WORLD CLASS: The world’s greatest racehorse does it again   1 comment

Frankel york 22/08/2012

Frankel earned an RPR of 142 for the second time when winning at York

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

The world’s greatest racehorse does it again

 BY SAM WALKER1:46PM 27 AUG 2012

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings

It is the race that could define his legacy. The climax of three splendid years at the top, the crescendo to his magnificent symphony, the crowning glory to his regal career.

There is no more fitting tribute and no more memorable moment in a horses career than that created by an impressive finale; for Frankel this was supposed to come in the Champion Stakes.

Forget the QEII and Breeders’ Cup. The Champion was always the plan for the triple champion. That was until last week, when his effortless success in the International at York prompted connections to at least consider switching his final curtain call to Longchamp.

This is a once in a lifetime horse and the Prince, the Knight and the Lord are rightly taking their time to consider their options for this most important last hurrah.

Somewhere between the speculative might-be-even-betters and the straw-clutching Brigadier Gerard coincidence-mongers rested the truth of how Frankel would perform when stepped up to 1m2f last week – he was just as good.

An RPR of 142 for Tuesday’s International success matches the figure he achieved for his 11-length demolition job in the Queen Anne Stakes back in June.

A seven-length margin over Farhh and St Nicholas Abbey confirmed that he is just as much a superstar over 1m2f as he is at 1m. So how far can he go? That’s the question now.

The Arc or the Champion? Even having an option is a new one for Frankel. Every run to date has been planned months in advance and the results have been astonishing: nine Group 1 wins by an average distance of 5.2 lengths.

Sir Henry Cecil’s precision campaign has played a vital part in the Frankel story, contributing to his remarkably consistent performances on the track while also allowing his rivals to plan routes of avoidance.

But now we’re fast approaching Frankel’s final race and the plan could theoretically change slightly without the worry of impacting his subsequent schedule. Now it’s just one or two runs and then off to stud. If there is a time they can be flexible with the blueprint it is now.

What could he do? What should he do? What will he do?

There appear two options open to the Juddmonte team. First, they could stick to the plan and run in the Champion. Probable outcome: six-length win.

Or they could change course. Take the biggest horse in the world to the biggest race in Europe, the Arc. Probable outcome: win, though maybe not a Frankel-style win.

The Arc, just like any other race on turf between 6f and 1m4f, is a race Frankel could win. If it was a straight test of ability against the best 1m4f horses in the world it may be a slightly more realistic option, but the Arc is not exactly a straightforward test.

There’s often a large field, they race four deep throughout and hard luck stories are common. Some don’t get the breaks, some get shuffled back, some bumped and buffeted.

Sea The Stars met trouble in the 2009 Arc, Sarafina did in 2010 and the hold ups didn’t do well in 2011. Granted, in each race the best horse won. But in each race there were horses (including Sea The Stars) who didn’t perform as well as they might have without all the interruptions.

Frankel has never been roughed up in a race, he hasn’t tried 1m4f and he hasn’t shipped overseas, so running in the Arc is a gamble.

It would be the first such gamble in Frankel’s career, as Cecil’s meticulous planning has ensured there are rarely any unknown variables in his races. The Arc would provide a lot of new territory and, as such, has to be considered an unlikely option – unless they went to Longchamp for a prep race.

The Arc is, of course, the grander option. For excitement and prestige there would be nothing to cap Frankel’s career like strolling away from the best middle-distance horses in the world down the straight at Longchamp. But have they left it too late to step him up to 1m4f?

Could it be that a horse, who was exclusively a miler until last week, would step up to 1m2f88y at York in August and then straight up to 1m4f in October? Perhaps if he had made the move into intermediate trips sooner, or had already taken in a lesser race over 1m4f. But now?

To a man of Cecil’s mind, changing plans at this late stage would be akin to celebrating three years tee-total with a boozy night out. The Champion Stakes has always been the plan, the plan has worked perfectly so far and, in reality, the plan is unlikely to change.

In contrast to a lot of past champions, Frankel doesn’t actually need the Arc on his cv. Some horses would be very little without having won the Arc. They need the prestige. They need the Group 1 and they need the limelight. They need the reference on their stallion page. Frankel doesn’t.

In historical terms (since prestige is for the here and now, and the Champion may yet surpass the Arc as the premier end of season championship), the real benefit to Frankel running in the Arc would be to answer the versatility question.

Versatility, however, is only a secondary measure of a racehorse. Though some horses rely on versatility to boost their champion credentials, the number one asset has and always will be ability.

It is ability which sets Frankel apart and, after breaking the glass ceiling of handicap ratings with an RPR of 142, it is this asset he has made his own.

It would be nice to make Frankel a super trump by giving him top marks in every category (he is already right up there on ability and consistency), but the final race of a horse’s career is not for playing Top Trumps.

His farewell race should be one which characterises his career. Who or what is Frankel? What does he do best?

Though it may have been difficult to see at the time, Zenyatta achieved a perfect farewell when beaten in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, where she showed us that the girl who plays with fire can get burned.

Her final charge down the straight was exhilarating, but at the instant she was beaten it was crushing. That wonderful speed that thrilled us by winning 19 races in the shadow of the post was, this time, not quite enough.

Her finale showed us who she was. It showed us her at her battling, relentless, late-running, beautiful best. And, of course, she gave us her trademark dance. That was Zenyatta.

The Juddmonte team would do well to create a moment so special, so fitting, so perfect for their champion.

The Frankel story is one of extreme talent, nurtured through a well planned campaign. He could have done a lot of things, but he always did what was best for him. That’s Frankel.

Connections could break from the long standing plan, providing a man-made twist in the tale, or they could stick to the script and play it out as they had always intended. Yes, an easy win is guaranteed, but that is Frankel.

Wherever he goes next he will win, because winning is what he does. The story may not be complete until he graces the turf one last time for an October farewell in Paris or Berkshire, but there will not be a twist in the tale on the racetrack, because that is not Frankel.

The turf is his domain. There are no variables that can disrupt this horse from showing himself better than any other. His superiority is too great. That is Frankel.

So whether connections decide to bid farewell at Longchamp or Ascot, the horse will do as he always does, by winning and winning well.

Then the show will be over. And that, we will say, was Frankel.

The best performance on a non-turf surface last week came fromDullahan (127), who collared Game On Dude (124) to land the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sunday.

The winner’s best run prior to this had come when third behind I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and this was a big step up running against his elders for the first time.

The race was on Polytrack and he is not certain to repeat it back on dirt. The Dubai World Cup is the biggest synthetics race in the world and after this performance connections will want to take a serious look at that.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Frankel, 142, Sir Henry Cecil (GB) (International Stakes, York, 1m2f88y, Aug 22)

TOP LIST

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Frankel (GB) Queen Anne/International 142T
2
Black Caviar (Aus) Lightning Stakes 130T
Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr) Prix Ganay 130T
4 Hay List (Aus) Newmarket Handicap 129T
  Orfevre (Jap) Takarazuka Kinen 129T
6 Camelot (Ire) Derby 128T
Wise Dan (US) Ben Ali/Stephen Foster 128A/D
8 Excelebration (Ire) Lockinge Stakes 127T
I’ll Have Another (US) Preakness Stakes 127D
So You Think (Ire) Tattersalls Gold Cup 127T
St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) Coronation Cup 127T
Nathaniel (GB) Eclipse/King George 127T
Moonlight Cloud (Fr) Prix Maurice de Gheest 127T
Dullahan (US) Pacific Classic 127A

TOP TURF PERFORMERS

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Frankel (GB) Queen Anne/International 142
2
Black Caviar (Aus) Lightning Stakes 130
Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr) Prix Ganay 130
4
Hay List (Aus) Newmarket Handicap 129
Orfevre (Jap) Takarazuka Kinen 129
 6 Camelot (Ire) Derby 128
 7 Excelebration (Ire) Lockinge Stakes 127
So You Think (Ire) Tattersalls Gold Cup 127
St Nicholas Abbey (Ire) Coronation Cup 127
Moonlight Cloud (Fr) Prix Maurice de Gheest 127
Nathaniel (GB) Eclipse/King George 127
Wise Dan (US) Fourstardave Handicap 127

TOP DIRT PERFORMERS

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Wise Dan (US) Stephen Foster Hcap 128
2 I’ll Have Another (US) Preakness Stakes 127
3 Bodemeister (US) Arkansas/Preakness 126
Caleb’s Posse (US) Met Mile 126
5 Amazombie (US) Churchill Downs 125
Fort Larned (US) Whitney Handicap 125
7 Ron The Greek (US) Stephen Foster Hcap 124
Shackleford (US) Met Mile 124
Successful Dan (US) Alysheba Stakes 124

Game On Dude (US) San Antonio 124

TOP ALL-WEATHER PERFORMERS

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Wise Dan (US) Ben Ali 128
2 Dullahan (US) Pacific Classic 127
3
Monterosso (UAE) Dubai World Cup 126
4 Amazombie (US) Bing Crosby Handicap 125
Game On Dude (US) Hollywood Gold Cup 125
6 Camp Victory (US) Triple Bend Hcap 124
7 Krypton Factor (BHR) Golden Shaheen 123
8 Musir (SAF) Maktoum Challenge R1 122
Colour Vision (GB) Sagaro Stakes 122
The Factor (US) Triple Bend Hcap 122

Posted August 28, 2012 by belesprit09 in World Class

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