Friday 28 July 2017

Frankel's routine brilliance

Ian McClean

Frankely remarkable. There has rarely -- if ever -- been a Classic as two-faced as the 203rd Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday. The victory of the vaunted Henry Cecil-trained Frankel had the conflicting personalities of being sensational and anti-climactic in equal measure.

Sensational, in that Frankel, the latest hype horse of the Flat, delivered a six- length annihilation of his opposition precisely in the manner many all winter had pined for. But anti-climactic in the sense that, because of Frankel's absolute superiority, the race was never a contest in any real sense from the very moment the gates opened. After 203 years we were treated to the first ever Classic Solo.

After a big race, and certainly a Classic, you expect to routinely describe the beaten runners or the story of the race, but in truth this only ever concerned one horse. So much so, that after half a furlong you would have needed a very wide-angled lens to even find the next one. In fact, if you didn't know the one in front was Frankel you'd have thought the others had missed the turn for Punchestown.

Tom Queally obviously knows his history as he employed the German World War II blitzkrieg tactic to obliterate his opponents from the very start. The "lightning war" tactic is based on the twin elements of speed and surprise and it was the lethal combination straight from the gate that inflicted on Frankel's rivals the misery of vain pursuit.

Pacemaker Rerouted was in reality quickly rerouted as a decoy, without the pace ever to get near the head of affairs. Rival jockeys naturally expected Frankel to get cover somewhere in behind. What they didn't expect was the favourite to bolt like a quarter horse and establish a lead so extravagant, that to many in the stands would have bordered on folly. It might have been folly to most thoroughbreds but for one of the apparent calibre of Frankel it was more like (as Queally later described it) "a routine canter".

What wasn't routine, however, was the manner in which a Group One quality field were struggling like hunter chasers to keep up after just two furlongs. Senior professionals who rode in the race were all unanimous. Ryan Moore, on board Ballydoyle's Roderic O'Connor, said that he'd "never seen anything like it".

Johnny Murtagh said how "he simply destroyed us" and Frankie Dettori backed it up with the comment that he had "never ridden in a race quite like it". Martin Dwyer topped it by saying it felt more like the Abbaye than the Guineas. Winning rider Tom Queally could only say "no words to describe what he did".

Royal Wedding provided one type of fairytale at Fontwell on Friday and the racing public was treated to another yesterday with its insatiable appetite for a champion. It was made even sweeter by the connection of Henry Cecil whose downturn in fortunes meant he hadn't even had a runner in the Guineas for over a decade. If Prince Khalid Abdullah was greeted with a trickle of applause on the winner's podium as he was presented with his prize, then Cecil was treated to a deluge.

It was a fitting way to rack up his quarter century of British Classics. Asked about the merit of the performance compared to the best of them, he was being typically deprecating when he said "it must be up there with them". Timeform's reaction to the victory was to proffer a rating of 142 which is between Brigadier Gerard (144) and Mill Reef (141) who themselves fought out probably the most famous Guineas finish of all time.

The inevitable question of where next for the now unbeaten six-from-six Frankel was handled with circumspection. Although he has been Derby favourite for absolute months, it is far from certain he will go there. Tom Queally gave the strongest hint when he said "He showed a lot of speed -- that's the one thing we have learned." A trip to Royal Ascot for the St James' Palace looks more likely.

In advance of yesterday's Guineas, there were persistently extravagant reports about Frankel's jaw-dropping homework, ranking up there with the reports that surrounded the mighty Dubai Millenium which was consistently thrashing Group One winner Fly To The Stars 20 lengths and more of a morning.

When one report leaked out before the Greenham that he was hammering Bullet Train on the Al Bahathri, one intrepid punter forked out £550,000 at 5/6 with Victor Chandler for the Guineas. Seems after yesterday it was the actual Newmarket to Cambridge Express.

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