By Frank Mitchell
Unbeaten in three starts, the Galileo colt Frankel has soared to the top of the ante-post betting for next year's English classics with an impressive victory in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Sadly, the 10-length winner of the Royal Lodge over a mile is not likely to visit Kentucky for a crack at the Breeders' Cup races for juveniles. According to trainer Henry Cecil, “It's a question of the Dewhurst or the Racing Post Trophy. If possible, I'd rather finish his season earlier” in the Dewhurst on Oct. 16.
That should end any option of the colt coming over to test the competition in the States before being laid off to fill out and grow over the winter, then begin his spring preparation for the classics in England.
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Off the buzz from Frankel's victory in the Royal Lodge, the colt is quoted at 2-1 or slightly less for the 2,000 Guineas more than seven months away.
In published reports, Cecil has taken a humorous view about the fast colt's prominence in the early classic betting because “a lot can happen between now and then,” which is so true that it appears only common sense.
Foaled Feb. 11, 2008, Frankel was bred in Ireland by Juddmonte Farms Ltd., and the progressive colt appears an outstanding classic prospect.
That is further good news for the breeding and racing operation of Khalid Abdullah, which focuses its operation on producing horses for the premier races around the world, but especially those in England.
The colt's trainer was quoted in the Racing Post with the assessment that “I don't think I've had a better 2-year-old since Wollow, and that's nearly 40 years ago.”
Wollow also finished his juvenile season with a victory in the Dewhurst and subsequently won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Sussex, and the Eclipse. He was an excellent colt who was rated at 132 by Timeform.
Frankel is likewise highly rated by handicappers of juvenile form in England, where the Racing Post analyst has the colt at 123, a very good mark for a 2-year-old.
All being well, it is quite possible that Frankel could follow in the career path of Wollow, racing for the premium events at eight to 10 furlongs in England.
For any breeder with an eye for the classics, however, the ultimate prize is the Derby at Epsom, and year after year, the elegant breeding program at Juddmonte produces a regular stream of competitors for the race.
Frankel, however, may not be among them. In his remarks after the Royal Lodge, Cecil said that he questions whether the Galileo colt will get the Derby trip of a mile and a half.
A large part of the trainer's reasoning is that he believes this is a family with greater speed than stamina. He noted that Frankel is out of Kind, a mare of considerable speed by the top-class sprinter-miler Danehill.
Danehill, however, did sire a Derby winner in North Light, who sired the winner of the recent St. Leger at Doncaster. Furthermore, Danehill tended to supply pace to his offspring that blended well with the scopier physiques that are the “type” of classic horse.
The offspring of Danehill and his daughters frequently will show their best form at seven, eight, or nine furlongs. And Kind's first group stakes winner, the Sadler's Wells horse Bullet Train, has succeeded at 10 furlongs.
So, in Frankel, we find a colt with outstanding pace who is virtually certain to stay at least nine furlongs under European conditions. The colt is by the best active European sire, the Sadler's Wells horse Galileo, and has only to prove that he is the best colt in England to start as the hot favorite for the mile classics next season.
If the breeder and his advisers prefer not to seek glory in the 12-furlong Derby at Epsom, however, might there be a chance of placing Frankel in an earlier prep race and bringing him to Kentucky for a different Derby?
One wonders whether a colt so special that he was named for Juddmonte's great American trainer Bobby Frankel shouldn't have a chance at the greatest American race, the Kentucky Derby.
Copyright © 2010, Frank Mitchell
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