I will never forget my first encounter with the beast Frankel. It was the 13th of August 2010, I had been 18 for just over five months and had become a regular in my local bookmakers. My luck was never that great and the older gentlemen had always had a laugh and joke about my tendency to fall one short in doubles/trebles/accumulators etc.
“Friday the 13th, it may be your lucky day” one of the gentlemen quipped. And little did I know how lucky I would become that day. It was a typical Friday night in my area, very grim, results were out the following week, but I had succumbed to defeat and accepted I would be facing a tedious third year in college. It was pouring with rain, and many were taking shelter in the bookmakers, the smell of tea and coffee filled the dimly lit room and the sounds of the games machines were ringing loud.
I had taken my usual stance by the evening meetings sheet in the corner as it ticked to 6:15, “Decent little maiden this, must be a reason this fav (Frankel) is so short.” I said to someone also perusing at the Racing Post. They laughed, “No value, it’s going to be one of the Goldolphin pair.”
I had only popped down to pick up some tea for me and my mum, but was always dragged in my the lure of the bookmakers, the chance to watch some racing and hear stories of what the women behind the desk has seen today. I had £10 on me, and was supposed to be going out the following week for results night. I knew that it wouldn’t be plausible for me to have a night out with that money.
I threw caution to the wind, I had heard many good things in the run-up to the maiden and decided to see if Friday the 13th was my lucky day. I managed to get 2/1 for him and threw it on to win. The weather and ground were atrocious at Newmarket when he lined up at the start. ‘I hope he handles the ground.’ I thought.
The race began and he was held up towards the rear. He cruised up on the bridle two furlongs out, and then powered into the lead travelling well with a furlong to go. Nathaniel (future King George winner) challenged in the final furlong, but Frankel showed a willing attitude and stuck on gamely to win by half a length.
Nobody around me reacted, apart from a few cursed their luck and walked out. Everyone just thought they had witnessed a standard Newmarket maiden. How wrong we were. This would be the last time I would ever be lucky enough to get odds-against in a single race for the Freak. I knew he was going to be special, but just how special, nobody could have predicted.
Since this maiden at Newmarket, over two years ago, he has gone on to win another twelve races, taking his impressive tally to thirteen victories from thirteen races, including nine group-ones.
Frankel had three more races in his two-year-old campaign, following his maiden victory. He went to Doncaster as a warm 1/2 favourite, and destroyed the field by 13 lengths, only being asked the question deep into the final furlong.
This performance seen him installed as the long odds-on favourite for the Group 2 Royal Lodge stakes at Ascot. This was where he would stamp his class and bring massive attention to himself as a potential superstar. Held up in last place coming around Swinley Bottom, Tom Queally gave Frankel an inch of reign and the horse reacted instantly, rounding the field in a number of strides, powering into the lead three furlongs out. It was a moment in which we first got to see just how incredible his turn of foot actually was, as he went clear almost instantaneously, going on to win by a cosy ten lengths.
This was enough to allow him to take his chance in his first Group 1. The Dewhurst, a well known trial for the following years 2000 Guineas. Starting at 4/6, he was facing his first real test in the bookmakers eyes, the well-fancied Dream Ahead (who would later go on to sweep up numerous Group One’s over 6f).
Even though the race was on Channel 4 I had decided to go and watch the race in town, to sample the atmosphere as everyone gathered to see if Frankel was as good as the hype suggested. He was. A special was announced before the race, 4/1 for Frankel to win the Dewhurst/Guineas double. He was already a short price for the next years 2000 Guineas and I knew another win would mean he would crumble once more. What a bet that turned out to be.
The result was never really in doubt as although he pulled early on, he was given space by Queally, and that was all he needed. He powered down the middle of the track, eating up the ground on his rivals, going on to win by two and a half lengths, with the following years Irish 2000 Guineas winner Roderic O’Connor in second. Dream Ahead disappointed down the field.
After Frankel had been put away for a winter break, he re-appeared at Newbury after 182 days, to blow away a Greenham field which had future Group winners Excelebration and Strong Suit in attendance. This was enough to cement his place at the head of 2000 Guineas market, as he was set to go off the first odds-on shot in many years.
30th April 2011 was the day that made Frankel a superstar. A simply magnificent performance in which he blew away his twelve rivals with consummate ease and landed the first classic of the year. He didn’t adhere to his pace-makers tactics and went straight out to the lead himself. His stride lengthened and by half-way he had built up a ten-length lead. No-one could claw it back and although the lead was whittled down slightly in the closing stages, he still landed the prize by six lengths. It was a performance no-one who was lucky enough to witness that day, will ever forget.
He went on to notch up three more Group One victories in his 3yo season, bagging the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot, The Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and The QEII at Ascot. It was his victory over the older horse Canford Cliffs which was the most impressive, as it was his first time up against older horses and followed a barrage of attacks on Henry Cecil for allowing Tom Queally to keep the ride.
Queally allowed Frankel to take it up coming around the bend at Ascot and set sail for home over three and a half furlongs out. He built up a healthy lead before struggling to hold off the late challenge of Zoffany. He did manage to by three-quarters of a length, but questions were raised over Queally’s riding tactics.
He returned at Goodwood for the tricky four-runner field, facing older horses for the first time. The pressure was on Queally and he knew he had to deliver. There was no pace early on and he made the positive move to make the pace himself on-board Frankel, he set a steady pace and then kicked for home over a furlong and a half out. The race was over in an instant, the electric turn of foot we had came to expect from Frankel was in full force and Canford Cliffs had no answer to him, finishing a five-length second. No-one could question Frankel or Queally’s ability now.
After defeating Excelebration in another impressive display at Ascot, he was put away again for a well-deserved winter break.
217 days later, he re-appeared in the Lockinge against old rival Excelbration once more. Many wondered if he would train on and whether a four-year-old campaign would be worthwhile, whereas the majority of the racing public were just pleased they had another chance to witness the superstar in action. He cruised into the lead on the bit over a furlong out, before drawing away once more to bag his first success as a 4yo and make it ten from ten in his lifetime.
Starting at 1/10 for the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, it was definitely not a race for betting, yet it was still a race to savour. There was a big pre-race hype as to who would be more impressive during Royal Ascot, Frankel, or the wonder-mare travelling over from Australia, Black Caviar.
Frankel sent out his message during the Queen Anne, that he was not going to be knocked off his perch. An 11 length demolition of a Group One field was simply amazing. Top hats were flying in the air, cheers were ringing around, people were gob-smacked at what they had just witnessed. And still, the best was yet to come.
Sceptics had always stated that Frankel needed to race over a longer trip to truely test himself and prove his worth at the top level. Henry Cecil obliged and stated that Frankel would be heading to York for the Juddmonte International over 1 mile 2 furlongs. He gave his superstar a prep run in the Sussex Stakes, which had won 12 months previously, and it was a precession once more as Frankel demolished his three rivals at odds of 1/20.
This set him nicely for a crack at today’s Juddmonte International. The real test of how good he is. Could he handle the step up in trip? The bookmakers certainly thought so, as they priced him up at 1/10.
The anticipation was massive, as the crowds all clamoured for a photograph of the beast. The parade was packed, and Henry Cecil had made an appearance after his recent battle with cancer. There was only one thing the crowd wanted to see, and that was a Frankel victory.
There were three pace-makers declared, so there was never going to be a shortage of pace, and St Nicholas Abbey was going out to test Frankel’s reserves. Could he handle it.
Coming into the straight, Frankel was around ten lengths off the pace as he began to follow St Nicholas Abbey towards the stand rail. Queally didn’t move a muscle on his mount as he edged ever closer to St Nic. With two furlongs left to go Frankel cruised into the lead and when asked by his jockey, Frankel bounded clear to win by six lengths and showed no signs of stopping.
The crowd erupted, millions of viewers at home and in betting shops all smiling as they understand just how good this horse is. 13 wins in 13 races, including nine Group Ones. Once in a lifetime. I am 20 years of age and have already come to terms with the fact that I am very unlikely to ever witness another horse quite like Frankel.
He is a machine and over the two-years we have been luckily enough to follow him, he has changed horse-racing forever. He has brought in fans from all-over the world, who have been en-captured by his magical story and meaning to both Cecil and Prince Khalid Abdullah. He was named after the legendary American trainer Bobby Frankel, who sadly died of leukaemia in November 2009, and he has lived up to his ever so special name.
Racing fans around the world are screaming for Frankel to go to Paris in October to contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and I for one think it would cap off a marvellous career for both Frankel and Sir Henry, who is yet to win the big race. The whole of the world would unite and the majority would be hoping for the same outcome and what could become a very emotional afternoon in Paris.
However regardless of what Frankel does next, or if in fact he does even race again. No-one can dispute he is the greatest racehorse we have encountered in this generation, and it will take something special to top him in my lifetime. Long live ‘the freak’ Frankel.