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Frankel’s first foal

Happenstance dictated that Frankel’s first foal was born on Henry Cecil’s birthday. It’s a circle of life thing.

It was at 8.30pm last Saturday, 11th January, at Coolmore Stud, that the first progeny of the racehorse that many consider to be the greatest of all time poked his little white-blazed head into the world. The late Sir Henry would have been 71.

It was Sir Henry who managed Frankel’s career like a father would manage a son’s, always keeping the equine athlete’s best interests to the fore when discussing plans and targets. He would defer to ‘The Prince’ (Khalid Abdullah, Frankel’s owner) in post-race interviews, but all the while you felt that it was the trainer who was charting the path and the owner who was nodding agreement.

It was Sir Henry who said that Frankel would not run in the Derby in June 2011. It was Sir Henry who said that the son of Galileo would step up to 10 furlongs for the Juddmonte International in August 2012. And unfailingly, as he was surrounded in winners’ enclosures by swathes of thirsty hacks, pens primed and empty dictaphones salivating at the thought of juicy sound bytes, it was Sir Henry who would invariably say that the horse would tell him where he would go next. Even now, you’re not certain if he meant anthropomorphically or physically.

Chrysanthemum’s racing career was not a patch on Frankel’s, but she was still good. If she hadn’t been good, she wouldn’t have got inside the front gates at Banstead Manor Stud. Two Group 3 wins for the David Wachman-trained filly, who raced in Michael Tabor’s orange and blue silks, was enough to ensure that the Danehill Dancer mare got herself on Frankel’s dance card.

Frankel and Chrysanthemum’s foal has been impressing already. Initial reports are positive. Coolmore Stud described him as a handsome colt with a good head and great presence. Philip Mitchell, general manager of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte operation, said that the colt foal was everything that they could have hoped for. Paddy Power said 50/1 that he wins the 2000 Guineas in 2017, 66/1 that he wins the Derby.

It is the stuff of pipedreams and fairytales. A lot of water will flow under a lot of bridges before the little fellow – famous already though still nameless – even makes it to the racecourse. He will have to grow and develop, he will have to become a racehorse, and he will have to have inherited the requisite amount of talent from his sire and dam. The level of expectation may be unrealistically high.

Indeed, the likelihood of any of Frankel’s offspring scaling the heights that he himself scaled on the racecourse is remote. The word freak has negative connotations, but that’s what the racehorse Frankel was: a one-off, an exception. He was the best in living memory. The probability of another racehorse coming along in Frankel’s lifetime, even one of his sons or daughters, and possessing the talent that he possessed, or achieving what he achieved, is tiny.

Frankel raced 14 times, and he won 14 times, including 10 times at Group 1 level. He was champion European racehorse in 2011 and 2012, and he topped the World Thoroughbred rankings in 2011 and 2012, achieving a higher rating than any horse has achieved since the rankings were instigated in 1977. Timeform, one of the most respected independent assessors in racing, awarded him a rating of 147, the highest that they have ever awarded any horse in its 66-year history.

In winning his 14 races, Frankel accumulated £3 million in prize money on the racecourse. Yet, standing at a fee of £125,000, he should have accumulated over four times that in just his first season at stud, even allowing for the fact that 24 of the mares that he covered were owned by his owner.

Success on the racecourse does not automatically beget success in the breeding shed, but Frankel has every chance of succeeding as a stallion at the highest level. He obviously gets a lot of his speed from his dam, the Danehill mare Kind, who won listed races over five and six furlongs. Then he is by Galileo, the outstanding stallion of his era, who is now proving himself not just as a sire of top class racehorses, but also as a sire of top class sires, just like his own sire Sadler’s Wells did before him.

Moreover, from the 133 mares that Frankel covered during his first season, 126 were scanned in-foal. That is a success rate of 95%, only marginally lower than the 100% success rate that he achieved on the racetrack. Put all that with a sound conformation and his brilliance on the racecourse, and you have a recipe for success.

The prospect of future success notwithstanding, there was also a poignancy about the fact that Frankel’s first foal was born at Coolmore three days before one of Coolmore’s outstanding racehorses, St Nicholas Abbey, who should himself have had a long career ahead of him as a stallion, lost his fight against colic. There’s that circle of life thing again.

© The Sunday Times, 19th January 2014