Over the past year or so, I’ve heard many people try to compare the career of Frankel to that of Zenyatta, Black Caviar as well as other all time stars. Is it possible to do so? I believe it is possible, but at the end of the day, it will still come down to individual opinion.
As the career of the great four year old colt by Galileo concludes on Saturday, October 20 in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot Race Course in the United Kingdom, we look back on his resume first to see which races he won and who he defeated along the way.
August 13 was the debut of Frankel at Newmarket where he defeated Nathaniel by 1/2 length going a mile. As of today, Nathaniel (IRE) has won three Group races in his career (two Group 1 and one Group 2).
September 10 at Doncaster he defeated two other contenders by 13 lengths in the seven furlongs Frank Whittle Partnership Conditions Stakes. Nothing to write home about yet.
His first Group race would announce his arrival as a horse to beat moving forward. He trounced a field of four others by 10 lengths in the one mile Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Group 2) at Ascot on September 25. Among the contenders was Treasure Beach (GB), who as of today has won three career Group/Graded races with two at the top level.
October 16 at Ascot, he won his first Group 1 race in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes going seven furlongs. He defeated Roderic O’Connor (IRE), who eventually won two Group 1 races and Dream Ahead, who won four Group 1 races in his brief career including his finale over the great mare Goldikova last October in the Qatar Prix de la Foret at Longchamps.
After a 4 for 4 debut season, trainer Sir Henry Cecil gave the colt the Winter off before making a serious run in his three year old campaign. It began with a four lengths win over Excelebration (IRE) in the Greenham Stakes (Group 3) at Newbury on April 16. The Aidan O’Brien trained colt has won five Group races over his career now. Unfortunately, he had to face Frankel several times and ran 2nd on four occasions and 3rd one other time.
April 30 at Newmarket he easily defeated a field of 12 other competitors by six lengths in the Qipco 2000 Guineas (Group 1).
June 14 at Royal Ascot, he defeated two-time Group winner Zoffany (IRE), Excelebration, Dream Ahead, Dubawi Gold and several others in the St. James Palace Stakes as part of the British Champions Series (Group 1).
July 27 at Goodwood, he defeated Canford Cliffs (IRE) in the one mile Qipco Sussex Stakes as part of the British Champion Series (Group 1). Frankel cruised to victory by a convincing five lengths. Canford Cliffs was a six-time Group 1 winner who had his five race Group 1 winning streak snapped by Frankel. During that streak, he defeated Goldikova, Worthadd and Rip Van Winkle. All multiple Group race winners.
October 15 back at Ascot, he would win his 2011 finale by four lengths over Excelebration again, as well as, Immortal Verse (IRE) (three-time Group winner) and Dubawi Gold. He was given the Winter off again.
The 2012 racing season began for Frankel on May 19 at Newbury where he defeated Excelebration and a field of four others by five lengths in the JLT Lockinge Stakes as part of the British Champion Series (Group 1).
He’d follow up that race with yet another romp in which he won the Queen Anne Stakes (British Champion Series) (Group 1) on June 19 by a ridiculous 11 lengths over Excelebration and nine other participants.
August 1 at Goodwood ended with a six lengths victory over Farhh and two others in the Qipco Sussex Stakes (Group 1). Farhh hasn’t won a Group race in his career, but he has narrowly lost to Nathaniel and International star So You Think (AUS).
After the Sussex, the debates continued to heat up whether Frankel should be considered one of the best race horses of all time, best of our time and even comparing to the likes of the great American mare Zenyatta and Aussie sensation Black Caviar. The major concern for racing fans all over the World, even those in Europe was whether Frankel could defeat the best horses running further than his usual one mile.
Those questions were answered as Frankel destroyed a stronger than his normal field in the Juddmonte International Stakes (British Champion Series) (Group 1) going 1 5/16 miles. In this field were Farhh, six-time Group winner St. Nicholas Abbey and eight-time Group winner Twice Over.
In my opinion, this was a terrific race and showed he is still dominant even at the longer distance. I need to mention that Twice Over was at the end of his career, St. Nicholas Abbey hasn’t been the same this year and Farhh hasn’t won a Group race in his career, but his win was convincing and not by a narrow margin. The only knock left on this big bay colt is that he hasn’t traveled outside his usual tracks and has yet to face International stars such as Snow Fairy, Orfevre, Danedream and others who’ve traveled between Europe and Asia to win major races. I believe passing the Arc de Triomphe didn’t help his case to be considered “the best of all time” as the Arc is a serious test for any horse to win. If he had ran in the Arc and won, it would have silenced a vast majority of those who didn’t believe in him or his overall ability.
At the end of the day, the connections aren’t thinking about what others think or believe. They are preserving the brand name of Frankel for future marketing purposes and when he retires to stud after the Champion Stakes on Saturday. Is that wrong? Absolutely not. In my opinion, it is brilliant. Why jeopardize what you have built? Don’t cave to public scrutiny and what the nay sayers think you should do with this horse. There are several all time greats that never left their country. American horses rarely ship to the UK, Ireland, France, Asia or Dubai to tackle other International stars. Why should Frankel be any different?
Frankel going 13 for 13 already with the possibility of ending his career winning all 14 career races will still put his name down as one of the best all time. Even if he loses Saturday, people will still remember Frankel for being one of the dominant horses of his time. The best of all time, no, but certainly one of the best.
Zenyatta losing her last race by a neck to Blame in the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic did not harm or tarnish her wonderful career. She is still considered one of the best of all time. Sure, she rarely left the comfy confines of Southern California. All but three races were at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. She still had to win her local races and defeated the boys in dramatic fashion in the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic.
I do give credit to the connections of Black Caviar for shipping her halfway across the World to run at Ascot in June. Despite, not running her best (injury to follow) and her jockey almost blowing it at the end by letting up on her with a few strides remaining, she proved that she can run and win away from her local Australian tracks. Yes, most of her races were at the same tracks, but she still won all of her 21 races there. Even if she doesn’t run again, you can put her name into consideration as one of the best all time.
All in all, the debates will continue even after the retirements. You can’t compare Frankel to Zenyatta or Black Caviar as they were different runners at different distances and on different surfaces. What we should focus on and be thrilled about is the mere fact we had the opportunity to enjoy all three of these phenomenal specimens within 2-3 years of each other. It is rare to have a superstar in North America, Europe and Australia at relatively the same. We should be blessed to have witnessed them as they mesmerized us each and every time that set foot on the track.