Time is running out if Frankel is to give more to racing than his outstanding displays on the racecourse. For many years National Hunt racing has been streets ahead of its flat counterpart in using top racehorses to promote the sport more widely.
In particular, Red Rum and Desert Orchid were names heard in almost every household, and so became ambassadors who took racing out to people. Each had his own fan club. How many times did Dessie go and open a village fete? How many book signings did Jonjo O’Neill bring Red Rum along to? I remember them coming to open a new betting shop in Sheffield nearly 30 years ago and it seemed that the whole city centre took its lunch break at the same time just so they could get up close to Red Rum.
Dessie had his own annual calendar, and add to that the mainstays of the sporting merchandise of books, key rings, sweatshirts, and so on, and you see how much those two horses did outside of racing itself. Even now, I’ve a cup of tea at my side in a Desert Orchid mug which has never been in the dishwasher, and that nobody else has ever been allowed to wash up. That’s how special it is to me.
Can you ever imagine anything like that happening with Frankel or a Derby winner? True, they have other duties to perform once their racing days are over, but do they have to be secreted away out of everyone’s view as soon as they retire from the racetrack?
It’s true there’s a book about Frankel due out in November this year, timed to coincide with his retirement from racing and the Christmas market, and it’s not the first book to come out about a flat racehorse.
Now if ever there was a racehorse on the flat with the potential to alert the nation to the sport, it must be Frankel. And wouldn’t it benefit the sport if that were to happen?