10/17/2011 2:31PM

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."