Remembering the day Frankel brought York to a standstill
Believe it or not, it is already 10 years since Frankel scorched the famous Knavesmire turf to win the Juddmonte International at York.
As hard as it is to grasp now, he went into that race with a question mark over whether he would see out the extended 10-furlong trip, with Sir Henry Cecil waiting until the latter stages of his four-year-old career to experiment.
Of course, those stamina doubts proved unfounded and going out in distance arguably took Frankel to another level, with many of his legion of fans considering the York display the best of an unbeaten, exalted career.
Who can forget FRANKEL’s 🐐 demolition of a quality Group 1 field in the 2012 Juddmonte International?
— Champions Series (@ChampionsSeries) August 5, 2021
Which is quite something, considering what he did in the 2000 Guineas.
For one man the day has more special memories than most. Teddy Grimthorpe was racing manager for Khalid Abdullah, Frankel’s owner, and also chairman of York racecourse. Over 30,000 people were there to witness the race, up 55 per cent up on the year before.
“It was an extraordinary day, mainly for the crowd that came,” said Grimthorpe. “Normally a big crowd at York consists of a lot of bus trips, but this day all the car parks were overflowing – everyone had decided they wanted to go and see this horse.
“The parade ring was absolutely full from the first race onwards, people never moved. I remember waiting for Prince Khalid to arrive and there were people so excited for the day.
“Of course on top of that was Henry’s frailty at the time, but the atmosphere was just extraordinary compared to any other horse race I’ve seen there.”
Despite Frankel being sent off the prohibitive 1/7 favourite, the race was world class in standard.
Aidan O’Brien’s St Nicholas Abbey had won two Coronation Cups and a Breeders’ Cup Turf, Saeed bin Suroor’s Farhh would go on to win the Lockinge and Champion Stakes, while Frankel’s stablemate Twice Over was a multiple Group One winner in his own right.
“The way the race panned out was beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. Tom Queally brought him smoothly through on the stands rail and he powered away to win by seven lengths,” remembered Grimthorpe.
“After the race it was just mad. It was an embodiment of what is special about horse racing.
“It wasn’t just that Frankel won. Take him out and you had Farhh, St Nicholas Abbey, Twice Over – all these multiple Group One winners who had won all over the globe and they went such a good gallop.
“Everything set up beautifully for him but it was the way he just eased through, as if he were on magnets. It was a good day. It was certainly a good day to be chairman of York and racing manager to Prince Khalid!
“It was August 22, 2012 – I will always remember the date – and people still come up to me now and say ‘do you remember…’ and I know immediately what they are going to say. Rarely do I go to York that someone doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Frankel is now just as successful in his second career at stud and is the fastest European stallion to sire 50 Group winners. It looks a formality that he will take over from his own sire, Galileo, as the dominant force in the game.
“You can never be totally sure they are going to do it at stud, be a great racehorse and go on to be champion stallion, whatever anybody says, but that is the way he is going,” said Grimthorpe.
“It’s a huge testament to Prince Khalid, it’s a culmination of a life’s work.
“It’s the variety of trips they win over – Guineas winners, Derby winners, St Leger winners – and it looks like he’s a broodmare sire as well. I think it looks as if he’s taking over from Galileo.”
This year another unbeaten champion in Baaeed is stepping up in trip for the first time at York. But with last year’s easy winner Mishriff lying in wait, he faces a far from easy task.
“From York’s point of view, to have another unbeaten star going for the Juddmonte is great and perennially it is Britain’s leading race on ratings,” said Grimthorpe.
“The fact that Baaeed, Mishriff and others are coming suggests this year’s renewal will be as good as it’s ever been.”