2000 guineas, comparative form, danehill, english classics, frankel, galileo, great classic winners, henry cecil, juddmonte farms, khalid abdullah, kind, phil bull, racing class, tudor minstrel, uncle mo
The following post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.
The paths of the two most exciting juvenile colts of last year (Uncle Mo and Frankel) have not followed the same trajectory. Although Uncle Mo only lost his unbeaten status in the Wood Memorial last month, questions and innuendos have followed his every step this year. And coming into the Kentucky Derby this weekend, this son of the fine sire Indian Charlie appears to have a steep mountain to climb if he is to claim a classic and regain much of the prestige he earned with his juvenile successes.
In stunning contrast is the current status of the English star Frankel.
A son of Galileo, who is the best European stallion (and probably the best active stallion in the world), Frankel won his classic, the English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, with such authority and verve that the dashing bay colt is already being compared to the greats of racing.
At a luncheon conference in Lexington on Monday at Roly Poly’s sandwich shop, the consensus was that Frankel deserves to be spoken of in the company of such stars as Nijinsky, Mill Reef, El Gran Senor, and even Brigadier Gerard.
Of all the great English and Irish classic winners and premium milers, perhaps the one most similar to Frankel is 2,000 Guineas winner Tudor Minstrel, who claimed the classic in 1947 by an even larger margin than Frankel’s six lengths.
Tudor Minstrel shot away from his competitors at the start, and by the half-mile, he had the field at full stretch just trying to keep up with him. It was to no avail, and the colt strode home by eight to 10 lengths, depending on who was counting. Timeform founder Phil Bull wrote in his commentary about the race: “The memory of Tudor Minstrel’s strolling home the length of a street in front of everything else will remain with me for the rest of my life.”
Watching Frankel rip away from his competition in the Guineas on Saturday was similar. Frankel put all his competition under pressure from the start, built a lead that the announcer called 15 lengths at the half, and came home with less than half that to spare, as the colt appeared to idle as he came up the gradient to the wire at Newmarket.
And of course, the most impressive quality about Frankel’s handling of the race and his contemporaries was that it did not seem an extreme exertion. From the fluency of his action and smoothness of his stride, Frankel seemed comfortable racing so fast his opponents couldn’t keep up.
With Frankel, as with Tudor Minstrel 64 years ago, the buzz about them coming toward the Derby at Epsom was and will be intense. In 1947, Tudor Minstrel pulled hard, ran himself silly, and was beaten as one of the hottest favorites in Derby history.
Frankel, on the other hand, well may not even start in the race. Trainer Henry Cecil has trained generations of this family for owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah, and Cecil has never been sanguine about this colt’s prospects for racing 12 furlongs.
Given the colt’s enthusiastic approach to racing, the trainer is probably on solid ground, as no horse can race as boldly as Frankel likes to go, for a mile and a half over the undulations and turns of the course at Epsom.
Furthermore, in his comments about Frankel last season, Cecil was quite candid about his doubts that Frankel would stay even a mile because of the aptitude and racing character of his talented dam, the Danehill mare Kind. A listed stakes winner, Kind was very talented, according to her trainer, not so kind in rationing her speed.
Her massively talented son seems to have inherited not only speed but also a considerable lust for chasing down the wind.
And that is not the attitude of a horse well-suited to racing a dozen furlongs in classic company. So Frankel is most likely to go to the St James’s Palace Stakes, then perhaps the Eclipse and Breeders’ Cup Mile.
One of the nice things about that schedule is a trip across the Atlantic for the Breeders’ Cup would mean that American racing fans could get to see Frankel too, and that is a prospect to whet the appetites of all who love racing.