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Frankel hailed by senior British handicapper

The all-conquering Frankel returns to a rapturous ovation (British Champions Series via Facebook)
Senior BHA handicapper Phil Smith paid tribute to Frankel following the unbeaten colt's grand finale in Saturday's Group 1 Champion Stakes.

It remains to be seen whether Frankel's final rating will be the highest of all time -- the figure will be decided at a conference later this year -- but in terms of stellar performances, Smith said he had never known a horse who could achieve top-class marks every time he ran.

"He's won nine Group 1 races (going into the Champion, his 10th), is the first horse to produce two 140 performances -- in the Queen Anne Stakes and Juddmonte International at two different distances -- and his consistency is the element that handicappers love to see.

"He has been metronomic, giving performance of 130-plus over and over again," Smith said. "The conditions were not helpful today, but he has put up another 130-plus effort.

"The (soft) ground concerned us all, and I think back to great horses of yesteryear, Brigadier Gerard being the obvious one, who were all out to win on this type of ground against significantly inferior horses.

"Frankel certainly wasn't running against significantly inferior horses today. They were some of the best he has faced, and yet he still went past them looking like a champion.

"It will be a very easy contest to rate, compared to some of his races because they have finished in the order we hoped they would. Frankel was on 140, Cirrus Des Aigles on 130, Nathaniel on 126 and so on. That helps us. The distance between the second and third was 2 1/2 lengths, and we would call that four pounds over this distance, so you would have to think they have run to their maximum.

"Then you have to assess the 1 3/4 lengths by which Frankel beat Cirrus Des Aigles," the handicapper continued. "I think he was value for a little more than that, although he wasn't as extravagant as in some of his other wins. I believe there was a little in the tank and that he was value for 2 1/2 lengths and possibly more, which makes Frankel's run today a 134-plus performance.

"We just don't get that level so consistently. Five years ago, in 2007, there was not a single 130-plus performance in the world, yet this horse does it time and again. Last year there were two horses in the world rated 130-plus, namely Frankel and Black Caviar, and Frankel has done it again this year.

Frankel demolished Canford Cliffs in his first try versus older horses last summer (Goodwood Racecourse via Facebook)
"I've never seen a horse who is so consistent. He never throws in a below-par performance."

The Juddmonte Farms homebred showed plenty of early promise before he saw a racecourse. As a result, Prince Khalid Abdullah named the well-bred son of Galileo in honor of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who had conditioned a raft of Juddmonte stars in the United States. The tribute turned out to be ideal.

In his career debut at Newmarket as a juvenile, Frankel scored cozily from another hot prospect in Nathaniel, under no more than a mild hand ride from regular rider Tom Queally.

Trainer Sir Henry Cecil next sent him out in a conditions race at Doncaster, and Frankel turned in a jaw-dropping performance. Streaking 13 lengths clear, he revealed himself as a colt of unusual potential. Frankel followed up with a 10-length demolition job in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot, and capped his campaign with a 2 1/4-length decision in the Group 1 Dewhurst.

Ranked as Europe's co-champion juvenile of 2010, Frankel aimed for the first British classic of 2011, the Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas. He used the Group 3 Greenham Stakes at Newbury as his prep, and even though he won handsomely by four lengths from Excelebration, his rank behavior was cause for concern. The wildly-talented colt would have to learn to harness his energy, not fritter it away by fighting Queally early.

But instead of trying to force Frankel to settle in the one-mile Guineas, his connections decided to let him rip to his heart's content. Frankel put on one of the most scintillating spectacles in the centuries-old history of Newmarket, scorching his rivals from flagfall to finish in a six-length tour de force.

Some wondered whether the budding superstar would jump up in trip for the Group 1 Derby over 1 1/2 miles at Epsom. Cecil knew his pupil better than that, however, and took the more conservative approach. Frankel would remain at a mile for the Group 1 St James's Palace at Royal Ascot. Meanwhile, Cecil and his team at Warren Place spared no efforts in teaching the headstrong colt to relax.

The lessons appeared to have taken root, for Frankel proved rateable in the opening stages. But Queally pushed the button too soon on the far turn. The exuberant Frankel opened up, only to tire in deep stretch. He held on by an uncharacteristically short three-quarters of a length, and the universal opinion was that he'd gotten away with a tactical blunder.

Frankel then stepped up to face an outstanding older miler in Canford Cliffs in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Reverting to front-running tactics, Frankel ran Canford Cliffs -- the horse who had just beaten Goldikova -- off his feet.

Frankel galloped 11 lengths clear in the Queen Anne (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)
Connections opted to keep him at a mile in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day last year. After tracking the pace like a coiled spring, he was let loose and stormed clear, again beating his old rival Excelebration by four lengths. The still-flawless Frankel reigned supreme as Europe's Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt.

Prince Khalid sportingly decided to keep him in training in 2012, but his four-year-old season was imperiled by an injury scare in April. The exuberant mover had struck into himself in a gallop, injuring his right front leg. Internal hemorrhaging in the area led to worries of a more serious soft tissue injury, and sparked rumors of his retirement.

Racing Manager Teddy Grimthorpe was quick to rebut the rumors, and further scans revealed that the damage was only superficial. Frankel soon resumed training and was ready for his reappearance in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes on May 19.

If there were any doubt about whether the champion was back, Frankel tore it to shreds. Settled even more kindly off the pace than previously, he stormed away to defeat Excelebration by five lengths, implying that he'd actually improved at four -- just as Cecil had forecast.

Frankel crushed Excelebration by more than twice that margin in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes on June 19. His 11-length conquest opened the Royal Ascot meeting with a bang, and gave further substance to Cecil's belief that he was still improving.

Back at Goodwood to defend his title in the August 1 Sussex, Frankel romped by six lengths over Godolphin's progressive Farhh. In the process, he became the first horse ever to win the prestigious one-mile test twice.

Now that Frankel had a more relaxed attitude, he was ready to tackle a longer distance. The chosen target was, appropriately enough, the Group 1 Juddmonte International on August 22 at York.

The great Brigadier Gerard had met his Waterloo in that 1 5/16-mile affair, then known as the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup. But Frankel had no difficulty in winning the race sponsored by his owner.

Reserved far off a torrid pace, Frankel deployed his trademark ferocious speed down the homestretch. The added ground made no difference to him, as he pummeled Farhh and St Nicholas Abbey by a resounding seven lengths.

The 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes was earmarked as his final outing, and Frankel did not disappoint.

"His final rating is not purely a BHA decision," Smith said, "but an international handicappers' decision, which will be discussed at the end of the year in Hong Kong among 20 handicappers.

"After today his 140-rating won't change. However it could go up, it could conceivably go down at that conference, although that is unlikely."

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