So Frankel is back. Fantastic. Of course, there are more important things in life than the great triviality, but if you have chosen to take even a peripheral interest in this sport, then Frankel’s return to the racetrack is something to be celebrated whole-heartedly.
If you are a top three-year-old, you retire to stud. That’s the rule. You win the Guineas, you retire at the end of the season. You certainly don’t race on as a four-year-old. Too great a risk, you say. The potential downside is too great. People will understand.
Commercially it doesn’t make sense. Compare what you will earn at stud in what would be a normal year with the prize money that could possibly earn – everything going as well as it could possibly go – on the racetrack, and you will be running for the breeding shed as fast as your two legs can carry you.
Of course it is risky, racing being racing and racehorses being the fragile entities that racehorses are, with four spindly legs supporting a half a ton of body, so fair play to Prince Khalid Abdullah for letting Frankel go for another lap. He could have said, nothing left to prove. He could have said, nine out of nine, nine races, nine wins, no defeats. A Dewhurst, a Guineas, a St James’s Palace Stakes, a Sussex Stakes against the older horses, no matter that he was getting 8lb, a QE2, a couple of track records, a couple of sectionals that had the cheetah scratching his head, and a wow factor that has captivated the masses.
But racehorses are, after all, born and bred to race (no kiddin’), and it is always a source of regret when the top ones are whisked off right in front of your eyes when they are really no more than mere adolescents. It is why, they say, National Hunt racing is more popular than flat racing, because the jumpers race until they can race no more, they come back season after season and racing fans get to know them as old friends, characters. In flat racing, they say, we’re only getting to know them when they disappear and the next thing we know, we see them in the sires’ column.
We could have lost Frankel as well to the breeding shed had the injury that he sustained a few weeks ago been more severe. The rumours abounded then. Frankel will be retired, we heard, before the prince’s racing manager Lord Grimthorpe/Teddy Beckett came on the television and articulately explained the nature of the injury and the real probability that he would make back in time for today’s Lockinge Stakes.
Natural inclination is to leave the race alone from a betting perspective, enjoy Frankel, embrace his return, cheer him home and try to work out the time and the place and the (seven-furlong) trip over which he and Black Caviar should meet when the Antipodean mare is up on the northside for the summer.
However, it is probable that this afternoon Frankel will be as vulnerable as he is going to be all season. It is impossible to know by how much his preparation for the Lockinge was disrupted by his setback, but it wasn’t ideal. His worst (least best) run of his juvenile year was on his debut. His second least best run of his three-year-old season was on his debut. And you can be sure that Tom Queally won’t put the gun to his head this afternoon.
There is a chance that Excelebration could beat him. Strange to think that the Exceed And Excel colt was rated 37lb inferior to Henry Cecil’s colt when the pair met in last year’s Greenham Stakes, yet he went down by just four lengths. Then he got to within two lengths of him in the St James’s Palace.
Crucially, Excelebration has had a run this season, he danced in in the Gladness Stakes, and the Lockinge has been his early season target for a while. Also, he is trained by Aidan O’Brien now. Not that Marco Botti isn’t a good trainer or didn’t do a great job with Excelebration last year, he really did, but it wouldn’t be headline news if a horse improved for joining the Ballydoyle ranks.
Excelebration is a top class miler, he is likely to be close enough to his peak today, and Frankel is going to have to be close to his if he is to beat him.
Strong Suit isn’t a million miles away from the top two either but is a morning non runner, and, great and all as it is to see him back, from a betting perspective Frankel is a lay for me at 1.34 on Betdaq.
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