10/24/2017 10:21AM

Sparkman: Frankel proving a 'crack' sire as well

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Frankel (above), who retired undefeated in 14 starts, is the sire of Champion Stakes winner Cracksman.

All-time great racehorses almost always make very good sires. Among what are generally considered the six greatest racehorses of the 20th century in Europe and America - Man o’ War, Citation, and Secretariat in America, and Nearco, Ribot, and Sea-Bird in Europe - only one can be judged a failure. And that one horse, 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation, sired 1956 Preakness Stakes winner Fabius and 1959 champion 3-year-old filly Silver Spoon, and might well have done even better had he not stood at his birthplace, Calumet Farm, where all the best broodmares were daughters of his own sire, Bull Lea.

Some of his fans were disappointed by Secretariat’s performance at stud because he failed to sire anything as good as himself, but, in truth, he was a very good sire, and a great broodmare sire. Nearco, Ribot, and Man o’ War all led major sire lists, and Sea-Bird, who sired champions in both Europe and America and 18.9% stakes winners to foals, might well have done so had he lived long enough.

With that history in mind, the tremendous start that the first all-time great racehorse of the 21st century Frankel has made at stud was all but inevitable. The victory of his first-crop son Cracksman in Saturday’s Champion Stakes at Ascot gave the great son of Galileo his second Group 1 winner, and doubtless his second champion as well, following the exploits of 2016 champion Japanese 2-year-old filly Soul Stirring, who won the 2017 Group 1 Japanese Oaks.

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Seventeen of the 111 foals in Frankel’s first Northern Hemisphere crop (a few more were bred to Southern Hemisphere time) have earned stakes brackets, a 15.3% strike rate that is higher than any living sire. Thirteen of those 17 stakes winners have won at group or graded level, an unprecedented 11.7% group/graded stakes winners to foals. Three of Frankel’s 115 current 2-year-olds from his second crop are already Group 2 or 3 winners, so it is clear he will not be a one-crop wonder.

It would be foolish to say that such prodigious production is merely what should be expected from a horse who won all 14 of his starts, and only twice looked in even the remotest danger of defeat. Subsequent Group 1 Eclipse Stakes winner Nathaniel, a son of Galileo, like Frankel, ran him to a half-length in a driving rainstorm on their joint debut, and Group 1 winner Zoffany got within three-quarters of a length at the finish of the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes when an overconfident Tom Queally gave Frankel his head too far from home. Frankel’s 12 other victories were all by open lengths, including unforgettable demolitions of top-class fields by 6, 11, and 7 lengths in the 2,000 Guineas, Queen Anne, and Juddmonte International, respectively.

As Citation proved, however, no horse is guaranteed success at stud, and there were plenty of critics who caviled Frankel’s first sales yearlings, none of whom elicited $1 million bids. No stallion does it alone, however, and the extraordinary quality of Frankel’s first book of mares has been well documented. They include Soul Stirring, a daughter of Stacelita, by Monsun, a champion on both sides of the Atlantic; Group 3 winner Mi Suerte, out of Group 1 winner Mi Sueno; and Group 2 winner Nelson, out of Irish Oaks winner Moonstone, by Dalakhani.

Cracksman’s dam, Rhadegunda, by Pivotal, is a stakes winner from a family that has been the foundation of his owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer’s Hascombe and Valiant studs for four generations. Oppenheimer purchased Cracksman’s fourth dam, Lora, by Lorenzaccio, for 28,000 guineas as a yearling, a hefty price in 1973, and she produced 1982 1,000 Guineas winner On the House, by Be My Guest. On the House defeated colts in the Sussex Stakes.

On the House produced stakes winner Art of War, by Machiavellian, and her daughter St Radegund, by Green Desert, is the dam of Rhadegunda, whose first foal, Fantastic Moon, by Dalakhani, won the 2012 Group 3 Solario Stakes. Cracksman is Rhadegunda’s fourth foal to live, and she has since produced the unraced 2-year-old Military Band, by New Approach.

Lora is also the fourth dam of Oppenheimer’s 2015 European Horse of the Year Golden Horn, by Cape Cross, and Lora herself is a fifth-generation descendant of the immortal Mumtaz Mahal through Mumtaz Begum, the dam of Nasrullah, and Sun Princess, the dam of Royal Charger.

Cracksman has also put to rest one other legitimate concern about Frankel’s stud career. Frankel is inbred 3x4 to Northern Dancer, with the two dominant forces in European breeding, Sadler’s Wells and Danehill, both in the second generation of his pedigree. That could conceivably have led to a Citation situation, but since Cracksman’s pedigree includes three more crosses of Northern Dancer, two through Danehill’s sire, Danzig, we need not worry about too much of a good thing anymore.