When the great racehorse Frankel (by Galileo) retired to stud in 2013 at Banstead Manor outside Newmarket, England, one of the subjects of continuing conversation (and no little controversy) was whether the brilliant bay ever could match his racecourse performances with comparable accomplishments at stud.
The consensus was that there was little likelihood the great son of Galileo – a champion and unbeaten in each of his three seasons of training – would pull together all the qualities to make a sire equal to that great record. Then especially when the first foals and yearlings came on the public sales market for the broad spectrum of professionals who look at and assess the young stock of new sires, the rumblings were grave indeed.
The word among the cognoscenti was that the Frankels were all over the place; in size, color, and type, they were quite varied, and few seemed to resemble their famous father.
Then, in the Frankel fashion, he and his herd of offspring went to work disproving the wise guys and nay sayers. He became leading freshman sire in Europe, the sire of classic prospects, classic performers, and winners at elite levels around the globe. Those foals may not have looked like Frankel, but more than a few had considerable talent and a willingness to show it.
Certainly, the events of the past 30 days have brought a luster to the sire and his reputation that is hard to rival. At the beginning of June, Frankel’s son Adayar won the Derby at Epsom, and on June 26 at the Curragh, the stallion’s son Hurricane Lane would not be denied through the long straight to win the Irish Derby over Lone Eagle (Galileo).
With five crops age three and older, Frankel has provided us with a reasonably firm answer to the question about his quality as a stallion. The affirmative is found in the facts that the young stallion was the fastest to gain 40 group winners, although this distinction does not extend back beyond the 1970s, when the pattern race scheme was introduced.
To date, Frankel also has sired the winners of each of the English classics: Adayar has won the Derby; Anapurna the Oaks; Logician the St. Leger. Conspicuous by their absence are winners of the Guineas.
That in itself gives the careful observer much to think about because Frankel won the 2,000 Guineas, then was judged too rash a young rascal to attempt the Derby over the demanding and peculiar course at Epsom by no less a judge than trainer Henry Cecil.
He was probably correct. Frankel was a very powerful and potentially willful racer who wanted to tear away from his opponents, especially in his first season and a half. A combination of the horse’s volatile talent and Cecil’s judicious training and management kept him unbeaten in all his races.
But was there stamina in the grand bay that was never tapped?
Quite possibly there was, and quite possibly Cecil was correct in believing that wasn’t the direction to head in terms of managing the horse’s overall career. Cecil did train four winners of the Derby and eight winners of the Oaks; so he was passing acquainted with the demands of the course and the preparation required for its premier races.
But now that Frankel’s a stallion, there’s no question, not a sliver of lingering doubt, that Frankel imparts stamina. Overall, he seems to impart more stamina than speed, and there’s a fair measure of speed in many of his offspring.
Hurricane Lane won the Irish Derby over the weekend by staying the distance more emphatically, more powerfully, at the finish than Lone Eagle, whose stamina had allowed jockey Frankie Dettori to set the pace and slip the field in an apparently winning move early in the straight.
Unbeaten in three starts prior to his start at Epsom, Hurricane Lane had been the second favorite for the Derby in England, then seemed to labor up the rising ground to the finish behind his less-fancied stablemate Adayar, eventually beaten 7 3/4 lengths. (Hurricane Lane, however, had lost both front shoes in the race, according to a veterinary statement after the classic.)
At the Curragh, Hurricane Lane faced a similar task of reeling in an opponent who was well ahead, but this time, he proved up to the task. And when it comes to stamina, that will not be a worry for the grandson of Galileo and German Derby winner Shirocco (Monsun), who also won the G1 Coronation Cup and Breeders’ Cup Turf over his preferred distance of 12 furlongs.
An insightful race for evaluating the speed and stamina of Frankel’s offspring came the same day as the Irish Derby. The Fred Archer Stakes at Newmarket featured a one-two finish for Frankel’s sons as Outbox outran the year-younger Logician, winner of the St. Leger two years ago.
Looking in rather plush condition, despite already having a race this year, Logician stayed on well in this 12-furlong event but was caught out for speed by Outbox. Logician was getting closer with every stride, but if the gray son of Frankel is placed to win at the G1 level again, he almost certainly needs to race at a longer distance, not a shorter one.
So, in mating to Frankel, it would appear, breeders sending him mares with some speed may reap the rewards with offspring suited for the prestigious mile events and races up to 10 furlongs.