Junior and Frankel set for royal freak show
A WEEK today, at the opening session of Royal Ascot, stand by for what seems to be developing as a freak show.
First up in the St James's Palace Stakes will be the explosive 2,000 Guineas winner Frankel, a horse which has attracted that particular f-word more than any other this season.
And on the same bill is Junior, to which that and other f-words have been applied.
Junior, despite his name, is no young comet, but a remarkable veteran of 31 races over five years. Next week he will defend his title in the Ascot Stakes, a classy handicap run over two and a half miles. And therein lies part of his claim to distinction, for the last time he appeared in public it was to triumph at the Cheltenham Festival.
The eight-year-old's win in the Kim Muir Chase made him only the eighth horse in a century to have shown the class and versatility to score on both Flat racing and jump racing's greatest stages, a list that includes legends like Brown Jack and Trelawney.
"That alone would make him a bit of a phenomenon," said Tim Palin of the Middleham Park Racing syndicate whose colours the gelding carries, "but it's more than that. We bought him at an auction, and when we first saw him, that was it. He wasn't just walking round, he was strutting round with attitude.
"When we got him he was a serial underachiever considering the talent that the trainers who had previously had him, top men like Brian Meehan and Alan King, knew he had, and he'd been called many things, most of them uncomplimentary. He's by the Flat sire Singspiel and he's now one of the favourites for next year's Grand National. And I think that all does make him more than a bit of a freak."
Junior, which cost £35,000 when he went under the hammer 13 months ago, won the Ascot Stakes on his first outing under the care of his current trainer, David Pipe.
"I won't say we were clever, because no-one can count themselves clever in this business," said Palin, "but the luckiest decision we made was to send the horse to David. He'll be top of the weights for sure next week, but if he's made the same improvement on the Flat as over jumps, then I think he'll still be ahead of the handicapper." (© Independent News Service)