Breeder plans for the next Frankel
Prince Abdullah is hoping his wonder horse's pregnant dam will deliver another great champion
To the public, Frankel is a superstar, an exceptional, exciting must-see runner with his own website and range of merchandise.
To those who must concern themselves with the bottom line, he is a £100 million stallion prospect, a gold mine on four legs. But to the man who bred him, his 76-year-old owner, Khalid Abdullah, he represents a pinnacle of achievement in the abstruse area of equine eugenics. "He is a life's work all in one horse." said Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe,
Frankel's story began long before his birth on a stud farm near Newmarket in February four years ago. Abdullah, one of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, first became aware of thoroughbred racing as a teenager in Paris in 1956, maintained the interest as he completed his education in America and developed global business interests, and finally decided during the 1970s to have his own horses.
Abdullah's first winner was Charming Native in 1979, his first Classic winner Known Fact a year later. Those early successes, including further glittering ones with Rainbow Quest and Dancing Brave, came through the sale ring. But he quickly recognised the greater challenge of breeding your own.
His first home-bred winner, Fine Edge, came in 1982 from a tiny embryonic broodmare band. That group now numbers more than 250 at bases in Europe and the United States. Abdullah's bloodstock operation, Juddmonte, have grown in three decades to become one of the world's finest in their field, a hobby that is also a highly successful business boasting top-class stallions such as Danehill and Rainbow Quest in the past and Dansili and Oasis Dream in the present.
But although there have been top-class horses to carry the pink, green and white colours of the publicity-shy prince, there has never been one such as Frankel. The bright bay four-year-old, unbeaten in 12 races and one of the highest-rated performers of all time, represents checkmate in the game of chess that horse breeders play with nature.
Frankel's sire is the current best in the world, Galileo, the Derby-winning son of the legendary stallion Sadler's Wells, who receives his annual harem at Coolmore in Co Tipperary. His dam is the six-time winning sprinter Kind who, though not top class, was smart and well-related. Frankel was the result of Kind's first mating with Galileo; her second produced Noble Mission, who at York on Wednesday will contest the Great Voltigeur Stakes 35 minutes before his year-older brother explodes into action in the International.
The pair are very different in temperament, aptitude and ability: one is Usain Bolt, the other more a Mo Farah, but one still in the making.
But if Frankel is (like many great horses before him; Sea-Bird, Secretariat and Brigadier Gerard also had no equally brilliant siblings) an extraordinarily lucky shake of the genetic cocktail, that is not stopping the Juddmonte team from trying again. Kind is currently waddling about the paddocks at the Abdullah empire's British headquarters, Banstead Manor Stud, pregnant again to Galileo.
There is particular satisfaction that Frankel is a third-generation Juddmonte product. Her maternal great-grand-dam, Rockfest, was one of Abdullah's earliest broodmare purchases, acquired privately in the States. Mated with Rainbow Quest, she produced the Lancashire Oaks winner Rainbow Lake who, after a tryst with Danehill, became the dam of Kind.
The 11-year-old mare is a bit of a star in her own right; her name reflects her nature. "She's one of the nicest animals I've ever had dealings with," said Banstead's manager, Simon Mockridge. "A wonderful mother to her foals."
Her celebrity son, who weighed a substantial 123lb at birth, was judged a bright prospect even before he grew up and was transferred to the trainer Sir Henry Cecil, where nurture gives every assistance to nature. "Quality colt," noted Mockridge of the new arrival. "Size and scope, strong hind leg. Very good foal."
Frankel will be going for a record eighth successive Group One victory in the International, a contest under long-time Juddmonte sponsorship. In a small field he is long odds-on to succeed, but the difference is that the 10-furlong contest will be a new test, his first race beyond a mile.
The International is not, of course, the only Group One highlight on the Knavesmire this week. But Frankel is racing's lightning bolt, the sport's heritage in one rare strike.
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