x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Unbeaten Frankel has a kind of magic

The world's best thoroughbred and his siblings will do their mother proud at York Racecourse, writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Frankel wins The Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. The Sir Henry Cecil-trained horse today bids for a 13th consecutive victory in the Juddmonte International Stakes. Stefan Wermuth / Retuers
Frankel wins The Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. The Sir Henry Cecil-trained horse today bids for a 13th consecutive victory in the Juddmonte International Stakes. Stefan Wermuth / Retuers

The London 2012 Olympics highlighted once again the selfless role of many mothers in producing elite sporting talent. Time and again our television screens were filled with wincing parents, covering their hands as their little boy or girl performed the latest feat of human athletic brilliance.

It is any wonder therefore how Kind, anthropomorphised into Homo sapiens, would respond if she knew that three of her sons were engaged at York Racecourse this afternoon with Frankel, her greatest offspring, ready to set the world alight in search of his 13th consecutive victory.

The world's highest-rated thoroughbred lines up today alongside Bullet Train, his five-year-old half-brother and regular pacemaker, in the Juddmonte International Stakes. It is a Group 1 race sponsored by owner Prince Khalid Abdullah's worldwide breeding operation and provides the arena for Frankel to make his debut at beyond a mile.

Just 35 minutes beforehand Noble Mission, Frankel's three-year-old full brother, will attempt to win the Great Voltigeur Stakes, a middle-distance contest that is a traditional preparation for the St Leger, the world's oldest Classic.

Bullet Train was good enough to register a victory at Group 3 level, and if Noble Misson can add today's Group 2 to the family silverware, it would be quite an achievement for an 11-year-old bay mare, who never progressed beyond two victories at Listed level.

Kind recorded six wins in all, working her way through the handicap ranks and was only ever out of the frame three times in her 13-race career. Looking at her as she is put through her paces among blooming flowers at Banstead Manor Stud, the Newmarket outpost of Juddmonte Farms, Simon Mockridge's assessment of her racing career is a little more rosy.

"I think she was better than that," the stud manager said, almost indignant that it had been suggested she was average. "She was a speedy filly over five and six furlongs. She is immensely powerful behind, and has an immense shoulder on her and good bone."

Bullet Train, Frankel and Noble Mission are Kind's first three sons to have raced. Bullet Train is by Sadler's Wells, the outstanding late sire, while Frankel and his younger sibling are by Galileo, the dual Derby winner.

All are housed by Sir Henry Cecil at Warren Place in Newmarket. Cecil is also in possession of a fourth brother, a juvenile in training that was named enterprisingly as Morpheus, after the Classical god of dreams, sired by Oasis Dream, the former European champion sprinter. Kind has not only added colts to Prince Abdullah's bloodstock empire, either. The daughter of Danehill has produced a yearling filly by Oasis Dream, while she is currently moving a little heavily because she is in foal again to Galileo. The gender is not yet known as Juddmonte never screen for this.

Like Kind, Bullet Train and Noble Mission have three white socks on their legs, whereas Frankel carries four, perhaps having picked up the sole rear-left white sock from Galileo. Today we see if Galileo has passed on his stamina, too. Despite these markings, it is Frankel who physically looks most like their mother.

"Out of all her sons, Frankel probably sits better with her than any of them," Mockridge, who has worked for Juddmonte for 30 years, said. "He has that great strength behind the quarter and in the second thigh.

"He is very good through the forearm and shoulder, just like her. He is tremendously deep, especially in the girth area. Look at her quarters behind and you can see she is built like a sprinter."

The Frankel phenomenon began at Banstead Manor Stud, which lies just outside Newmarket in the village of Cheveley, late in the evening on February 18, 2008. The unnamed bay foal weighed in at 123lbs and, according to Mockridge's now-legendary stud notes, was "a quality colt, tall with size and scope".

Kind again visited Galileo for Noble Mission and her three-month trip to Ireland involved the young Frankel accompanying her. On their return to Banstead, they shared a paddock with two other pairings, which included two fillies called Exemplify and Hollow Talk.

"Good mum Kind is," said Mockridge. "She never gets flustered and nothing upsets her."

Frankel went back to Ireland to be broken in at New Abbey Stud and in January 2010 he was sent to Warren Place. As perhaps an indicator of his ability to last home an extra two furlongs this afternoon, before Frankel left Ireland he was already doing trots and canters over a mile.

He made his debut over a mile in August at Newmarket, where he just held off Nathaniel, the subsequent dual Group 1 victor, in the final furlong in what is perhaps one of the hottest maiden races staged at the July Course.

Godolphin's Genius Beast, now a Group 3 winner, was third while Colour Vision, who won the Ascot Gold Cup this season for Saeed bin Suroor, also featured in the race.

Frankel has now won nine races over a mile by a combined distance of just over 48 lengths. The manner in which he travels through his races and settles throughout proceedings means there is little doubt he can utilise his extraordinary athletic ability to last home the extra two furlongs and 88 yards over the Knavesmire.

York's wide and flat finishing straight of just over four furlongs appears tailor-made for Frankel's raking stride, and his tactical speed will make it very difficult for St Nicholas Abbey, his principal rival, to beat him.

Frankel has an ability to inject sustained pace for two to three furlongs at any point in a race. Last month in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood he ran two furlongs at under 11 seconds before running the final furlong in 12.15 secs to beat Godolphin's Farhh, another rival today, by six lengths.

In October it was his mid-race burst under Tom Queally in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot that put the Group 1 race to bed two furlongs from home, from where he then cruised to the line. And of course, there was his English 2000 Guineas victory last season, when he jumped the gate and never looked back to turn the colt's Classic into a procession by halfway.

Aidan O'Brien has taken the precaution of running two pacemakers, Robin Hood and Windsor Palace, to ensure the International is run not only at an even pace but at a lightning one. It is in an effort to draw the sting out of Frankel's acceleration and maximise the advantage held by St Nicholas Abbey with his confirmed staying ability.

O'Brien, who has won two of the last four Internationals, came off second best in last year's tactical affair against Cecil. The Irish handler ran Windsor Palace and Await The Dawn to Cecil's Twice Over and Midday, who finished first and second. Both were bred by Juddmonte Farms.

"Prince Khalid had sponsored the race for 21 years without success," Teddy Grimthorpe, the Prince's racing manager, said. "It was becoming a little career-threatening for me that we'd only had a few near misses.

"In terms of satisfaction and importance when you invest a huge amount, not only money, but time and effort in to racing and breeding how could it be more important than winning a race that you had nurtured and sponsored for 20-odd years?"

Perhaps with all this pressure, effort and thirst for success acting as a backdrop to today's action, it is better for all that Kind is completely oblivious to what is going at York Racecourse.

sports@thenational.ae