Frankel, on Top of the World

After Frankel rolled by Cirrus Des Aigles in the grade one Champion Stakes, extending his record to an unbeaten 14 for 14, there was only one thought in my mind… I had just witnessed the greatest horse to ever race of all time. Many, may or may not disagree, as there are many horses worthy of such praise, but again, I think Frankel over the course of three years, has shown that he is above and beyond all.
At the conclusion of his career, Frankel’s record reads 14 starts 14 wins, 10 grade one wins, 12 graded stakes wins. Impressive as that is, a more detailed look at his record will show you his versatility. He has wins from seven furlongs to 10 1/2 furlongs, while also winning over soft, good and firm turf. He could decimate you with early speed or run you down from off the pace. Nothing mattered to Frankel, he simply came out and won.
At two he showed heart in his first start. He came from off the pace, on soft ground to run down a future star in Nathaniel. He followed that up with a win in a Conditions Stakes before dominating the Royal Lodge Stakes where he beat Slim Shadey and Treasure Beach. Both horses have since come stateside and won graded stakes. He would conclude his juvenile season with a scintillating performance in the grade one Dewhurst, beating future grade one winner Dream Ahead. At the end of the year he would earn the first of many championships, when crowned the champion two year old colt, in 2010.
At three, the question was could Frankel carry the brilliance he had shown as a juvenile into his sophomore year of racing. He answered with an emphatic yes in the grade three Greenham Stakes. That would also be the first of many times he would meet Excelebration. He would go on to win four more times in 2011, all grade ones, while adding World Class milers Canford Cliffs and Immortal Verse to his list of beaten foes.  In 2011, he won not only the Cartier Award for champion three year old, but was named Cartier Horse of the Year.
In 2012, the unbeaten and brilliant Frankel was had two questions to answer. Could he again, take his three year old form and parlay it into an excellent four year old season, and could he race and win beyond a mile? Both question asked and answered, and after the fact, we have to wonder how we ever could have doubted the unbeaten, unchallenged champion.
In previous years Frankel always had one start that was somewhat of a scare. This year there would be no such thing as a close race for him. He would start out the season with two easy victories, crushing his old rival Excelebration in each. He then made history in the Sussex Stakes, becoming the first horse to ever win consecutive runnings of the race. In the process he also beat highly touted group one place Frahh. That would be Frankel’s last time ever running a mile, as his connections announce he would next contest in the group one Juddmonte International, at 10 and a half furlongs.
Coming into the Juddmonte Frankel had never been tested over a distance longer than a mile, so the doubters were out in force. They claimed the distance would be the unbeaten champion’s undoing, but Frankel silenced them with a quick and decisive burst that left all who dared to face him in his wake. Behind him was again Farhh, along with St. Nicholas Abbey, a Breeders Cup Turf winner, and Twice Over the defending champion of the Juddmonte. It was supposed to be a daunting task, but Frankel proved that once again, there was a reason he was deemed the best horse in the world. In one race he had answered questions of distance and class, by making two of the best middle distance horses of his era look like they were mere mortals.
After the Juddmonte, the connections of Frankel named the colt’s final start to be the Champion Stakes. A full house was on hand for the race, all eager to see if Frankel could end his career the same way he had begun, winning.
A slow break did not help, and neither did a clueless ride aboard Bullet Train, Frankel’s long time pace maker. However, as the race progressed it was clear that the break did little to bother Frankel, as he continued to rate comfortably in fourth. As they went around the turn and entered the straight Frankel, on his own accord, began ranged up along Cirrus Des Aigles. Halfway down the straight, Tom Queally finally asked Frankel for run, and he accelerated ahead with a decisive burst. It was no doubt the sternest race of his career, but Frankel still made it look all too easy.
For his detractors, Frankel has beaten several group one winners, including Canford Cliffs, Immortal Verse, Dream Ahead, Nathaniel, and Cirrus Des Aigles. He has also beaten three champions in Cirrus Des Aigels, Dream Ahead, and St. Nicholas Abbey. Knowing that he beat these, one cannot possibly say he built his record by beating up on weaker horses.
Overall, I rate horses by their body of work, brilliance, longevity and versatility. Frankel’s body of work is one of the best in racing’s modern day era. Beating the horses he did, making the history he did, winning 10 group ones from seven furlongs to 10 and a half is simply outstanding. Brilliance is not easy for a turf horse to display, but he had it in spades. He on many occasion, crushed his opponents with unparalleled speed and acceleration. On the topic of longevity, he performed at the highest level for three season’s straight, earning a total of three championships, and looks to add two more to that count at the end of this season. In the versatility department, Frankel could sprint, he could mile and he could route. If that isn’t enough for his detractors, remember, he also proved he could run over firm, good, or even soft ground. Whatever the distance, whatever the ground, Frankel never had a bad day.
Some horses have one of these qualities, some have a combination. Frankel has it all. He was the complete package, as perfect of a horse as the world will ever see. In my book, he is the best to have ever stepped on a racetrack.


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Older Comments about Frankel, on Top of the World...

right after I learn to type
Great advice, tv! I'd much rather see them up close like that and plan on doing a farm tour in a coiuple of years.
ALL here, owe it to yourself to save your money, write the various farms in and around Lexington, and go there. GO THERE in November: not much going on, it is cold so many stay away. it is often just you and the stallion as it was for me an Alydar, Sect, Bid, Cougar, Ack Ack, Prospector, Tom Rolfe, In Reality, Dmascus, Polish Navy, Nijinsky, Ferdinand, Cox's Ridge, Slew, Slew O'Gold, Gato del Sol, Bodl Forbes,Exceller, ....when you are there by yourself, you "own" the place. Al the fams addresses are on line. Devil's Bag, Danzig etc all there to see one on one when I visited in November.
You know TV, many of us would envy that and just being able to see Secretariat or Frankel race live would be a life lasting memory.
I think it's really difficult to compare the all-time great horses across generations, but I agree with Brian Zipse. In my 30+ years now of following the sport Frankel is definitely among the very best horses I've ever seen!! I don't know that I can remember any other horse who's first big initial burst of speed when ask for run just left fields for dead the way Frankel's initial burst did. The "so-called" experts and racing fans alike will be debating for years to come whether Frankel was the greatest of all time or not? Regardless of whether you feel he was or wasn't? We're not likely to see another horse of his caliber for another 20 or 30 years, IMO. I think everyone would agree that Frankel was absolutely an amazing animal to watch on a racetrack!!
There are many who believe Secretariat "couldn't have been so dominant" without drugs, but then they never stood next to him like I did, tiwce, and no different.
One thing I really admire is that Frankel went all 14 with out any race day medication. Just shows that horses can be freaks without doping.
Definitely a great. Say "all time" really is difficult when thinking about it over a span of time. So much changes over the years. I do believe he is one of the greatest though.
you made a blanket statement about ALL races are goverened ypace. NOT when a horse gets out front and dictates it to the entire field, they are not afffected by it.
Good write up Laura and yes Frankel has been one of the greatest in modern times.
Travel_vic again shows his ignorance. Dr. Fager was beat by 15 lengths due to him being governed by pace. Affirmed was also governed by pace. If he was pressed a closer could come and win. Ignorance, pure ignorance.
Bernardini, how often do American champions travel to Europe? almost never. enough with the double standards.
Frankel is obviously an amazing horse which can be and should be understood by all horsemen. But there is no way I could possibly classify Frankel ast he greatest horse of all time. He never ventured from where he was comfortable to challenge the champions of America. Now we'll never know how good he truly was...
Frankel is obviously an amazing horse which can be and should be understood by all horsemen. But there is no way I could possibly classify Frankel ast he greatest horse of all time. He never ventured from where he was comfortable to challenge the champions of America. Now we'll never know how good he truly was...
Icy. Very flattered to be included in such a group. Always love hearing from a fellow harness fan and well as someone who knows betting and thoroughbred racing as well as you do.
As T_V and others have pointed out, greatness doesn't have a clear measure; wins, times, earnings, competiton, endurance, can all figure into the mix. In my 40 + years as a handicapper and fan, I know I've missed 90% of the great ones.
COcoa again shows his ignornace. NOT every horse is governed by pace. Affirmed and Fager WERE the pace and evey one else reacted to them
Thanks icy. It is nice to be included in that group. You bring alot to the table also, don't forget. I especially appreciate you knowledge on standardbreds.
Thanks, icy. I enjoy your comments, too. Tim, don't feel left out :)
railbird, that is by far the worst test. A record is nice to have, but a lot of things can go into times, one of the biggest being the track. Quality Road set a record in the Florida Derby, but it was his Donn record i respect, since his FD record came over a very souped up track. Position and pace can also play a huge roll in that. If the pace is slow, you most likely won't see a closer rushing up and getting a record. Sometimes even when the pace is quick a closer may not set a record due to a pace meltdown. Brilliance, body of work, longevity, and versatility are all much better ways to assess a horse's greatness.

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