Wednesday 24 January 2018

Another challenge needed for Frankel

Tom Queally riding Frankel win The JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury racecourse in Newbury, England. Photo: Getty Images
Tom Queally riding Frankel win The JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury racecourse in Newbury, England. Photo: Getty Images
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Any notion that Excelebration's switch to Ballydoyle might render him a legitimate threat to Frankel's mesmerising superiority was unceremoniously crushed on Saturday.

Alas, in dishing out a five-length thrashing to Coolmore's new acquisition in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, Henry Cecil's colt exerted a more comprehensive victory over him than he did on any of the three occasions that they had met before.

Excelebration had the benefit of a run, Frankel only last month endured a 10-day injury scare that Cecil understatedly confirmed on Saturday was "not very funny", yet the gulf in class was bigger than ever. Go figure.

What a horse this fellow is. While the greater good dictates that he will never be ridden so boldly as he when Tom Queally allowed him to gallop his rivals into submission from the off in last year's unforgettable 2,000 Guineas rout, the four-year-old wrecking ball's long, powerful, unrelenting stride nonetheless enables him to cover ground at frightening speed.

He remorselessly breaks his rivals' hearts, yet possesses such stunning early pace that Willie Carson has suggested that even his great sprinting partner Dayjur might have struggled to keep tabs on him.

Carson's tribute is typical of the unqualified, deferential awe that Frankel stirs among seasoned pros, with Mick Kinane likewise admitting, when asked last year how Sea The Stars might have coped with Frankel at a mile, that "it would be a very tough ask".

Thus, having gone decades without a truly exceptional, cross-generational heavyweight on the level, two have emerged within the blink of a few years.

Kinane's gracious concession of how daunting a task Sea The Stars would have faced had he met Frankel was entirely understandable, but they are such polar opposites in terms of racing style and temperament that it is impossible to speculate as to which would have held sway had they met.

Sea The Stars only ever did enough, yet his unfettered glory included the Guineas, the Derby and the Arc in a single, unprecedented three-year-old campaign.

Frankel, on the other hand, is inescapably exuberant, like a force of nature, but he has never raced over further than a mile.

In a way, we learned absolutely nothing new about him on Saturday, other than that he has trained on manfully.

Cecil, one of the game's most popular, eccentric and charismatic icons, subsequently wondered aloud as to what they are trying prove, but there is still plenty to do.

Right now, Frankel is an exceptional miler, one of the all-time greats at that trip. However, to achieve the sort of categorical acclaim that legends such as Brigadier Gerard and Sea The Stars command, he ultimately needs to show that he is more than a one-trick pony.

To that end, it would be revelatory to see him go either up or down in trip sooner rather than later, because he cannot realistically enhance his stature by mauling the same tired rivals in the Queen Anne over a mile at Royal Ascot next month.

Visually, he looks to have the gears for sprinting, while his pedigree suggests he should at least stay 10 furlongs.

As for what there is to beat him beyond or below a mile, who knows, but everyone is baying for a titanic clash with Black Caviar over shorter, and you can be certain that Aidan O'Brien will sharpen every weapon that he has at his disposal in an effort to bring him down.

Should Camelot land the Derby at Epsom, then the opportunity to go giant-felling in the Eclipse would surely appeal. How could it not?

One way or another, Saturday was a reminder that it is a treat to have so rare a talent as Frankel still in training at four. All of a sudden, a long, happy summer stretches out ahead.

I'll Have Another needs

one more for Crown

American Flat racing fans are one step ahead of folks round here in the quest to witness a first Triple Crown winner since the 1970s.

Hours after Camelot landed the Guineas on May 5, I'll Have Another mowed down the Bob Baffert-trained Bodemeister to earn a famous victory in the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby for the Californian Irish American handler Doug O'Neill.

On Saturday night at Pimlico, I'll Have Another, bought for just $11,000 as a yearling and sold to its current owners at two for $35,000, was once again the underdog to Baffert's pacey runner in the slightly shorter Preakness.

However, Mario Gutierrez galvanised a sensational burst out of O'Neill's charge to collar Bodemeister at the wire, the pair drawing miles clear in a vintage Classic.

All roads now lead to Long Island for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Since Affirmed became the last of 11 horses to do the clean sweep in 1978, 11 others have tried and failed to complete the set over 12 furlongs at Belmont.

Bodemeister has been ruled out, but the larger-than-life O'Neill, currently contesting a charge of 'milkshaking' one of his horses, beamed after Saturday's $600,000 coup: "We're thinkin' Triple Crown, baby -- c'mon!"

Shanahan off the mark

Pat Shanahan, Dermot Weld's long-serving deputy, saddled his first winner as a trainer when Prince Jock scored at Wexford on Saturday. Based in Danesfort, Co Kilkenny, 48-year-old Shanahan only recently retired from a riding career that yielded an Irish Derby triumph on Zagreb in '96.

Thousand Stars goes

one better in Barka

Willie Mullins bagged a one-two in the Prix Barka at Auteuil yesterday, with the Paul Townend-ridden Thousand Stars outpointing Zaidpour under Ruby Walsh.

Mullins had five on duty in the Grade Two, a trial for next month's French Champion Hurdle.

While Zaidpour was sent off the 3/1 favourite, it was Thousand Stars (22/5) that readily went one better than 12 months ago to deny his stable-mate by four and a half lengths.

Carberry goes top

at Limerick

Paul Carberry took the riding honours with a scintillating 129/1 treble at Limerick yesterday, a tally that sent him one clear of Ruby Walsh at the top of the jump jockeys' table on 10 winners.

Carberry got off the mark when Gordon Elliott's evens favourite Court Lexi did just enough to hold on by a head from Spring Hawk in the mares' maiden hurdle, before the Charlie Swan-trained Zaralabad, a 4/1 market leader, led close home to take the two-mile handicap hurdle.

The in-form rider completed his hat-trick on Tony Martin's Victrix Gale, a comfortable winner of the three-mile handicap chase at odds of 12/1.


121,308 The record crowd that witnessed Saturday evening's thrilling Preakness Stakes in Pimlico, a figure that puts to shame the 14,000 souls that ventured to Newbury for Frankel.


@ninacarberry -- Had some spin off Battlefront today at Stradbally. Great to see him get the seven in a row, also great to have a winner for the in-laws!!

-- With Katie Walsh on duty for Willie Mullins in Auteuil, it was left to Nina Carberry, who is married to Walsh's brother Ted, to maintain Battlefront's unbeaten record since switching to the point-to-point field last October.

The 10-year-old, owned by Katie's mother Helen and trained by her father Ted, has won his seven starts by an aggregate 53 lengths.

Irish Independent

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