Things We Learned » Wot, no Frankel?

Wot, no Frankel?

Frankel went as far as he has ever gone on Wednesday, both in terms of distance from trap to line (10 and a half furlongs) and in terms of distance from Warren Place to the Knavesmire (about 170 miles), as well as burrowing his way even deeper into the public’s psyche and into racing’s history.

Interestingly, it would be a longer trip for Frankel to get to Leopardstown for the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes on 8th September (about 350 miles) than it would be for him to get to Paris for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a month later (about 330 miles), which may be why the French race rather than the Irish race is being discussed now as a possibility, despite the fact that he would have two furlongs fewer to cover in Foxrock than he would have in the Bois de Boulogne.

In one sense, it is a real shame that the Irish Champion Stakes has never really featured on Frankel’s radar. You can be sure that the entire Irish racing public – and a smidgeon of the Irish non-racing public – would have afforded him the welcome to which he would have been entitled. In another sense, however, the race as a contest is more fascinating for his absence.

If Galileo’s best son was en route, we would be gearing up for a Frankel Fest. We would be getting out the red carpet and the bunting, preparing to get along to see him race, to appreciate his presence, the best racehorse in the world now, probably ever. That would be well worth the petrol money, even if they wouldn’t have reduced the excise duty by then.

We would be preparing for a procession, just like this season’s Lockinge Stakes and Queen Anne Stakes and Sussex Stakes and Juddmonte International morphed into processions for one year only. It would be special, for sure. But we wouldn’t be preparing for a contest.

The most interesting one-mile race run this year so far in Europe has been the Prix Jacque le Marois at Deauville, which featured Excelebration, Moonlight Cloud, Most Improved, Elusive Kate, Cityscape, Golden Lilac and others. The best milers (Frankel excepted) in Europe, colts and fillies, Irish, British and French, three-year-olds and older horses, nine of the 11 runners priced up between 5/2 and 14/1, and no Frankel.

With connections of Nathaniel, Snow Fairy and Cirrus Des Aigles all talking about making the trip to Leopardstown, and with the probability that they will be confronted by an unusually strong domestic team this year, the Irish Champion Stakes should be one of the most intriguing contests of the season. And no Frankel.

Melbourne Olympiad

The Dermot Weld-trained Olympiad put up a taking performance to land a good two-mile handicap at York on Wednesday. Really well backed in the lead up to the race, Sir Robert Ogden’s colt travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out under a typical make-these-things-look-easy ride from Pat Smullen, and he found plenty when his rider gave him a squeeze.

A full-brother to Irish 1000 Guineas winner Nightime, this was just Olympiad’s fifth ever run, he has lots of scope for progression and, despite the fact that he won his maiden at Gowran Park in April on soft ground, he moved well over this fast terrain. He shaped as though he had plenty of pace, as if he could easily drop back down to a mile and six furlongs or a mile and a half, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if his trainer had Melbourne 2013 at least at the back of his mind.

Late start

It is a clever initiative by The Curragh to move the start time for the Gain Horse Feeds Irish St Leger back to 6.05pm on 15th September. This makes sense given the successes of evening-time shows like the Galway and Punchestown festivals, and the increase of over 150% in viewership figures for this year’s Irish Derby in its new Saturday evening slot.

As well as that, however, the move also avoids a direct clash with the St Leger at Doncaster. Such is the congestion of fixtures at this stage of the season, a clash of days between high-profile races on either side of the Irish Sea is pretty much unavoidable, but the later time commutes the clash somewhat. It also means that Aidan and Joseph O’Brien might be able to get back to The Curragh after Camelot’s bid to land the final leg of the Triple Crown at Doncaster in time to partake in the Irish St Leger.

They could put the Triple Crown trophy (there is a Triple Crown trophy, right?) in the centre of the parade ring at The Curragh while they finalise tactics before the race.

Lyons roars

The loss of the yard’s star performer, Group 1 heroine Lightening Pearl, so early in the season had to have been a hammer blow to Ger Lyons’s 2012 operation, but the trainer has his team in top form now, and you have to have a second look at just about everything that emerges from Dunsany these days with a passport.

Five winners from 21 runners in the last 10 days gives the trainer a strike rate of an impressive 24% for that period, but more than that, a lot of the horses that aren’t winning are running well in defeat.

Also, his horses are often under-bet. If you had bet €1 on every one of the Lyons runners this term to date, you would have shown a net profit in three of the last four months, including a profit of over €10 in August to date. And if the ground ever dries out properly, given the trainer’s natural tendency towards fast-ground horses, those stats could get even better.

Grey day

You have to hope that nobody reports tomorrow’s race for grey horses only – or the Irish Field’s sponsorship thereof – to the EADC (Equine Anti-Discrimination Commission). Get ready for eight shades of grey.

© The Irish Field, 25th August 2012