Frankly Astounding

Caption: Frankel (GB) (Galileo (IRE)-Kind (IRE) by Danehill

Never as far as I can remember has the interest shown in Britain in a racehorse’s career continued over to its stallion career like that of the great Frankel. The son of Galileo was a truly magnificent spectacle to behold on the racetrack, striding out to win all 14 of his races, most with contemptuous ease. His running style left no hiding place, his power play usually beginning at the most inconvenient time for his opponents. Just as most were being saved for their own final effort, Frankel would put them to the sword by powering up for his home run much sooner than most racehorses wanted to or indeed were capable of. It was this sustained acceleration that marked the Juddmonte colt down as a supreme athlete and caught the public imagination.

And ever since he retired to stud, the racing and bloodstock press has been keeping a close eye on every aspect of his journey forward. His first foals born, his first to sell as weanlings and then as yearlings. All occasions provided plenty of comment and not all of it very positive. That said, from July onwards last year those who expressed some misgivings about his future as a stallion have gradually been persuaded that he’s poised for great things in his second career.

Six first-crop group winners will win any argument. No sire has managed that for a very long time in Europe and his ratio of black-type winners to runners, which stands at 14 per cent is also comfortably the best for the past 25 years.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the 2017 season will be how his two-year-olds progress and indeed just how good his so far unraced stock will perform. What does the great Frankel need to achieve with his first three-year-olds to remain on top? What are the benchmarks? Much will depend on both the aptitude and temperament of his stock. If, like their sire, they have a bit of fire about them, it may prevent some of them from competing at up to a mile-and-a-half. If, on the other hand, they follow the Galileo lead and just improve with age and distance, then he will clearly be an outstanding sire. After all, Galileo only sired one black-type winners among his first set of European two-year-olds and look what happened to him!

The best score for number of black-type winners and Group winners after two years is held by Dubawi, who sired 18 black-type winners and 11 Group winners. Frankel is currently on six Stakes winners and six Group winners. Frankel’s sire Galileo had nine black-type winners and eight Group winners by the same stage of his career. In terms of percentage of black-type winners to runners, Dubawi has also done best among British and Irish stallions with 11 per cent. This will be a tough mark for any stallion to overcome. Given that his stock will not yet have raced at four and above, a score of 10 per cent or higher is extremely good in the modern era where large foal crops predominate. Of course, Frankel is already scoring at a rate of 14%, but there are bound to be many lesser lights among his stock yet to emerge, so he’ll do well to hang on to his current ratio. In terms of Timeform ratings, his top ten horses will need to be posting an average rating of 118, which is what Montjeu had achieved at the same stage. The best ten by Dubawi and Galileo recorded an average of 117 after year two. That’s the numbers. More than anything else, Frankel will have to deliver one or two stars of the turf season. There is nothing like a championship horse to convince breeders of a stallion’s worth.

If Frankel does indeed progress along the lines discussed, he’ll be a worthy heir to the great Galileo, who has had a chequered career so far as a sire of sires. Both Teofilo, who is maintaining that elusive 10 per cent black-type winners to runners strike rate, and New Approach have enjoyed great success so far, while waiting in the wings are the likes of Australia, Gleneagles and The Gurkha. The next seven months will in all probability seal Frankel’s fate.

Published: February 2017