Is Frankel Too Perfect???

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Sam Walker of RacingPost.com…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Perfection not enough anymore for Frankel

FRANKEL had better get used to the dignified applause that greeted him on the Goodwood Downs last week.

His odds will be so prohibitive in his remaining starts he will never be met with the fist-pumping roar of a public gamble.

And the benchmark he set himself in the Queen Anne is so high that he will never again evoke the screams and cheers of a stunned crowd.

From now on it’s respectful clapping all the way. Like a visiting royal, there for the appearance rather than to perform. Easy win follows easy win follows easy win.

Frankel has transcended the sport. The bookmakers have given up, the punters have given up, the rivals have given up. There is simply no point taking him on any more.

His exceptional ability and bullet-proof consistency have seen him smash the glass ceiling of handicap ratings and now, as an eternal 1-20 shot, he has conquered the sport itself.

But being so exceptional – perfect, even – has somehow failed to endear him to the wider public, and this tells us something we would never have known without experiencing this enigma.

In their sporting heroes people don’t actually want a perfect champion. They want some vulnerability. There is simply not enough drama in this story of equine perfection.

Racing is, after all, in the entertainment industry and it would be natural to assume that the greatest horse would be the most entertaining. But not, apparently, when he’s consistently that good.

Frankel’s is just not a story that appeals outside racing. He is not an underdog – he started at the top as a two-year-old and just went further clear – and there is no suspense or drama in his races because he is so consistent that a high-130s performance is now guaranteed, as is a wide-margin win.

There have been entertaining highlights within his perfect career, like the fantastic cannonball victory in the Guineas and the Queen Anne blitz, but every time he raises his game he sets expectations even higher.

We can always marvel at his fantastic speed and we can give a satisfied nod every time he skips clear a furlong out, but Frankel won’t shock us again. Wide-margins are to be expected. Indeed, the biggest surprise this late in his career would be to find a chink in his armour.

The only way to create excitement within the Frankel story now would be to engineer a situation where he could possibly lose. That might be against another great horse like Black Caviar or in a race like the Arc where the trip is not ideal.

That would be the best thing in the name of entertainment but not necessarily the best thing for the horse. And nobody is expecting it to happen anyway, as the end to Frankel’s story has already been written.

He will run out the clock with two or three more easy victories. With three seasons under his belt he has already given more to racing than most world champions and the step up to 1m2f will likely see him crowned king of two distance spheres.

Within racing, we must accept that unblemished perfection is simply not a saleable story. He is not here to inspire the wider public to fall in love with racing.

He will not create drama, romance or suspense. He may never be popular outside the sport, he may not bring new people into racing and he may not be an ambassador to the non-racing public. Instead he is ours to savour.

Predictable, reliable and an incredible natural talent. The wider public may never know him but we will never forget.

He is here for the breeders who strive with every mating for equine perfection, letting them know it is possible. He is here for the punters who need to know that a rock of certainty resides in this eternal conundrum. He is here for the racing fans to pettifog and pontificate on his position in the pantheon. And he is here for the highest quality broodmares in the world, who next year will carry the future of the breed in utero.

Take it as a positive that he has not been lost unto the masses for a few bright months in the gone-tomorrow media spotlight, but instead kept close to those that matter, nurturing a legacy that will last forever.

Sir Henry Cecil always knew what he was doing with this horse and he was always right: run the horse for the horse. It has worked with every other horse, so why not Frankel?

With such an exceptional talent Cecil might have planned a more exciting route. Given the low standard of European sprinters and Frankel’s speedy sectionals, he might, for instance, have taken in a Group 1 sprint.

But Frankel was not run for today, he was run for forever. His record will be analysed decades from now and they won’t wonder why he didn’t run in a sprint or in the Arc. They will just wonder.

It is curious that Black Caviar has managed to remain both exceptional and entertaining, but this is in part because of Frankel.

Being a mare never hurts a horse’s popularity, but because she was always rated second best in the world, she always had something to fight against.

Despite being recognised around the world as a sprinting legend, she still managed to exist as an underdog and whenever she raced she was up against Frankel; carrying the anticipation that at any time she might post a performance to rival the colt.

Connections also helped her popularity by building her towards an international campaign and showing her off around Australia, letting people from all over the country catch a glimpse of her.

In a few years the race schedules for these two great horses will be completely forgotten. Frankel and Black Caviar will be remembered for their awesome natural power – and wherever they ran it would have been the same.

Entertainment-wise a match race between the two was always the preferred option for the people of today. But their legacy will far outlive the people of today.

Frankel ran just below his outstanding best last week, posting an RPR of 138+ for a facile six-length success over Farhh.

The early pace was not strong and he was best placed to capitalise, tucked in just behind his pacemaker. Nevertheless, this was a very easy victory at Group 1 level.

The average winning distance across his eight top-level wins now stands at five-lengths.

Moonlight Cloud was also an impressive winner last week, running away with the Prix Maurice de Gheest for the second year running on Sunday – this time by five-lengths.

Last year she beat Society Rock by four-lengths in the same race, which proves just how much she appreciates the seaside track and the soft conditions.

This performance pushes her up amongst the best mares of recent years with an RPR of 127. Whether she can be quite so impressive on good ground is open to doubt, but under these conditions she’s a monster.

In America, Fort Larned posted a career best RPR of 125+ in the Whitney Handicap, winning by a length-and-a-quarter from a staying on Ron The Greek (124+).

Fort Larned broke clear in the straight and only had to be kidded home, while Ron The Greek was set plenty to do and kept on encouragingly, showing why he’s widely fancied for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?

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1 Comment»

  Virginia Hodge wrote @

Whether equine or human, athletes must relax to perform at their peak, since it is in this alert, relaxed state that the heart and lungs are able to do their best work. In the case of a thoroughbred, settling is a close accompaniment to learning to pace oneself early in a race, since a rank horse will use up all of its energy well before the finish, when it’s needed most. Getting Frankel to settle, or relax, was a long, arduous process and Shane played as key a part in accomplishing this as did Sir Henry and Tom Queally, Frankel’s jockey. Their collaborative effort stands as a testimonial to the excellence of Frankel’s team: by Frankel’s third and final racing season, the whole world could see the result. Four year-old Frankel had matured into a polished athlete who settled almost immediately, pacing himself until Tom Queally asked him the question. And when Queally asked, the response was immediate.


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