10/17/2011 3:31PM

Nine Nine Nine


Because there is very little chance that most of us will ever be lucky enough to be among the inner circle of an  animal that performs at the level of Frankel, who won for the ninth time in nine starts last Saturday in England, I thought it might be fun to hear from someone in the family. In this case it is the racing manager for Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm, Lord (Teddy) Grimthorpe. At least, that's what it says on his business card.

Lord Grimthorpe -- Teddy -- was born Edward John Beckett, son of the fourth Baron Grimthorpe. Beckett became Juddmonte racing manager in 1999. Upon the death of his father in 2003, Teddy shed the "Beckett" and became Lord Grimthorpe, which is pretty cool, if you are down with the whole peerage thing. When my dad died you would think I would have at least inherited his real estate broker's license. 

Titles quite aside, Teddy is the sort of fellow who insists on the "Lord" part only if he's bought the round, and then more in worship than out of respect. If a day has gone by without Grimthorpe awakening with grateful, giddy delight to the reality of his job he can't remember it. As for the stable's association -- and the public's obsession -- with Frankel, Teddy has this to say:

"The enormous interest in him is unprecedented, at least in my time at Juddmonte," Grimthorpe began. "And he continues to build up momentum. It's like anything in racing. Translating from a domestic hero in a sort of small racing community to the wider pages is always a tricky thing. But I think he is getting towards that. Strange people are starting to ask about him.

"Obviously, when Prince Khalid named him as he did, that was what's usually considered one of the real banana skins in racing," Grimthorpe noted. "I had a horse named for me, Teddy's Pick. He started out in Southern California, went further up to Northern California and I think was last seen heading for Alaska."

Grimthorpe lives close enough to Henry Cecil's training yard in Newmarket that he can get a dose of Frankel any time he needs one.

"It's a strange thing, but if you see him daily, see how he is, you feel very calm," he said. "People always ask me about the pressure. It's a little bit ridiculous to even use that word. If anybody goes into horse racing they go in to be associated in one way or another with one of those unbelievable horses. And how lucky are we? Here he is -- there's no question about that. It's just a huge privilege. I always get carried away in their initial stages, before anyone really knows, and you're thinking a horse was lovely foal and a nice yearling and a really lovely 2-year-old. In his case, it would have been hugely disappointing had he not turned out the way he has."

When it comes to Thoroughbreds, the difference between bitter disappointment and grand fulfillment can be measured in blinks and twitches. Consider the world in which we lived at the close of business last Nov. 6. Uncle Mo had just crushed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, winning for the third time in three starts. Three weeks earlier, Frankel polished off his 4-for-4 juvenile campaign with a victory in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. Both colts were poised to rock the world as 3-year-olds.

Frankel has made five starts this year and won them all, including his last two in historic races open to all comers. Uncle Mo has made four starts and lost twice, to horses his own age, while defeating older horses in his most recent start. Frankel was allowed to seek his own level of superiority as a 3-year-old miler, a status highly cherished in European circles, upon which he can build next year in 10-furlong challenges. Uncle Mo, on the other hand, had no such option. In order to validate the praise heaped upon him, he was shoved into the sausage grinder of the American Triple Crown trail and asked to do things he was not physically prepared to do. The fact that he has survived as a viable, top-class racehorse is a tribute to his innate ability. Now, Uncle Mo is being asked to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the toughest 10 furlongs on the North American calendar, and that is asking a lot. But then, the great ones seem to come up with the answer.

The international racing community has been deprived in recent years of enjoying the likes of Zarkava and Sea the Stars evolve into 4-year-olds. Not so with Frankel. He will be back, if the fates allow, and we will find out just how good a horse can get. Reading between the lines, the Classic at Santa Anita in 2012 is the race in which the Juddmonte colt would make his American debut, although this observer would love to see him run in the Metropolitan Mile. That's what happens when such a remarkable Thoroughbred emerges -- he becomes a one-horse fantasy stable.

"I'm sure the Prince would delight in taking Frankel to the States, given the right circumstances," Grimthorpe concluded. "You can never say never, and certainly not with a horse of this caliber."


chuck More than 1 year ago
Frankel will be back at 4 because he is no Sea the Stars. Sea the Stars was a great miler himself and ran a mile race faster than overhyped Frankel. Comparing or even hinting that Frankel is as good as or close to Sea the Stars is an insult to the great Arc winner. Timeform must be joking. I cannot wait for Frankel to run 10 furlongs next year so I can bet against him like I bet against Rachel going 10 furlongs.
chuck More than 1 year ago
Marty F No we don't ruin talented colts by measuring them how well they can run the classic distance of 10 furlongs or longer.... What we are doing is ruining horse racing by breeding 6 to 9 furlongs cookie cutter fragile speed horses.... Ever wonder why the Kentucky Derby is 10 furlongs?...lets just shortened it to 4 furlongs so that quarterhorses can also get in... The media's hyping of these inferior sprinters like Rachel, Quality Road, and Uncle Mo has ruined this great sport...I can see why...fans that never witnessed the great routers like Forego, John Henry, Kelso, Secretariat, Affirmed, etc believes this 9 furlongs horses belongs in the same sentenced as these past greats.... SAD
chuck More than 1 year ago
Frankel being prepared for 10 furlongs next year? Really? Not happening. If this horse gave any indication he can go longer, he would have raced longer than a mile by now.
affirmed3 More than 1 year ago
Frankel has won 10 in a row and is every part his name sake, all Class and this will to want to be a Winner. I for one look forward to seeing Frankel and Black Caviar whom we must not forget as well, he has his own win streak going and will be a great addition at Santa Anita come B.C. time next year 2012. Just Exciting........................
affirmed3 More than 1 year ago
nice to hear Negative Nancy back bloging (ivan)
Richard Dorfman More than 1 year ago
To Marty F: I respectfully disagree. In particular watch the St James Palace Stakes on youtube. Even the race caller says "Frankel is beginning to shorten stride" at the eighth pole"...and after the race the commentator says "Frankel lasted home". Go back and take a look. Then watch his 2000 Guineas from Newmarket closely. A brilliant mid-race turn of acceleration to "lead by 15 lengths" just passed halfway. Unfortunately, from there the lead dwindles to 5 at the wire...not eased up as a champion, but whipping and driving to get top the wire. Frankel was hit with the whip at least six times in the final furlong. No horse with a 15 length lead halfway is treated like that if he's not tying up!
ivan More than 1 year ago
Good straight forward article about two superior horses. I cannot think of a single reason that Frankel's connections would bring him to the U.S. to run on dirt at any distance. Your colleague MW states that " turf horses produced in this country are still, in the vast majority of cases, failed dirt horses". After consulting with Mike, why would Frankel travel to the BC for the Mile? If he wants to run against Goldikova on grass he doesn't have to come here and run on an over-watered CD course against failed dirt horses! Unless he plans to stand in the U.S., there are too many lucrative opportunities to run on his own "turf" at home at any distance. Just don't see it, especially on the fatality-prone dirt redo at SA. I won't run my $7,500 claimer on it! Uncle Mo is a survivor thus far.
Anderson More than 1 year ago
Ivan I see your point re distance and Santa Anita track. Looking forward to seeing Frankel run in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Mile.
affirmed3 More than 1 year ago
Such an anti-American comment about American racing, why such anger for our American tracks and horse's ???
Chris More than 1 year ago
It is nice to read someone who can channel Joe Palmer, Shirley Povich, and Red Smith.
Anderson More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to seeing Frankel run in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Bill Daly More than 1 year ago
That's one of the most incisive bit of analysis of Uncle Mo I've read. It's a shame he wasn't - and won't be allowed - to be what he is: a brilliant miler. He may even win the BC Classic, but a mile is what he really wants and there haven't been many any better than Mo.