Frankel to show mile brilliance one last time before chasing ‘greatest’ tag
Frankel shows he is the world's best at Royal Ascot (AFP)
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The Olympic Games are taking centre stage in the global sporting landscape, but a champion of a different kind is set to step out in the south of England on Wednesday night.
World champion racehorse Frankel will have his final start at a mile in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, before moving up to longer distances in the final months of his career.
At the end of 2012 Frankel will be retired to Juddmonte Farms to fulfil stud duties that have the four-year colt valued at over $A160m.
Frankel has opened up a 1-20 ($1.05) favourite in early markets for the lone Group One of the Glorious Goodwood Carnival.
Glorious Goodwood will run for five days this week and has been billed as racing’s alternate to the Olympic Games.
On both Thursday and Friday night, Melbourne Cup aspirants will compete in the Goodwood Cup (3218 metres) and Glorious Stakes (2414 metres), but not even the build-up to those races will remove the focus from the undefeated champion colt.
It’s Frankel’s first appearance at the races since his dazzling win at Royal Ascot. On that occasion he accounted for Excelebration by 11 lengths in one of the greatest performances ever put down by a thoroughbred in the modern era.
Frankel, a seven-time Group One winner, will be out to repeat his five-length victory in last season’s Sussex Stakes. On that occasion, Sir Henry Cecil’s colt retired an injured Canford Cliffs – a five-time Group One winner in his own right – in what I believe is the second-best mile performance I have ever seen, ranked only behind Frankel’s 11th victory in last month’s Queen Anne.
Only eight horses have been declared for the Sussex. The main danger to Frankel lies in two-time mile winner Farhh. The Godolphin-prepared Farhh finished third and second in his last two starts, both in 2000 metre Group Ones, behind So You Think and Nathaniel respectively.
Getting back a mile is going to suit Farhh but it seems the four-year-old colt will be competing for second place. Perhaps, jockey Frankie Dettori can take confidence from Farhh’s runner-up finish in the Eclipse Stakes behind Nathaniel, the horse who famously ran Frankel to a half-length at their debut in 2010.
After five defeats to Frankel, Aiden O’Brien has opted against an entry for Europe’s second-best miler Excelebration. Excelebration received a Cox Plate invitation in June but his immediate program remains unknown. O’Brien had the Australian-bred colt entered in both last month’s July Cup and Wednesday’s feature, but didn’t pay up for either.
Frankel is attempting to become the second colt in history to have won seven Group One races in consecutive starts. If he is victorious on Wednesday he will equal former Sussex winner Rock of Gibraltar’s record which was set in 2002.
The world record for Group One victories in successive starts is held by the American champion mare Zenyatta, who won nine Grade Ones in consecutive starts during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
After the Sussex, Frankel is expected to step up to 2092 metres for the Group One Juddmonte International Stakes before a possible raid on Paris’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
Frankel’s current Timeform rating of 147 is the highest handed out by the English organisation since it began handicapping in 1948.
And while Frankel’s ten performances at a mile have seen some pundits describe him as the greatest ever thoroughbred racehorse, it will be his ability to perform with the same dominance over a longer journey that will earn him that title universally.
When Frankel goes to the post in August 22’s Juddmonte Interational, it will be a shade more than two years since he debuted over 1408 metres with that victory over Nathaniel.
It’s taken Cecil a long time to teach Frankel to settle. The four-year-old colt is bred to run a distance longer than 1600 metres, but his coltish nature has kept him to the mile. Having finally matured into a racehorse who will drop his head and travel generously during races, Frankel is ready to show his stamina.
With that in mind, Frankel’s last exhibition of brute speed over a mile on Wednesday night will be something to savour.