Named after the late Robert J. Frankel, five-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer, Frankel was, according to World Thoroughbred Rankings and Timeform, the highest-rated horse in the recent history of Flat racing. Owned by Khalid Abdullah and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was unbeaten in 14 races, including ten Group One wins, at least one at two, three and four years.
Described in some quarters as a “freak”, what really distinguished Frankel from the other ‘greats’ since the late Forties was the consistency of his brilliance. Time and time again, the son of Galileo surged clear in the closing stages to beat supposedly top-class rivals by wide margins with consummate ease. By way of illustration, Excelebration, from the same Classic generation as Frankel, achieved a Timeform Annual Rating of 133 and, in any other era, would have been hailed as a champion. However, he met Frankel on five occasions at three and four years and was beaten an aggregate of 26¼ lengths, without ever laying a glove on his illustrious rival.
Frankel announced himself as an equine superstar in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in April, 2011, for which he started at odds of 1/2, making him the shortest-priced favourite since Apalachee was turned over at 4/9 in 1974. Ridden by Tom Queally, as he was throughout his career, Frankel made the running for the first time and, having been 10 lengths, or further, clear at halfway, romped home to an impressive 6-length victory. His margin of victory had been bettered just once before, by 8-length winner Tudor Minstrel – the joint-third highest rated horse since World War II, according to Timeform – in 1947.
Despite suspicions that Frankel had ‘run off’ with Queally at Newmarket, thereafter he competed exclusively in Group One company and won eight more races, all at long odds-on, before his eventual retirement in October, 2012. Thanks to the loyalty of his owner, Frankel propelled Sir Henry Cecil – a charismatic, naturally gifted trainer, whose career had been in decline since leading owner Sheikh Mohammed removed all his horses from his yard in 1995 – back to the top of his profession. Indeed, masterminding the unbeaten career of the horse he described as “the best I’ve ever seen” was to prove his swansong; Cecil finally succumbed to stomach cancer, first diagnosed in 2005, in June, 2013.