Frankel proves he is a class apart in Guineas
Cecil's sublime superstar jumps off first and blazes away from the field to hammer his Classic rivals at Newmarket
Sunday 01 May 2011
For the first part of the afternoon the sights and sounds here were pretty much the norm for 2,000 Guineas day: warm spring sunshine, handsome horses and pretty women prancing and parading, a pleasurable buzz of anticipation ahead of the first Classic of the season. Then, before the big race was half over, came a growing awareness from those present that they were witnessing something way left-field.
As the 13 runners made their way down the centre of the Rowley Mile, distant dots gradually taking on the identifiable shape of horse and rider, it could be seen that one had swiftly detached itself from the herd. Frankel, the odds-on favourite, the putative wonder horse, was fulfilling his destiny. Nature and nurture worked together to provide the glorious sight of a champion thoroughbred putting his rivals to the sword, and the heartening human story of the renaissance of his trainer, Henry Cecil.
But though top races have been won both from the front and by six lengths before, surely not like this, and through such an audacious, unexpected, strategy. As Frankel, drawn on the outside of the field, sprang forward from the start, far from waiting for the services of his supposed pacemaker Rerouted, his rider, Tom Queally, blazed him straight into the lead.
At the halfway stage his mighty stride had taken him 10 lengths clear and, although his dominance had been reduced to six lengths at the line it really was, to adapt a racing adage, a case of Frankel first, the rest – headed by Dubawi Gold – nowhere.
It was a 25th domestic Classic for Cecil, a sequence started by Bolkonski in the same race in 1975, and a first for Queally, who executed his ambushtactics perfectly on a colt with a tendency to hotheadedness. "No one expected us to make all," said the 26-year-old Irishman, "but we had been working at home on getting him settled, and it was a plan, if not the plan. He was very relaxed going to the start, which gave me the options, and it was only after 50 yards in the race I decided to go on.
"The horse is happiest when he's galloping, so that's what I let him do. There was going to be no point in hanging on to him and messing about; he's got an incredible stride and motor so I let him roll on.
"I had a look round at halfway and was delighted to see how far I was clear, as that gave me enough leeway to let him have a breather. And towards the end, without company, he was probably idling in front."
The ovation for Frankel's extraordinary performance started when he had a quarter of a mile still to cover and carried on seamlessly as Cecil welcomed Khalid Abdullah's colour-bearer into the winner's circle.
"That sort of support," said the trainer, whose successful resurgence after health and personal problems has been well documented, "is extremely moving. It makes you feel humble and embarrassed, and, to be honest, pretty weepish."
Frankel, at 1-2, was a hotter winning favourite of the Guineas than even the mighty Nijinsky in 1970, but his winning margin could not match Tudor Minstrel's eight lengths in 1947. "It's very difficult to put years togetherand compare different generations," said Cecil. "I'm not going to say he's better or worse than those greathorses, but he must come into that sort of category. And greatness, and having a genuine champion, is important to the public, and so to the sport."
And, presumably, to Qipco, the Qatari private investment company who sponsored yesterday's contest and today's filly showdown, the 1,000 Guineas, and is also behind the recently created British Champions Series, now with a marketing man's dream of an equine flag-bearer. Frankel, last year's joint-champion juvenile, is now unbeaten in six starts, and a best-priced 3-1 favourite to emulate his sire, Galileo, in the Derby.
But whether he will tackle the middle-distance route or prove himself king of the milers has yet to be decided. His next assignment may, or may not, be a step up to 10 furlongs in the Dante Stakes at York this month. "He rather went to sleep near the end," said Cecil. "He destroyed the others, not himself. But we'll see how he is after today; all options are still open."
Frankel paid tribute to not only the talent of his trainer but, as a grandson of the peerless stallion Sadler's Wells, who died last week at 30, the genes responsible for his own rare and powerful talent. He has on his forehead a white mark in the shape of a brilliant-cut diamond, appropriate enough for this gem among horses.
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