Frankel set for Valentine's Day start to multimillion stud career
'He's all man, I think,' says Banstead Manor manager as wonder horse prepares for his new role
It would be tempting to say that Frankel looked like a million dollars on a cold, bright morning at Banstead Manor Stud on Thursday, if that did not cheapen him at least 50 times over. The most valuable new recruit to the thoroughbred breeding industry for many years is no longer a racehorse, but for now at least, he still looks like one.
It will not last. Frankel's neighbours at Banstead Manor, his new base just four miles from Newmarket, include Dansili and Oasis Dream, veterans of the breeding sheds with many hundreds of matings behind them already. Both have the burlier physique of a stallion, and this time next year, after about 130 covers, Frankel will have started to share it too.
By then, he will have earned about £12.5m in stallion fees, as Frankel's first book of mares is expected to include about 30 from the broodmare band of his owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, as well as about 100 "outside" nominations at a cost of £125,000 each. Having made his mark on the track with 14 straight wins in an unbeaten career, Frankel's name will soon be stamped on the thoroughbred gene pool too.
Philip Mitchell, the general manager of Banstead Manor, was there when Frankel was foaled in 2008 and is an old hand at introducing new recruits to the mating game. He does not anticipate many problems when the time arrives next year.
"What you don't want to do is to get a horse totally overexcited," Mitchell said. "You want him to cover a mare successfully, so that we're all happy with him, and then get another mare quite soon after that, so he gets into a routine. If you start in January he will get overexcited and then nothing happens for another month. He will first have what's referred to as a test mare, so that we find out a little more about him in the covering yard, but we have no real doubts. He's all man, I think."
The only thing that is even faintly romantic about the near-daily routine of a stallion covering a fresh partner is that the season begins on 14 February. Instead, it is both a business and a gamble, as the owners of mares will stake £125,000 in the hope of conceiving a foal that is, as both a racehorse and a breeding prospect, worth a great deal more.
"I think a book of 130 to 135 mares is a good number for a stallion to start with," Mitchell said. "At the moment, we have over 250 enquiries to work through, and I've never been associated with a horse that has had such worldwide interest. I think we've already got 15 mares coming over from America and five from Japan, so it's not just Europe. This horse is global."
Frankel's first foals will be born early in 2014, and will be yearlings in 2015, though it is possible that relatively few will be offered for public auction.
Prices at 2012's major yearling sales have been buoyant, and those offspring of Frankel that do make it to the ring can be expected to sell at a premium.
"We would always try and keep a restriction on the levels," Mitchell said. "What you don't want if someone is spending the level of nomination fee to use Frankel is to get to a situation where you find 30 of his progeny being sold. This is an exclusive horse, and we want to keep him exclusive."
"Hopefully, we will get the right balance but Juddmonte [the operation which controls Abdullah's bloodstock interests] are owner-breeders, and we like owner-breeders. We won't be flooding the market, and that's important."
The quality of mares sent to any new stallion will have a significant effect on his ultimate success in siring high-class winners on the track, and Frankel can expect to cover a long list of proven broodmares in his early seasons at stud.
"A stallion can be the best in world but it is hugely important to get the right calibre of mare," Mitchell said. "How he's at stud, I would almost put greater emphasis on the mares. At the moment we have got 30 mares [booked to use Banstead Manor stallions] that have produced Group One winners, or won Group One races, or both, and he'll be getting first pick.
"If we have a really good breeder that's always used our stallions and they want to send a particular mare, then it's not for me to make judgment on that mare because they know the mare a lot better than I do. He's at his highest level of interest at the moment but equally what we want to try to develop over the next three or four years is that people who used him this year will continue to use him in future years.
"There are only a certain number of breeders who have the quality of mare or who indeed want to spend Frankel's level of nomination fee. I have no qualms about that, as he is exceptional. He deserves to be there, he is simply everything, the complete package."
Greg Wood, The Guardian
23 November 2012