Updated on 06/10/2011 5:12PM

Royal Ascot: Frankel the colt a worthy namesake

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Frankel, with Tom Queally riding, wins the Dewhurst to close out his championship 2010 season.

He is brash, capable of a stellar performance, and knows how to win.

Frankel, the undefeated star colt of the British flat season, has a name that resonates fondly with American racing fans, and a record that draws admiration from racing fans worldwide.

Unbeaten in six starts, including an emphatic six-length win in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on April 30, Frankel will start as a heavy favorite in Tuesday’s Group  1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

A win there would be Frankel’s fifth stakes win, third in a Group 1, and the latest accomplishment in a fitting tribute to his namesake, the late American Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died of complications from lymphoma in November 2009.

Frankel, the colt, is owned by Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, for whom Bobby Frankel trained such horses as Champs Elysees, the 2009 Canadian Horse of the Year, the champion turf females Intercontinental, Ryafan, and Wandesta, and the 2003 Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker.

In early 2010, just months after Frankel’s death, Prince Khalid and his team at Juddmonte Farms in England were choosing names for that season’s 2-year-olds, holding one back for the right prospect.
They had one chance to get it right. They did more than that. They found a perfect colt.

“We had no idea if he could run,” Juddmonte Farms racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said of Frankel. “He was always a standout colt. He was a pretty exceptional foal. As a yearling, he was our top-rated yearling, all those sort of things.”

Early opinions were confirmed on a rainy afternoon at Newmarket on Aug. 13, 2010, the day Frankel rallied through traffic to win a one-mile maiden race by a half-length with something in reserve. Frankel was ridden by Tom Queally, his only jockey to date, for trainer Henry Cecil, whose career achievements in England are also befitting of a Hall of Famer.

Frankel followed with a 13-length win in an allowance race at Doncaster on Sept. 10, and two weeks later with an electrifying 10-length win in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot. Frankel finished the year with a win in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, ending the year as the joint champion 2-year-old.

Through the winter, when there is no major flat racing in England, there was speculation that Frankel would start in the 2000 Guineas and the English Derby at 1 1/2 miles.

For the Guineas, Frankel was the 1-2 favorite, and made the price look like a bargain. Frankel led by 10 lengths midway through the race, and maintained a clear advantage under Queally through the uphill finish.

“I don’t think Tom knew he was as far in front as he was,” Grimthorpe said. “The thing about this horse is he has a tremendous stride and a tremendous cruising speed with it. We’ve had such a huge opinion, it wasn’t a great surprise that he was able to do it. The fact that he accomplished it in such sensational style was justification of the high regard everyone had for the horse.”

Frankel’s Racing Post Rating, a performance measure used in Daily Racing Form, for the 2000 Guineas was an eye-catching 133. By comparison, Sea the Stars, considered to be one of the finest flat horses in the last decade, had a Racing Post Racing of 124 for his win in the English 2000 Guineas in 2009.

Cecil decided not to send Frankel in the 1 ½-mile Derby at Epsom because he said the distance would not be best for the colt at this point in his development. Cecil said that the colt’s owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, agreed in taking a step-by-step approach.

The focus instead was put on races from a mile to 1 1/4 miles for the spring and summer. Since the 2000 Guineas, Frankel has thrived, Grimthorpe said. "We restarted his work schedule and he seems really settled," Grimthorpe said, adding that Cecil "is pleased in every way."

Later this summer, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on July 27 and the Juddmonte International at York on Aug. 17 are possibilities, particularly the latter. "That would obviously be an emotional one for everyone involved," Grimthorpe said of the race that Prince Khaled sponsors.

The success of Frankel has brought back memories of the late trainer for Grimthorpe, who met Bobby Frankel in the 1980’s.

"Bobby, he was legendary in his gruff exterior, but he was a soft and kind person," Grimthorpe said. "I remember saying at the time when he died, ‘No one looked after his horses or his staff better than Bobby.’ He was exceptional."

So is the colt who bears his name.