Thursday, August 16, 2012
By Stephen Dwyer
Strictly speaking it is not The Juddmonte but rather the International Stakes. Held at York over a distance of 1 mile, 2 furlongs and 88 yards the race has been sponsored by Juddmonte Farms since 1989. Wednesdays renewal of the International Stakes is the fortieth since the race was inaugurated in 1972. The very first running of the International Stakes was won by Roberto. It was a terrific upset. Roberto, although a Derby winner, beat the great Brigadier Gerard who started at odds of 1/3 for the race. It was to be the only defeat in eighteen starts for Brigadier Gerard, who it must be said was giving the winner 12lb and was unwell after the race.
This year however, there should be no upset. The equine superhero that is Frankel lines up as the unopposable 1/8 favourite and should have little trouble in dealing with racing over an extended trip. But just how good is Frankel ? We all know his is unbeaten, but many good horses were unbeaten throughout their career. Frankel however is simply a class apart.
The facts tell all. In the world of black type he is the only horse in to win the Group One Sussex Stakes at Goodwood twice. In doing so Frankel equalled the record for consecutive wins in European Group 1 races (seven in a row) set by Rock Of Gibraltar. The only time Frankel started at odds against (7/4) was on his racecourse debut in 2010, a middle class Newmarket maiden that was just a little bit hot. The race contained and unearthed a host of future stars including the Group One Coral Eclipse winner Nathaniel and Ascot Gold Cup Group One winner Colour Vision. His Racing Post rating of 142 is the highest recorded. His Timeform rating of 147 awarded after his Queen Anne Stakes victory is the highest in Timeform's history.
Frankel is also owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of the House of Saud, the Prince also owns Juddmonte Farms, where the colt was foaled in 2008. By champion sire Galileo, Frankel Frankel is bred on the Galileo-Danehill cross which also features in the pedigrees of Group 1 winners Teofilo, Golden Lilac and Maybe. Successful as this cross is, it seems Frankel is still improving. His three starts this year have resulted in wins totalling twenty two lengths and it seems there is more to come. Trainer Henry Cecil is on record as stating: "I think it's a facetious thing to say, but he's the best I've ever seen”
The main opposition to Frankel will be the Ballydoyle colt St Nicholas Abbey. Aidan O’ Brien has won two of the last four renewals of the Juddmonte, including posting a new race record with Duke of Marmalade in 2008. Last year’s runner Await The Dawn finished a disappointing third in the race for Ballydoyle, he was the 8/13 favourite that day but could not pass the Henry Cecil duo of Midday and Twice Over.
Twice Over bids to retain the race this year but his current odds of 14/1 reflect his chances against his stablemate. St Nicholas Abbey though will be no pushover, he races well over the distance and his trainer notes “We've always thought the world of him -- he is a very exciting horse. And we still think he is on the upgrade. We're looking forward to seeing him run at York”. A winner of four Group One races including repeat wins in the Coronation Cup at Epsom he still may have to settle for second best behind Frankel but he will stretch the unbeaten colt to the limits of his stamina.
Many will think Frankel has questions to answer over his stamina. The best miler in the world he may be, but how will he cope with the extra two furlongs on the Knavesmire ?