‘I have waited my wholelife to ride a horse like Frankel’
Published 14/06/2011 | 05:00
TOM QUEALLY'S face begins to brighten involuntarily when he tries to somehow explain the difference between riding a racehorse and sitting atop a superhorse.
"Imagine you're driving in a little car and the next minute you jump in a big one with a three-litre engine and you start heading on down the motorway," the Waterford native explains.
"So you're going along smoothly and then you look at the speedometer and see you are doing almost 100. You just don't realise how fast you're going because it feels so easy. Amazingly easy."
Then the jockey pauses before adding: "Maybe that's the best way to tell how it feels to ride Frankel."
Frankel. Mention the name and even hard-bitten denizens of the Turf seem to go a bit weak at the knees over the unbeaten wonderhorse who last time out delivered what the sport's historians believe to be one of the defining Classic triumphs -- a mind-boggling stalls-to-post 2,000 Guineas victory of such grandeur over Newmarket's Rowley Mile that it felt like the equine equivalent of Usain Bolt beating his Olympic rivals out of the blocks and then utterly pulverising them.
"Beyond Belief" roared the headlines.
"Frankel was so far clear I thought he was the pacemaker," marvelled one beaten jockey, Johnny Murtagh, bringing to mind the observation of the horse's trainer, Henry Cecil, after last October's Dewhurst Stakes: "He has a sixth gear and, if he was a Formula One car he'd win everything -- as long as I wasn't driving."
In 203 editions of the Guineas, had there ever been anything so unreal?
No wonder Queally -- the former Irish champions apprentice who has ridden the three-year-old in all his six races, winning the lot by the extraordinary combined margin of nearly 100 metres -- describes it as an "absolute privilege" to be granted this driver's seat into legend.
"Best I've ever ridden? Yes, I'll never sit on a horse like him again. Well, I hope I do but I don't think you get two superhorses in a lifetime," says the 26-year-old Queally, as he ponders Frankel's follow-up to his Guineas tour de force in today's St James's Palace Stakes, which could prove the highlight of one of Royal Ascot's most remarkable days of racing.
"All I ever wanted to do is ride horses, whether it be on a wet Monday at Wolverhampton or riding one of the point-to-pointers my dad trains," says Queally, "but I've waited my whole life to ride a horse with even half the ability of Frankel.
"I've spoken to people three times my age who say they've never seen anything like him. I'm in a very, very lucky position."
But a pressurised one, perhaps? Doesn't having to pilot a horse which carries an estimated value of £40m, and which has the potential to see racing galloping from the back to the front pages, carry its own burden?
Queally looks at you as if you're mad. He reckons there are dozens of jockeys out there who would kill for the winning ride of their lives on this fellow. Pressure? Pleasure, more like. What was there to worry about?
There were some jockeys, he knows, who would have been rendered sleepless on the eve of the race. "But me? I could sleep through a bomb."
Perhaps a horse which gets everyone so excited needs a cool horseman -- especially when Cecil plotted April's daring assault at Newmarket which, even Queally concedes with half a smile, was "not the run of the mill thing you do in the Guineas".
The idea had been for Frankel to track a pacemaker, Rerouted, also owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, until that was ruined by a draw which left the two horses on opposite sides of the course. "So Henry and I decided, 'Well, why not let him run along?' Obviously I wasn't giving anything away beforehand but while everyone else was getting organised during the race, dropping in, getting a bit of cover, whatever, I had a couple of lengths just freewheeling along."
Freewheeling at the pace of a high-class sprinter, though. "I knew he was going well and had time to look under my legs at half way. Thought he'd probably be three, four lengths ahead. It was more like 10."
The final winning margin was six lengths, leaving some to wonder if Frankel had been tiring at the post.
"People said he'd had a hard race but I don't think he did. He was bouncing along still, pricking his ears. After the race, he was man about town! The more time goes on, I think he's starting to know he's a bit special."