Thousands of foals are brought into the world each year and it can be agreed that every horse lover, whether involved in the sport of racing or not, has their ‘horse of a lifetime’. I have shed many tears, experienced the exhilaration of watching these beautiful animals run and the shattering grief and heartbreak that unfortunately becomes part and parcel of this sport.
It would do no justice to say that a horse can be summed up in an article, or even a novel. The lives they touch and change is something that cannot be put into words, nor comprehended, but by putting pen to paper we can make sure they are remembered and cherished for the loyalty and memories they have given to us.
I was 13 years old and still a complete stranger to the wonders of horse racing in 2008. Little did I know at the time that in February of that year, a Dam by the name of Kind would be going in to foal at Juddmonte Farms in Newmarket, Suffolk. This same year, fan favourite Zenyatta would win the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita Park, a Breeders Cup that would go down in history for Britain with Raven’s Pass becoming the first British trained winner of the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Fast forward two years to 2010, a bay colt named Frankel would be making his first appearance in a one mile maiden at Newmarket Racecourse. There is nothing too remarkable about a horse winning in its first race, as it can be an occurrence that can be put down to a lucky run. However, four weeks later at his next appearance in Doncaster, Frankel bolted home by 13 lengths. It is difficult to gage whether at this point it was thought that a star had been born; I can only guess that trainer Sir Henry Cecil could not have predicted in his wildest dreams that he would achieve what he went on to do in his 14 race unbeaten career.
25th September, 2010 saw Frankel in Group company for the very first time in the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot. He held up in last for the start of the race, before switching left and doing what I can only describe as breathtakingly breezed up and left his rivals for dust.
The 2000 Guineas is a highly prestigious one mile race run over the Rowley Mile in Newmarket, and a race that surprised many in 2011. Nothing was out of the ordinary in the fact that Frankel was partnered with regular jockey Tom Queally, however he led from the very start of the race until his triumphant end.
The Queen Ann Stakes in June of 2012 is the race that has come to be my favourite; Excelebration under Joseph O’Brien for father Aiden began battle with Frankel before the final stage, and in true Frankel style he simply turned it on and flawlessly accelerated away from the rest of the field. It does not matter how many times I watch this race, I find myself ogling in shock at the sheer speed he always managed to find.
Personally, I cannot pinpoint a most impressive race, and if I were to analyse each they would all be impressive in different ways. A personal pet peeve of mine is the criticism that becomes of a horse when it is on an unbeaten streak, as we have seen most recently with Winx and her 20 straight. Horses are for the most part kind natured animals not machines, and so the fact that they are willing to race at all let alone have the chance to win is a wonderful feat of itself, so they deserve the merit and appreciation for this at the very least.
Arguably all of his races were won in such style that there is no difficulty believing that he eventually earned Timeforms highest rating of 143 in over 40 years, which was raised to 147 following his win in the Queen Anne Stakes, making Frankel the highest rated racehorse in the organisations history.
Two years on from that first race at Newmarket, Frankel took to his stage for one final race; intense apprehension as a sell out crowd of 32,000 watched on as the hero of horse racing blew home one last time to thunderous applause. Owner Khalid Abdullah confirmed on this day, October 20th 2012 that Frankel would be retired to stud.
Sir Henry Cecil epitomised Frankel in an interview following his final race at with the words “He’s the best I’ve ever had… the best I’ve ever seen.”
Winning nearly £3 million pounds in prize money and gaining a worldwide fanbase, I am humbled to be able to write about my ‘horse in a lifetime’. Each horses achievements seem to be compared, but I find it best to be in awe at the fact we are so lucky to be able to experience the immeasurable careers of these talented mammals.
Coming Next Week: Life after racing – The Frankel legacy
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