully, and in the process, he has conferred on his owner immortality.

Inevitably, the question is asked about his value, and what his opening stud fee will be when he finally retires. Despite the recession, notwithstanding the gloom-and-doom the Northern Hemisphere wakes to every day, here is something to cheer the hearts of anyone with an appreciation of greatness: he will go to stud the most valuable racehorse the world has known. Of course, it’s highly unlikely he will ever be sold; he is the property of a very rich man, and while that same man was tempted to dispose of the bulk of his interests in Danehill, we doubt he will repeat that mistake twice. For what it’s worth, we would think he would command a fee for openers very close to that of his own illustrious father, Galileo, who stands at €300,000, no questions asked. On that basis, he must be worth somewhere between €250 and €300 million. He has the pedigree, he has the godly good looks, and there’s never been his equal on a racecourse. It would take at least that to tempt Prince Khalid Abdullah into even entertain anything of the sort.