Tony Morris, our venerable columnist, has seen a lot of horses. He’s also seen a lot of races. So when he says that Frankel is the best miler that he’s ever seen – better even than Brigadier Gerard, the colt who dominated the division in the early 1970s and was beaten only once in 18 starts – then it’s time to accept, if we hadn’t already, that we’re witnessing equine greatness.
Of course, racing is all about opinions, but when a man like Morris admits to being “overwhelmed and in tears” after a racecourse performance, it pretty much puts the seal on the deal, so to speak. The colt’s trainer, Sir Henry Cecil – a man who has probably trained more champions than the rest of his colleagues put together – believes his current star is the best horse he has ever seen. That’s seen, not trained.
Frankel’s effort at Goodwood in the Sussex Stakes took the breath away. It was a privilege to watch an animal capable of such startling acceleration in a top level race, against a rival – albeit later found to be lame – who had proved himself the best older miler in training.
Unlike Sea The Stars, whose three-year-old season proved his farewell campaign, Frankel is set to stay in training as a four-year-old. British racing couldn’t have asked for a better present (notwithstanding the government delivering a suitable replacement for the levy). Before then, however, the son of Galileo is likely to prove the biggest attraction on the new Champions’ Day at Ascot on October 15. It’s a date not to be missed.
Most owner/breeders would be delighted to have one Group 1 horse in their armoury each season but Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms operation – under whose banner Frankel was bred – continues to churn out high-class performers and potential champions at an incredible rate.
“Frankel staying in training at four is the best present British racing could ask for”
The cracking battle between Abdullah’s duo Twice Over and Midday in the Juddmonte International, a race he was winning for the first time having sponsored the event since 1989, followed a striking performance by his Sea Moon in the Great Voltigeur. The son of Beat Hollow was subsequently installed as hot favourite for the St Leger on September 10.
The St Leger has become the poor relation to the other four British Classics, with many horses sidestepping the extended 1m 6f contest in favour of races over shorter distances.
In his column this month, James Willoughby assesses the claim that horses are no longer being bred for stamina – and races like the St Leger – by analysing the winning times of British Classic winners. To read Willoughby’s fascinating findings, click here.
Silvestre de Sousa may well have his first Classic ride in this year’s Leger aboard Namibian, on whom he landed the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
The jockey, who hails from Sao Paulo in Brazil, has emerged as the biggest threat to Paul Hanagan in this year’s jockeys’ title race – in part due to Ryan Moore’s unfortunate absence through injury – impressing greatly with his balance and strength in the saddle.
De Sousa’s services may be in great demand but, there was a time not so long ago when he couldn’t even secure one ride, during his time in Ireland with Dermot Weld’s stable.
“One day I asked him why I was good enough to ride 12 horses ever morning but not good enough to ride on the track,” de Sousa explains.
“I told him I was leaving and he went mad. He said he would find me some rides, but by then I had decided to walk away.
“It was hard, I was very happy there. Mr Weld was good to me. But I wanted to ride.”
Ambition is a very powerful motivator and it may just take de Sousa to the top of the jockeys’ table.