Racing Post speaks to Shane Horan on Frankel and his legacy
The journey from champion racehorse to champion sire is not automatic. Genetics plays an uncontrollable part, with many a great on the racetrack failing to pass on his prodigious talent. But that is not the case with one giant of the turf, Frankel.
Taken from Racing Post, 5th January 2024. By Kitty Trice
A horse who fate smiled upon from the moment his owner-breeder, the late Prince Khalid Abdullah, named him after the much-missed American trainer Bobby Frankel. It is nearing 16 years since the Danehill-sired mare Kind foaled the strong bay colt by Galileo who was to grow into a monster on the track and ultimately the world's joint-priciest stallion.
Both racing fans and those closely involved with Frankel will have their own memories of the unbeaten legend whose 14-race haul featured ten Group 1s. Ranging from his explosive display in the Royal Lodge Stakes at two, to his jaw-dropping 2,000 Guineas demolition job, his dismissal of champion milers in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, his 11-length Queen Anne triumph, or the majesty of his Juddmonte International win, there was a lot to choose from.
Even now, 11 years into stud duties at Juddmonte's Banstead Manor in Newmarket, Frankel's name still rings out and he continues to attract bucketloads of admirers, whether via tours organised through Discover Newmarket, or at the December Mare Sale shows.
That was certainly apparent last month, when breeders and enthusiasts alike braved wintry weather to see Frankel nonchalantly stroll out of his box with long-time handler Rob Bowley.
In 2023 Frankel landed a second British and Irish champion sire title, reclaiming it from fellow Newmarket powerhouse and £350,000 stallion Dubawi, having won his first in 2021, when he broke his own sire's 11-year reign. To add to his growing treasure trove of honours and titles, Frankel also claimed a third European champion sire crown – and by a wide margin.
Juddmonte nominations manager Shane Horan says: "As the highest-rated horse in the history of Racing Post Ratings and Timeform following an unbeaten career, which saw Frankel crowned champion in each of the three seasons he raced, you had to be hopeful he had a good chance of being a successful stallion.
"However, to scale the heights he has has been more of a very pleasant surprise. Who would have thought we could be saying Frankel is arguably an even better stallion than he was a racehorse."
That is a rather mind-boggling thought.
However, with his progeny prize-money earnings of £7.14 million in Britain and Ireland last year being not far off £3m clear of the chasing pack, and 11 individual Group/Grade 1 winners to his name, he is unquestionably as real a deal in his second career as he was his first.
So much so that it really is hard to reconcile the scepticism which accompanied his first yearlings selling in 2015.
The mutterings were that Frankel did not stamp his stock, that they came in all shapes, colours and sizes. A first crop of 121 foals in 2014 was followed by dips to 109, 89 and 86 as a result of those initial misgivings.
However, once his progeny hit the track everything quickly changed. His first runner Cunco was also his first winner, going on the following spring to take the Group 3 Classic Trial at Sandown.
Frankel's first top-level winner was Soul Stirring in the 2016 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. She would go on to Classic glory in the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), while closer to home fellow three-year-old Cracksman was proving himself the best horse in Europe, his campaign capped by a seven-length romp in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Frankel's first European Classic winner came via Anapurna in the 2019 Oaks, and a second wasn't far behind as Logician came out on top in the St Leger.
Horan says: "It is true that Frankel's progeny can come in all different colours, shapes and sizes, but he has an extraordinary ability to impart an engine. In typical Frankel fashion, he has sired more Group 1 winners than he has Group 2 winners. So, when he gets a good one, they tend to be very, very good.
"He's an outstanding racehorse who has also become an outstanding stallion. I think it is fair to include Sea The Stars within this rarefied category, but what may be unique to Frankel is the versatility of his progeny at the highest level in terms of precocity and the variety of distance."
He adds: "The general public can visit him during July and August. There are eight Frankel tours in this period, which are managed by Discover Newmarket. There's always great demand and we recommend interested parties contact Discover Newmarket well in advance to secure a place. A small fee is required but this is donated to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, of which Frankel is an ambassador."
Frankel's 33 Group or Grade 1 winners have come at an astonishing rate of knots, over distances ranging from seven furlongs to two and a half miles, across numerous different countries – Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the UAE and United States – and in addition to Cracksman include stars like Alpinista, Inspiral, Adayar, Hurricane Lane, Mostahdaf and Nashwa.
A few of those were healthy contributors to last year's riches, as was Oaks heroine Soul Sister. The future looks bright too, as Fillies' Mile winner Ylang Ylang, Golden Fleece Stakes winner Diego Velazquez and the Listed-winning Middle Park Stakes runner-up Task Force were among Frankel's juveniles in 2023, as were plenty of lightly raced maiden and novice winners.
Frankel is, meanwhile, a burgeoning sire of sires; his first champion Cracksman is now a Classic-winning sire through his own brilliant son Ace Impact, whose unbeaten six-race career included not only last year's Prix du Jockey Club but also the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and who is set to embark on his first season at stud at Haras de Beaumont.
Another exciting new stallion of 2024 is his direct descendant Chaldean, the 2,000 Guineas and Dewhurst winner who takes up residency alongside his sire at Banstead Manor.
Chaldean, Frankel's first 2,000 Guineas winner, had been ensconced at Banstead Manor for only a few weeks but posed for those same breeders and enthusiasts last month with an air of serenity. The glistening chestnut was a rare Juddmonte purchase as a foal, selling for 550,000gns from Whitsbury Manor Stud at Tattersalls.
Chaldean, trained by Andrew Balding, built on his Newbury debut fifth with a clear-cut novice score back at the same track. The son of the wonderful broodmare Suelita then notched up a sequence of Pattern race victories in the Acomb Stakes, Champagne Stakes and Dewhurst.
Despite a somewhat unorthodox Classic preparation in the Greenham Stakes – in which Frankie Dettori was unseated upon exiting the stalls – Chaldean returned to Newmarket and duly became Juddmonte's first winner of the 2,000 Guineas since his own sire 12 years earlier.
The colt hails from a speedy family, being a half-brother to Mill Reef Stakes winner Alkumait and to the stakes-winning Flying Five Stakes runner-up Get Ahead, a recent 2,500,000gns purchase by First Bloodstock at the Tattersalls December Mare Sale. The trio's Kingman half-sibling made 1,000,000gns to Juddmonte as a foal at Tattersalls in 2022.
Horan cites Chaldean's Classic triumph as a particular highlight in a phenomenal year for Frankel, saying: "Chaldean was the result of the first year we agreed to do some foal shares with Frankel, and to share this memorable day with Chaldean’s breeders Whitsbury Manor Stud was hugely satisfying.
"They've been great breeders for a long time and deserved this Classic victory. Frankel became the first Dewhurst and 2,000 Guineas winner to sire a Dewhurst and 2,000 Guineas winner."
Chaldean will stand his debut season at £25,000 and is reported to have gone down a treat with breeders.
"Those inspections during the Tattersalls December sales could not have gone better," says Horan. "By the end of that sales week, it is fair to say Chaldean was the talk of the town.
"The fact he was such a standout at the 2020 Tattersalls Foal Sale provided a reminder to breeders of what we're all trying to produce. Many of the best judges recalled seeing him as a foal and didn’t really feel the need to see him again at the farm, but those who did were very effusive in their praise.
"He already has a full book for 2024 and Juddmonte will be providing strong support with approximately 15-20 mares visiting him."
His sire's dominance on the track in 2023 was, meanwhile, mirrored in the sales ring. Camas Park Stud's half-sister to Summer Mile Stakes winner Tilsit topped the Goffs Orby Sale when making €1,850,000 to MV Magnier, while Frankel also sired the top two lots at Tattersalls Book 1. Hascombe and Valiant's colt out of Bizzaria sold for 2,000,000gns to Magnier, while Watership Down Stud's filly out of Cheveley Park Stakes winner Millisle was knocked down to Shadwell for 1,600,000gns.
In December, Frankel's Prix du Muguet winner and Prix de Diane fourth Sibila Spain, in foal to Dubawi, was subject of a bidding battle at Arqana's Vente d'Elevage, ultimately going the way of Jill Lamb and Newsells Park Stud for €2,000,000, while the Group 3-winning and Prix de l'Opera third Lady Frankel formed part of the Gestut Ammerland dispersal and sold to celebrity chef Bobby Flay for €900,000 in foal to New Bay.
With an increasing number of sons at stud worldwide and with his daughters coming through as young producers, Frankel's legacy is already assured, and the now 16-year-old is oversubscribed for the upcoming covering season even at his new sky-high fee.
Horan confirmed that Teona, the Prix Vermeille winner by Sea The Stars purchased by Juddmonte for 4,500,000gns from Tattersalls last month, is set to be among Frankel's home book of mares.
He says: "There has still been an excess of 230 applications to Frankel for the 2024 season and, while the increased fee would knock some breeders out of the equation, he will have a full book. One of the reasons for raising his fee was to try to cut back on the number of mares he is covering.
"However, Frankel and [studmate] Kingman are the only two active stallions in the world who have sired Group 1 winners in Europe, America, Australia and Japan, so they have the added advantage of global appeal.
"Frankel has shown his versatility to sire high-class two-year-olds as well as the winners of the Guineas, Derby, Oaks, St Leger, King George and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, not to mention winners at Royal Ascot and the Breeders' Cup.
"And let’s not forget about sales-toppers all over the world. Simply put, if you're hoping to either breed or own the kind of horse capable of taking you to the highest level, then Frankel is a must-use stallion."
Kingman, standing at an unchanged fee of £125,000, would be a roster-leading sire at the vast majority of operations, and the champion miler son of Invincible Spirit and Zenda certainly has plenty going for him.
The 13-year-old's 46 individual Group or Graded winners are headed by ten top-flight scorers, including another champion miler in Palace Pier; the Poule d'Essai des Poulains hero and Haras d'Etreham's first-crop two-year-old sire Persian King; and the 2023 highlights that were Sauterne, Feed The Flame, King Colorado and Zardozi.
Horan says: "Kingman was a very exciting racehorse and he sires exciting racehorses, as we've seen with four new Group 1 winners last season. However, he stands within a very competitive bracket of highly successful stallions with stud fees to match.
"Stallions such as Sea The Stars, Siyouni, Lope De Vega, No Nay Never and Night Of Thunder are all vying for the same pool of high quality mares. Young guns such as Blue Point, Havana Grey, Too Darn Hot, New Bay and Baaeed are less proven or new but nonetheless provide plenty of competition too.
"Kingman's ability to get a top-class two-year-old, sprinter, miler and Classic-distance horse makes him all the more desirable when compared to some of the competition."
Kingman's maternal uncle Oasis Dream, a half-brother to Zenda, may now be 24 but he looked a picture of vitality at Banstead Manor during the recent shows. An outstanding sprinter and sire of more than 200 individual stakes winners, he is available to breeders this year at a price he has never been at before, just £15,000.
"Oasis Dream has achieved it all," says Horan. "He looks great, is in good health and continues to enjoy stud duties. As long as he remains happy and well, he'll be allowed to continue covering.
"We've always said that Oasis Dream, like a lot of Green Desert sons, possesses an alpha male mentality and he believes every mare who visits the covering shed is for him!
"His fertility rate for 2023 was 80 per cent, and that's very high for a stallion of his age. It mustn't be forgotten as well that it was only two seasons ago his highest-rated juvenile ever, Native Trail, was crowned European champion two-year-old."
Oasis Dream's reputation as a highly significant broodmare sire has also flourished. Among the top-level winners produced by his daughters are Melbourne Cup hero Twilight Payment and Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet, and from last year Breeders' Cup victor Big Evs, Goodwood Cup winner Quickthorn, Prix de la Foret winner Kelina and Prix Ganay victor Iresine.
Horan says: "I think it's fair to say when we do call time on his career, Oasis Dream will be remembered as a very positive influence on the breed and perhaps best known for his potency as an accomplished broodmare sire, with 54 of his daughters to date having produced a Group winner."
Completing the five-strong roster is Bated Breath, a handsome and proven son of the operation's late, great Dansili. The Temple Stakes winner and four-time Group 1-placed performer has been quietly but steadily compiling an impressive CV off a much lower fee than his studmates.
His record features Grade 1 winner Viadera from 15 individual Group or Graded winners and 57 black-type performers.
These also include Solonaway Stakes winner and multiple top-level placed Space Traveller, who covered a big first book of mares at Ballyhane Stud in 2023, Rockfel and Albany Stakes winner Daahyeh, who was also second in the Moyglare and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, plus fellow Group/Grade 2 winners Beckford, Gift List and Worth Waiting.
It will be a big year for Bated Breath as his best-bred crop have just turned two.
Horan says: "He's among the most reliable sires – both on the racecourse and at the sales – standing in the UK today. His 2023 yearling average of almost £50,000 should make his new fee of £10,000 very appealing to the commercial breeder.
"He reliably sires good-looking and well-built youngstock who have great minds, and while they can be very precocious, they also improve with age.
"The reasoning behind amending Breath Breath’s fee [down from £15,000] was simply to make him more competitive this season while we await his best-bred runners to date to make their debut in 2024.
"Following on from three Royal Ascot winners in 2019, as well as other notable winners such as Viadera, Sacred Bridge, Breathtaking Look, Makaloun, Maid In India and Worth Waiting, to name just a few, we saw a significant increase in the overall quality of his books of mares.
"We all know what the stallion is capable of, and our aim is to keep Bated Breath ticking along until this year’s crop of two-year-olds have the chance to fly the flag for their sire."