Simon Rowlands

Frankel: The horse who beat the clock as well as his rivals

The Guineas was one of Frankel's best performances on the clock

"If the Royal Lodge was not enough to make people sit up and take notice, then surely Frankel’s Two Thousand Guineas did. Even now, even after Frankel has done so much since, many refer to it as the single most memorable Flat performance of their lives."

Time and sectional analyst Simon Rowlands gives a personal appreciation of Frankel's career...

And, so, Frankel - the best Flat racehorse of the modern era - has been retired with an unblemished record of 14 wins out of 14, the last nine of them in G1 company by combined winning margins of 46 and a half lengths. The place just won't seem the same without him.

When did you first start to believe that we had a true superstar on our hands? Or are you one of the vanishingly small number who think that Frankel was "not all that" or not worthy of a rating higher than that of another legend in Dancing Brave in 1986?

Some may claim they saw Frankel's greatness from the moment he won a maiden at Newmarket on his debut, or, more plausibly, when he trounced two fair rivals in a conditions race at Doncaster next time up. Timeform's reporter stated "he looks something special...(and is) already Group 1 standard" after the latter.

What really clinched it for us at Timeform was his third run as a two-year-old, in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot, in which he beat useful rivals by 10 lengths and more in a respectable time while posting closing sectionals well above the usual standard of a Group 2 winner, as covered in a blog here.

Frankel has been defying the clock as well as his rivals, if not always winning over the doubters, ever since. Unfortunately, we did not always have sectionals by which to measure Frankel's worth. But, where we did, or where we could make educated guesses about them, they helped to define what was so truly exceptional about the horse.

What follows is a brief appreciation from a time and sectional point of view.

Timeform timefigures measure the worth of a horse's overall race time, once all relevant factors - such as course, distance, state of the going, weight carried, wind speed/direction and age - have been allowed for. They usually lag behind form-based ratings, as horses seldom run in circumstances which allow them to maximise their speed throughout a race.

Frankel's timefigures lagged behind his ability, but his 136 peak timefigure - achieved in both the Two Thousand Guineas and the International Stakes - is the best by any horse this century. What's more, he is responsible for four of the best six timefigures of the century, with this year's efforts in the Lockinge Stakes and Champion Stakes weighing in at 134.

As with form-based measures, it's not just that Frankel did it: he did it time and again.

If the Royal Lodge was not enough to make people sit up and take notice, then surely Frankel's Two Thousand Guineas did. Even now, even after Frankel has done so much since, many refer to it as the single most memorable Flat performance of their lives.

Frankel was still a little hot-headed back then, and jockey Tom Queally decided there should be no holding back. Frankel blasted into a lead of at least 10 lengths by halfway (which he reached in an astonishingly fast 47.5 seconds or thereabouts) and appeared to be posting 11-second or near-11-second furlongs mid-race.

Good sprinters would have struggled to keep up, and Frankel's rivals simply couldn't. Even Frankel himself tired a bit by the end into a headwind and won by "just" six lengths. The result did not tell the whole story, but the clock hinted very strongly at it. Frankel was destined to be truly outstanding.

A slight blip out of the way, which resulted in an overly-aggressively-ridden Frankel winning the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot by "just" three quarters of a length, Frankel then dismissed top-notch miler Canford Cliffs by five lengths in the "Duel On The Downs" by running the last four furlongs in approximately 44 seconds.

The following year, when Farhh was the six-length victim, we did not have to guess. It took 44.4 seconds for Frankel to run the last half-mile, and his penultimate furlong went by in 10.42 seconds, or an average of 43.2 mph.

In between, Frankel had taken his form to a whole new level, with a rating of 143 in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at 2011 British Champions Day and then 147 in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Some of the official sectionals at Ascot can be viewed with scepticism, given the technical difficulties encountered there, but there seems little doubt that Frankel broke 11 seconds for a furlong there at least once, despite Ascot's track being steadily uphill.
Frankel's sustained surge was far too much for 135-rated Excelebration in both instances, and that horse caved in completely on the second occasion and was beaten by 11 lengths.

There is no reason to doubt Frankel's sectionals in the International Stakes at York. In a race at a longer distance, and run to test stamina more than speed, Frankel loomed up pulling double before killing off his opposition with successive furlongs of 11.34 seconds, 11.05 seconds, 11.45 seconds and 12.10 seconds, the last three of those all much faster than anything his rivals could muster.

And so to the Champion Stakes at Ascot last weekend.

Frankel's times and sectionals are not what will be remembered first and foremost of one of the most exhilarating occasions in racing history, but even then he did things that very few other horses in history could have done.

His final-three-furlong time (verified by hand) on testing ground was sub-37 seconds and included a furlong of 12 seconds flat. The former is well over a second faster than Frankel had achieved when only just lasting home in the St James's Palace on good going 16 months earlier.

In sectional parlance, Frankel "did well" to find the speed to catch 135-rated Cirrus des Aigles and then to put nearly two lengths over him. "Did well". Yep, you could say that!

Reams have been written about Frankel, and numbers alone can only add to an appreciation of his brilliance, rather than encapsulate it.
No-one got closer to defining the undefinable, in my view, than Greg Wood in The Guardian before Saturday's race. He finished an article of exquisite beauty as follows:

"One day, far in the future, after all those who will watch his final race at Ascot are gone, a horse may win a Classic at Epsom, or maybe at Newmarket, and someone in the grandstand will trace through its pedigree, come upon the name of Frankel and think to themselves: 'Ah, the mighty Frankel. Now there's a horse I'd have loved to see racing.'

We did."


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