What’s greatest about Frankel is the excitement he brings. Debate his merits if you like – and even as a miler he is still some way short of Brigadier Gerard. But no horse in all my time has ever been more exciting.
There is a raw, dangerous power about him. A feeling that if he really put it together, he might, to borrow a phrase about the immortal Secretariat, “try and run a hole in the wind.” He threatened to do it when he ran at Doncaster. He got close when let loose at Newmarket and then we came to Goodwood on Wednesday.
Remember now that this was his biggest test, that Canford Cliffs arrived having won five Group Ones in a row, that many expected him to sit behind Frankel and slice clear before the post. Remember the doubts that lingered after Ascot. How would the horse react after what seemed such a draining experience? How would Queally take the barrage of criticism which had come from us “riders in the stand”?
No matter that the Canford Cliffs team later felt that their guy was not at his best, he and Richard Hughes had still looked so deadly hooked on to Frankel’s tail that our eyes bore into the leader to search for that rocket within. What happened next has seared itself into the memory.
It began as we noticed the real enormity of the Frankel stride. It lifts and propels him forward in a wholly different rhythm to other horses, behind him Canford Cliffs was taking almost two steps to one. Then, with Queally still coiled motionless, we saw the Hughes elbows move. We knew Frankel was going to win it but the real punch was yet to come.
At the furlong pole Queally pressed his body down and asked Frankel to punch his weight. In an instant the big colt surged clear of Canford Cliffs who reeled across the track as if a truck had hit him. I heard myself giving an enormous yell and as Frankel stormed past Mike Marshall (Cecil’s assistant) and I hugged each other and literally danced in glee. It was excitement of the 24 carat kind.
Besides Brigadier Gerard’s unmatched feats, I have seen Sea Bird’s Derby, Nijinsky’s King George, Mill Reef’s Eclipse, Dancing Brave’s Arc and of course all of Sea The Stars “Group One a month from May to October” progress two seasons ago. Nothing I saw ever went faster than little Dayjur tearing up the Knavesmire in 56.1, that’s averaging 11.2 seconds for each of the Nunthorpe’s five furlongs – and from a standing start.
But none of them had quite the moment of impact of Frankel opening his shoulders on Wednesday. At its best a thoroughbred racehorse should be a thing of wonder. It should be able to do something to make you shout. The thrill about Frankel is that the shouting is set to go on.