Glorious Goodwood: Timeform rate Frankel 142

Events RSS / / 01 August 2011 / 11 Comments

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Frankel and connections celebrate their Sussex win

Frankel and connections celebrate their Sussex win

"You have to go back nearly 40 years to find a Flat horse that has been rated more highly by Timeform than Frankel."

Frankel's sensational win in the Qipco Sussex Stakes confirmed his status as one of the best Flat horses in Timeform's long history. Simon Rowlands puts the performance into context.

Well, that was good, wasn't it?!

The 2011 Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood was billed as 'The Duel On The Downs' but in the event one of the duellists proved to be equipped with a nuclear missile while the other had the equivalent of a bow and arrow.

Frankel was far too good for last year's Sussex winner Canford Cliffs - having the runner-up's measure before that one hung badly left in the closing stages - and looked to have quite a bit more to give than the five-length margin of victory. Canford Cliffs is no also-ran: he had shown himself to be one of the best milers of this century beforehand.

Handicappers are often seen as party-poopers, introducing words of caution into otherwise emotional proceedings, but a performance like this does not suffer one bit from being put into context.

You have to go back nearly 40 years to find a Flat horse that has been rated more highly by Timeform than Frankel.

His pre-race rating, based on his 2000 Guineas success with a bit added on for the nature of his victory, was the equal of Mill Reef on 141. His rating after the Sussex is now 142 and has him behind only Sea-Bird (145), Brigadier Gerard (144) and Tudor Minstrel (144) in Timeform history.

Whichever way you look at it, this stacks up as an extraordinary performance, and Timeform has it well in advance of anything put up in this prestigious race in recent years.

There have been some tremendous winners since the aforementioned Brigadier Gerard took the race in 1971. But the likes of Kris (the 1979 winner, rated 135 at his best), Zilzal (1989 winner, rated 137 at his best), Giant's Causeway (2000, rated 132 at his best) and Rock of Gibraltar (2002, rated 133 at his best) have to be considered inferior by some way to the Frankel that race fans saw at Goodwood today.

In terms of hard facts and figures, prior-rating standards and race standards have Frankel at a maximum of 140. The proximity of Rio de La Plata (two and a half lengths further back in third) to Canford Cliffs suggests that the latter did not run to his absolute best. A strict view that he did would have Frankel on a minimum of 144.

Frankel's performance figure of 139 in the race looks about as solid as is possible in a four-runner race which he dominated from a long way out. The extra 3 lb he has been given seems conservative in the circumstances.

The really exciting thing is that Frankel should still have ample opportunity to improve further on that figure, providing he does not frighten away all worthwhile opposition from this point on.

After the race, connections announced that Frankel was likely to have one more run this year - probably in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on British Champions' Day on October 15 - but that the intention is to keep the colt in training as a four-year-old.

It is difficult to imagine a horse capable of bettering him, or many of getting anywhere near him, in this sort of form.

Timeform Radio were on hand to get the views of the winning jockey and trainer. Click HERE to listen to what Tom Queally had to say, or HERE to hear the views of Sir Henry Cecil.

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Comments (11)

  1. Simon Rowlands | 28 July 2011

    Quite a bit has, understandably, been said about the desirability of sectional times for the Sussex Stakes, and a few individuals have had a go at compiling their own.

    It is not possible to take meaningful ones from the RUK coverage, but the pictures provided by Channel 4 are quite a bit clearer.

    After a certain amount of approximation and averaging, I came up with the following:

    15.67 sec first 1f
    24.9 sec 1f to 3f
    12.9 sec 3f to 4f
    11.3 sec 4f to 5f
    21.2 sec 5f to 7f*
    11.5 sec 7f to line

    * in my view it is impossible to distinguish the 2f marker with the accuracy required, which is a big shame as that missing information may be crucial.

    Fortunately, we had electronic sectional times from Goodwood for a short while in the mid-noughties, so comparisons can be made.

    The median by-furlong times for 1m winners (normalised to the time of 97.47 sec recorded by Frankel) are as follows:

    14.01 sec
    11.46 sec + 12.58 sec = 24.04 sec
    12.18 sec
    11.36 sec
    11.68 sec + 11.67 sec = 23.35 sec
    12.53 sec

    Frankel's closing 3f speed compared to his average speed was 111.8%. The above nominal optimums give 101.9% as being par. It is possible that Frankel's closing 2f speed would have been even better: we shall never know for sure.

    Times of 10.13 sec and 9.56 sec have been suggested for the 3f to 2f point, the discrepancy seeming to underline the futility of trying to guess this information (and the absurdity of expressing this guess in 1/100 sec when the margin for error is many, many times that).

    The former is credible - just about - but the latter is not. A small number of sprinters broke 10 seconds for a furlong at Goodwood during the TurfTrax era, but only just. If Frankel ran 9.56 sec then the three horses he beat probably ran sub-10-second furlongs also. The fastest by-furlong time by a miler was 10.82 sec (for the 3f out to 2f out section) in the same period.

    One thing on which no-one doing sectional times is likely to disagree is that the 2011 Sussex was steadily run until halfway, especially in the opening furlong, and that Frankel showed rare speed in coming home as quickly as he did, much of the time on the bridle.

    The overall time (which resulted in a Timeform timefigure of just 96) needs to be viewed in that context.


  2. Simon Rowlands | 30 July 2011

    As a postscript, there was quite a bit of dispute about some of the individual sectionals from those who tried to take them but much less about the time for the second half of the race.

    Others do not differ much from my own last-4f Frankel time of 44.0 sec.

    As a matter of interest, that was much quicker than any of the 1m races at Goodwood for which I have electronic sectionals and has been bettered by only a few 5f horses.

    Here are the best final-4f times by winners and losers at the Goodwood 2005 and 2006 Festivals by distance:

    5f (8 cases) 42.83 sec La Cucaracha
    6f (11 cases) 44.53 sec Bahamian Pirate
    7f (16 cases) 45.01 sec Red Evie
    8f (6 cases) 46.18 sec Sir Gerard
    9f (6 cases) 47.22 sec Nice Tune
    9.87f (3 cases) 45.25 sec Alexander Goldrun
    12f (6 cases) 45.38 sec Crosspeace
    14f (4 cases) 46.90 sec Sirce
    16f (2 cases) 47.25 sec Yeats
    21f (1 case) 49.44 sec Theatre

  3. Anonymous | 31 July 2011

    James Willoughby

    "No matter what anyone says. You cannot achieve one of the great performances of all time while running a timefigure of 96"

    Would Phill Bull have agreed or disagreed and does Simon Rowlands agree or disagree with the above comment??

  4. Charlie | 31 July 2011

    "One thing on which no-one doing sectional times is likely to disagree is that the 2011 Sussex was steadily run until halfway"

    If my calculations are correct the above is probably an understatement. They seemed to a crawled until halfway.

    Frankel is an exceptional talent, however i think this is a race to be treated with extreme caution and a performance that imho should not recieve one of the best ratings ever.

    Just my two pence worth.

  5. Simon Rowlands | 31 July 2011

    I will not speak for Phil Bull in this, but I can let him speak for himself. One of his most commonly quoted sayings is: “a time may not tell you how good a horse is but it will tell you how bad a horse isn’t”.

    In this, and in typically pithy style, Bull acknowledged the limitations of judging a horse’s merit on overall times alone. He understood the subject fully and was not in any respect just a blinkered fundamentalist where time was concerned.

    More recently, I have stated (and others have repeated): “horses are ridden to win races, not to achieve the highest possible rating, no matter how much handicappers might wish it otherwise.” The words “the highest possible rating” and “handicappers” could easily be replaced by “the best possible overall time” and “time analysts”.

    The purpose of the Sussex Stakes was not to break a track record, which is a good job, as the way the race was run rendered that impossible to all intents.

    The purpose of the Sussex Stakes - and of any race for that matter - was to test the relative merits of the horses involved. The overall time in which the race was run was an unforeseen component of that test rather than the sole means of measuring it.

    The overall time of a race sometimes coincides with the abilities of the horses concerned. More often it does not.

    When it does not, it is wise to consider whether a race that has been run at other than a true pace (either too fast or too slow) has misrepresented the abilities of the horses concerned, and to what degree. That may be done subjectively by race-reading or more objectively through time analysis which is not one-dimensional.

    Handicapping techniques, based on prior-ratings standards and race standards among other factors, point to Frankel having run to somewhere near 140. So, was he flattered?

    If anything, the opposite would appear to be the case.

    In the final half mile, run at a sprinter’s pace, Frankel extended his advantage by more than three lengths over Canford Cliffs, Rio de La Plata and Rajsaman. It was not a question of him getting a soft lead and then hanging on. There is a strong possibility that he would have won by further in a truer race.

    Of greater concern is the fact that a four-runner race is more subject to variation than a race with more runners, something touched on in a recent Handicappers’ Corner.

    It is possible that Frankel’s rivals did not run to their best (that is indeed the view taken by Timeform about Canford Cliffs and Rajsaman). It is even possible that Frankel himself did not run to his best. We will never know for sure.

    If this race was viewed completely in isolation those urging caution would have a much better hearing. But, as it is, we know, or at least strongly suspect, that Frankel is capable of outstanding performances anyway.

    He might not have recorded a good overall time in the Sussex, but he did in the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket despite patently not running in a manner conducive to a good overall time. He has overcome adversity in other races, and he has, when required, run extremely fast for large parts of all of those races.

    Racing, like life, is not made up of immutable certainties. Frankel could thrash the ghosts of Tudor Minstrel, Brigadier Gerard and Dancing Brave (but not Secretariat) several times over, and you would be likely to find someone willing to claim that he was little more than an average Group horse.

    That is fine. After all, it requires opposing views of a likely outcome in order for bets to be struck.

    (Edited 1st August 2011)
    Simon Rowlands

  6. Charlie | 31 July 2011

    Interesting comments Simon.

    Does not the evidence of the Pace of Race crawl. Overall time nothing to shout about, CC seemingly not running near his previous best suggest caution and therefore a performance undeserving of a high rating.

  7. Charlie | 31 July 2011

    More evidence i think is the relationship of Frankel to Rio and CC to Rio as it suggests niether of the former horses performed to previous best unless you rate Rio the mid 120's which all known form suggests he is incapable of such.

  8. James Knight | 31 July 2011

    Excellent analysis, Rowley.

    There seem to be plenty of people stating with near certainty that Canford Cliffs ran well below form in the Sussex

    He might have done - but it is interesting that Hughes began nudging him in that phase of the race (2-3f from home) where Frankel was doing furlong sectionals that were, by your figures, slightly over a second faster per furlong than one would normally expect.

    Maybe he is simply a horse who doesn't like being taken out of his comfort zone in this manner...

  9. Jonathan da Silva | 01 August 2011

    I'm a natural sceptic but feel that if Frankel is going to be very difficult to beat by anything. 2 turn mile in traffic at Breeder's Cup would be a new challenge but I'd not offer big odds!

    In some ways Canford Cliffs running "below form" shows what happens to horses who try to run at or near his maximum pace 3 or 4 from home they tire quickly - see the Guineas as some horses failed to stay 4 furlongs against the giant beast. Not sure anything could do that

    Saddest part is he may only run once again this year. I'd be interested if QE2 and Champion were as was if he might have done both. It would have seemed a plan to get a sighter at 10f at 3 with a nice prep over a stiff 8f.

    I'd love him to run a 145 timefigure sure but we don't need to know how fundamentally good he is. I'd love to see how he'd handle a 12/14 runner 2 turn mile also but it's not going to detract from my appreciation if he does not.

  10. Jonathan da Silva | 01 August 2011

    Apologies... Trying to write quickly couple of errors..

    1st sentence
    I'm a natural sceptic but feel that Frankel is going to be very difficult to beat by anything.

    2nd para end sentence
    Not sure any other horse could do that.

    4th para
    I'd love him to run a 145 timefigure sure but we don't need to see it to know how fundamentally good he is.

  11. DRambo | 02 August 2011

    I compare the race somewhat to the King George last year. Harbinger ran to a very high rating, but question marks could be raised about whether other runners ran to their best, noteably, Workforce.

    I would say that in both cases, two extraordinary horses put the others to the sword. The other runners may have run below form, but only the truely exceptional ones can destroy other high class horses in this way, beating them along way from the finish.

    Perhaps not the most "scientific" way of looking at it, but don't let number analysis get in the way of appreciating the brilliance of these performances.

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