Fabulous Frankel has both heart and mind
World's greatest racehorse returns from injury to take his unbeaten run to 10, and his trainer warns there is better to come
There are times when you would give a great deal for Superman's powers, with X-ray vision top of the list here yesterday. For sure Frankel, rated the best thoroughbred on the planet, is a good-looking specimen, a horse with explosive muscular power and fluidity and grace of movement. But then, there are other equally well-made thoroughbreds without a trace of this one's talent.
So you would love to be able to get a look under the skin, to the lucky shake of the genetic cocktail that produced the heart that pumps such a superlative athletic machine. The man closest to it, rider Tom Queally,can feel it beating and working, and revels in the result.
“When that turbo boost kicks in,” he said, “it is like nothing I've ever sat on before. I don't know the science of it, the physiology of it, what makes him, or someone like Usain Bolt, better than the others. I'm just glad he is and that I'm the one privileged to ride him.”
Queally experienced that remarkable burst of acceleration, one which comes off a cruising speed high enough to have most rivals already in trouble, as Frankel's raking stride effortlessly took his unbeaten run to 10 in the Lockinge Stakes. It was no more than the formbook said he should do; he had already disposed of his chief rival, Excelebration, three times last year, twice by four lengths, and started 2-7 favourite. But a first run of the season is always a nervy time for connections, particularly after a preparation interrupted by an injury, particularly for a valuable, high-profile performer.
As Frankel streaked smoothly clear – Excelebration duly chased him home, this time five lengths adrift – to notch his sixth victory at the highest level and came back in triumph, relief was there alongside pride and delight on the face of his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil. “That 10-day hiccup after he bruised his leg was not ideal,” he said. “You can't invent extra time for him to recover, you just have to feel your way and hope that nature doesn't say stop. His preparation was not straightforward and his performance was a tribute to the efforts of those behind the scenes.”
As a three-year-old, Frankel was the embodiment of the high-mettled racer, inclined to hot-headedness. Yesterday, with a winter's maturing behind him, he seemed more settled in his mind. “He is stronger this year,” added Cecil, “and though he will still take a bit of a hold once racing, especially when fresh, he was calmer in the preliminaries, not so sweaty between his hind legs. He's done everything we wanted him to do.”
The colt may be, so far, a one-trick pony – he has yet to race beyond a mile – but it is some splendid trick. “I thought Excelebration looked a million dollars at the start,” said Queally, “and to run away from a horse like him is amazing. But mine has grown up over the winter; he's thicker-set and stronger, he's the real deal. You just enjoy every part of this horse, riding him in races, riding him on the gallops at home. It's like driving a sports car; you have fun on a motorway but you get a kick from going down to the shops, too.”
Frankel will expand his repertoire in due course, but for his next appearance he is likely to stick to the mile of the Queen Anne Stakes rather than the 10 furlongs of the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. Worryingly for any potential opponents, Cecil said: “His first race of the season is never his best. He's sure to be better next time. The intention is to go up in distance with him, but whether it is as soon as the Eclipse Stakes, or we wait until the Juddmonte International at York, we'll take it step by step and wait for him to tell us.”
Aidan O'Brien, Excelebration's trainer, was the first to congratulate Cecil. “Our horse is a good one, make no mistake," he said, "But Frankel is a great one. The sport needs champions like him and let's just celebrate him, whatever he does, while we can.”
Sue Montgomery, The Independent
20 May 2012