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Monday Musings: The Apples of Charlie’s Eye

I finally made it to Ascot on Saturday, my first visit to a racecourse since the last day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, writes Tony Stafford. As I drove the last few miles the excitement was almost making me breathless and I was delighted that by waiting until there was an element of normality, my trip was just as I remembered all those wonderful big-race summer afternoons.

The best part, apart from seeing a great winner of a very good King George, was the thing that I, as a now very senior citizen, always regarded as my private, exclusive club. When you’ve been racing in a sort of professional role you get to know hundreds, probably into the thousands, of people in the same narrow environment.

When loads of them stop to ask, “How are you? Long time, no see!” and variations of those sentiments having been stuck mostly at home for 16 months, it is so energising. I always used to say, “Most people my age probably see half a dozen people a day if they are lucky. I go racing three or four days a week and see maybe an average of a hundred or more that I know.”

And Ascot on Saturday was as normal as it ever was. Bars, restaurants and boxes open and fully extended, the always beautifully attired Ascot crowds basking in the better than predicted weather and fast ground befitting the middle of summer.

One person who didn’t make it was the “You’ve been pinged!” trainer of the brilliant Adayar, Charlie Appleby, who had neglected to do what people increasingly have been doing, removing the app from their phones.

Not too many Derby winners have followed their Epsom success with victory in the same year’s King George. It was more commonplace in the first 50 years of the race’s existence after its inauguration in 1951. But in this century, until Saturday only Galileo, Adayar’s grandsire via Frankel, had managed the double.

Appleby therefore made it four mile and a half Group 1 wins since the beginning of June with his two Frankel colts, the home-bred Adayar and his stablemate Hurricane Lane, the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris hero, bred by Philippa Cooper’s Normandie Stud.

Both horses won maidens in the last part of October, Hurricane Lane on debut and Adayar second time out. Both therefore were far less trumpeted at the beginning of this season when again Hurricane Run started with more precocity, indeed until he finished third to Adayar, the apparent third string at Epsom, he was unbeaten.

Adayar’s juvenile victory came in the Golden Horn Maiden at Nottingham, the race name being awarded to the great Derby winner the year after his Classic triumph. Previously it was known as the Oath Maiden Stakes in honour of the 1999 Derby hero owned by the Thoroughbred Corporation, who won the same maiden to get his career on the go the previous autumn.

I thought I would have a look at Charlie Appleby’s 2021 three-year-old complement courtesy of Horses in Training. Charlie had 70 horses of that age listed at the start of the season, 21 fillies and 49 male horses. Of the 21 fillies, eleven are by Dubawi, also the sire of 27 Appleby colts and geldings. Surprisingly, as many as 12 were already gelded at the start of the campaign and at least a couple more have subsequently experienced the unkindest cut.

Appleby had three colts by Dubawi as major candidates for the 2,000 Guineas: Meydan Classic winner Naval Crown, who beat Master Of The Seas that day; Master Of The Seas himself, who went on to win the Craven Stakes; and One Ruler, runner-up to Mac Swiney in the 2020 Vertem Futurity, also went to the Guineas. Master Of The Seas did best, losing out in a desperate thrust to the line with Poetic Flare and, while that Jim Bolger horse has gone on to run in both the Irish (close third to Mac Swiney) and French (easy winner) Guineas, and then dominated the St James’s Palace Stakes, we are yet to see Master Of The Seas again.

Another Dubawi colt to do well has been Yibir, winner of the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket’s July meeting, while the geldings Kemari (King Edward VII) and Creative Force (Jersey Stakes) both at Royal Ascot have been to the fore.

It is noticeable that several of the gelded group have been either difficult to train or simply very late developers.

Meanwhile, the five-strong team of Frankel sons have been nothing short of spectacular. It will be of great satisfaction for the organisation that Adayar is out of a Dubawi mare and not an especially talented one.

What of the other three? One, Magical Land, has been gelded. He won the latest of his seven races for Appleby and has an 80 rating. The others have not been sighted this year. Fabrizio, placed as a juvenile, is a non-winner but Dhahabi is an interesting horse I’d love to see reappearing.

At 3.1 million guineas this half-brother to Golden Horn carried plenty of expectations. He won on debut and, last time in the autumn, was third to One Ruler in a Group 3 at Newmarket. Just the five Frankels, then, and I bet Charlie wishes he had a few more. The list of juveniles shows 48 sons and daughters of Dubawi and 11 by Frankel.

For many years the ultra-loyal and ever agreeable Saeed Bin Suroor was the only and then the principal Godolphin trainer. His stable is now increasingly the junior partner with half of the 140-odd complement listed as four years of age or older, and many of these are probably more suited to the structure of racing in Dubai over the winter. Saeed has three Dubawi three-year-old colts and one filly this year, but none by Frankel. The juveniles listed reveal one by each stallion.

How ironic that in the year of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s death in January, the all-conquering owner of Juddmonte Farms never saw the crowning of Frankel, already the greatest racehorse certainly of the past half-century, as a Derby-producing sire.

He will surely progress again from this situation and, now with Galileo also recently deceased, is in position as the obvious inheritor of his sire’s pre-eminence.

The other younger contenders will take time to earn their prestige and it can only be good for racing that a horse that went unbeaten through 14 races has made such a statement at the top end of the sport.

To win his King George, Adayar had to see off the challenge from the tough Mishriff, stepping forward from his comeback third to St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse Stakes. His owner, Prince Abdulrahman Abdullah Faisal, was one of the people I’ve known for half a lifetime that greeted me on Saturday. Also, Adayar had to consign Love to her first defeat for 21 months. The concession of so much weight to a younger colt by an older mare – 8lb – is never easy, but her race didn’t go as expected either.

Her pacemaker Broome missed the break and then only gradually moved into the lead. In the straight Love looked poised and then Mishriff tightened her up on the outside as Ryan Moore was beginning to move her into a challenging position. Having to change course, as the Coolmore filly did halfway up the short Ascot straight, is never the recipe for success.

It is fair to say, though, that Adayar would have won whatever. It will be interesting to see how Appleby shuffles his pack. Someone suggested the St Leger. If you wanted to make Adayar a jumps stallion, that’s what you would do. He won’t go anywhere near Town Moor in September. With due deference to the fifth Classic, he will have much bigger fish to fry.

- TS

Lester Piggott and Frankel inducted into Flat racing Hall of Fame

Lester Piggott and Frankel have become the first two members of the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame.

Launched to mark the 10th anniversary of Qipco’s sponsorship of the British Champions Series, the first official Hall of Fame for British Flat racing sets out to immortalise greats of the sport, both human and equine, from 1970 onwards.

Piggott is widely regarded as one of the greatest Flat jockeys of all time, having won almost 4,500 races during a glittering riding career, including a record nine victories in the Derby at Epsom.

The 85-year-old, now based in Switzerland, received a specially-commissioned medal marking his induction into the Hall of Fame from afar, due to current travel restrictions.

Piggott said: “It is an honour to become the first jockey – and the first person – to be inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame and I am truly delighted to receive this special medal.

“I feel fortunate to have spent many brilliant years riding such incredible horses and I’m touched to see my story so well preserved through this initiative. The Hall of Fame is a terrific concept and something that racing has deserved for so many years.

“Our sport has such an incredible history and I hope that this provides an opportunity for many others to learn about it.

“It’s only right that Frankel is the first horse to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He did everything so easily and was the best by far during his time. He is the one horse that I wish I could have ridden.”

The brilliant Frankel
The brilliant Frankel (PA)

Frankel is the highest-rated racehorse in history – retiring unbeaten in 14 starts for the late Sir Henry Cecil.

Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, director of Qipco Holding, recently presented Frankel’s connections with his Hall of Fame medal.

He said: “Watching Frankel win the 2000 Guineas 10 years ago was a surreal experience and I’ve not had one like it on a racecourse before. The crowds were on their feet and clapping at halfway – Frankel completely demolished the rest of the field.

“It was an amazing day. It is absolutely fitting to see such an incredible horse inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame alongside another legend of the sport in Lester Piggott.”

Douglas Erskine Crum, chief executive officer of Juddmonte Group, which is owned by the family of Frankel’s late owner Prince Khalid Abdullah and is where Frankel currently stands, said: “On behalf of Prince Khalid’s family, for Frankel to be the first to be inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame is testament to Prince Khalid’s passion and vision for the thoroughbred.

Sheikh Fahad presenting Frankel with British Champions Series Hall Of Fame medal
Sheikh Fahad presenting Frankel with British Champions Series Hall Of Fame medal (British Champions Series)

“It is his legacy that Frankel should be the first horse to be recognised, alongside Lester Piggott, who rode Prince Khalid’s very first winner, Charming Native, to victory at Windsor in May 1979.

“Everyone at Juddmonte is delighted to be a part of this exciting new venture for British racing and thanks Sheikh Hamad and Sheikh Fahad of Qipco for their generous partnership with this prestigious accolade.”

Rod Street, chief executive officer of British Champions Series added: “We are delighted to announce Frankel and Lester Piggott as the very first inductees into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame.

“The Series showcases the world’s finest Flat racing and there have been no greater talents in our sport than the two which we are honouring today.

“Along with Qipco, and the judging panel, we look forward to celebrating racing’s rich history and continuing to honour further greats of the sport through the Hall of Fame initiative.”

Kind dies, aged 20, after complications in foaling

Kind, the dam of unbeaten superstar Frankel, has died due to complications after foaling a colt by Kingman.

The 20-year-old mare gave birth to her colt on March 2, but owners Juddmonte announced her death on Monday.

Kind leaves a substantial legacy with five stallion sons at stud, headed by Frankel – a 10-time Group One winner, who retired in 2011 with a perfect record of 14 wins in as many starts for the late Sir Henry Cecil.

Frankel’s full-brother Noble Mission was a three-time Group One winner – including the 2014 Champion Stakes – while Bullet Train, a half-sibling by Sadler’s Wells, counted a Group Three Derby trial win on his record.

The magnificent Frankel is a lasting legacy of his dam, Kind
The magnificent Frankel is a lasting legacy of his dam, Kind (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Kind’s sons Morpheus and Proconsul also stand at stud, while her daughter Joyeuse and granddaughters Jubiloso and Jovial are in the Juddmonte broodmare band. Her three-year-old Galileo filly Chiasma – a full-sister to Frankel – is currently in training with John Gosden.

Kind, who was twice a Listed winner in her racing days, is on the IFHA’s International List of Protected Names because of her achievements in producing two Group One winners.

Stud director UK Simon Mockridge said: “I cannot thank the Rossdales and Juddmonte team enough for the tireless care they have given Kind.

“To many she will rightfully always be best remembered as the dam of Frankel and Noble Mission – to us at Juddmonte, she will always be Kind by name and Kind by nature.”

Tom Queally hails ‘gentleman’ Khalid Abdullah

Frankel’s rider Tom Queally believes owner-breeder Khalid Abdullah “leaves a legacy which will live on for a long time” following his death on Tuesday.

Queally rode Abdullah’s unbeaten superstar to each of his 14 successes, which included a remarkable 10 Group One triumphs between 2010 and the end the 2012 season.

Frankel was trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, with the handler enjoying a long association and many big-race successes with Abdullah.

The owner continued to send Cecil horses when his fortunes dipped in the early 2000s and Queally underlined Abdullah’s “admirable” loyalty to the trainer.

Frankel retired unbeaten in 14 starts
Frankel retired unbeaten in 14 starts (PA)

He told the PA news agency: “I was very fortunate and lucky to ride dozens of Pattern race winners for Prince Khalid throughout my career.

“He was a gentleman to ride for, his Juddmonte operation has been a huge success and leaves a legacy which will live on for a long time.

“I was very lucky to ride what was arguably his best horse. It was the work of years and years of breeding to produce a horse with the excellence of Frankel.

“His loyalty to Sir Henry Cecil through all the ups and downs was very admirable. That loyal patronage paid off in the best possible way you could have imagined with Frankel.

“He had a great understanding of horses and was very easy to deal with and very approachable.

“It’s a sad day and my thoughts go out to his family and friends and everyone that worked for him.

“I will look back with great pride that I had some involvement with him.”

Quest For Fame returns to the winner's enclosure at Epsom
Quest For Fame returns to the winner’s enclosure at Epsom (PA)

Trainer Roger Charlton provided Abdullah with his first of three victories in the Derby at Epsom in 1990, with Quest For Fame striking gold in the hands of Pat Eddery.

Abdullah went on to claim a second win in the premier Classic with the Cecil-trained Commander In Chief three years later before Sir Michael Stoute’s Workforce triumphed in 2010.

“I think the whole racing industry owes Prince Khalid plenty,” said Charlton.

“My career would not have happened without him – he’s been unbelievably loyal. I think the whole racing industry, from the breeding side to the racing side, all recognise what an amazingly professional operation Juddmonte has become.

“Prince Khalid has always been at the head of the table, he’s made the decisions and his results are there for everybody to see.

“I’ve known him for over 40 years. He was full of charm, humour and passion for his horses.

“Quest For Fame winning seems a long time ago, but that would be the highlight. I was very lucky to train for him.”

Dancing Brave seen here winning the King George at Ascot
Dancing Brave seen here winning the King George at Ascot (PA)

One of the early equine stars for Abdullah was Dancing Brave, who is also widely regarded as one of the greatest horses of all time, having won the 2000 Guineas, the Eclipse and the King George before producing an amazing performance in the Arc.

His trainer, Guy Harwood, said: “I was very fortunate to have enjoyed some wonderful days in Prince Khalid’s early career. In those days he bought horses and he bred them, so I had the best of both worlds.

“I had a lot of success with his really good horses and enjoyed working with him. He was a very fine man.

“We were lucky we had a lot of very good horses together and Prince Khalid took enormous pride in everything he did.”

Zafonic won the 2000 Guineas for Abdullah
Zafonic won the 2000 Guineas for Abdullah (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Top French trainer Andre Fabre won many big races for Abdullah, with such equine stars including Zafonic, Dansili, Rail Link, Flintshire and New Bay.

“It’s a great loss for everyone. Personally he had the sort of charm that made you want to do well for him, though he was a quiet man,” said Fabre.

“I was lucky enough to train a lot of great horses for him. Above all, he was a man that everyone respected and loved. It is bad news.”

Abdullah added Bob Baffert to his roster and the American trainer provided him with Arrogate, winner of the Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup.

“He was definitely one of the titans of racing – a true sportsman,” Baffert told Sky Sports Racing.

“One thing about training for him, he was a gentleman, he was a low-key kind of guy.

“He really trusted his trainers. When I got the word years ago, that Prince Khalid wanted me to buy horses for him as he wanted to try America, it is probably the biggest compliment a trainer in America can get.

“I bought one of the best horses I’ve ever trained for him in Arrogate. As everyone knows not only did he win the Breeders’ Cup and the Travers, but his win in the Dubai World Cup was one of the most exciting races ever.

“He (Abdullah) took care of his people. He was just a really nice man and I just feel fortunate I got to train for him and it was a big boost in my world to say I trained for the Prince.”

Oasis Dream won the July Cup
Oasis Dream won the July Cup (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Richard Hughes was Abdullah’s retained jockey from 2001 to 2007.

“It’s very sad. It was all about the breeding operation. That was the big thing,” he said.

“He was a good man to deal with. He was a private man, he was very straightforward, it was a very professionally run outfit. I had a great time.

“A few of the top horses I rode would be Oasis Dream, Nebraska Tornado and Three Valleys, who was probably the best winner of the Coventry this century.”

Dermot Weld was another to train a host of good winners for Abdullah and described his death as a “huge loss”.

Emulous was a Group One winner for Weld and Abdullah
Emulous was a Group One winner for Weld and Abdullah (Julien Behal/PA)

“I’d like to extend my sympathy firstly to his family and also he is a huge loss to the racing industry, because he was one of the pillars of the bloodstock and breeding industries of the world for the last 50 years,” said Weld.

“He is a man who raced Frankel, Kingman, Enable and he gave us, through his brilliance, these wonderful horses to enjoy.

“Famous Name gave Prince Khalid great enjoyment watching him win. He won 21 races for us of which 20 were Stakes races. I know he was unlucky not to win the French Derby, but those 21 races gave Prince Khalid great enjoyment.

“Emulous was a very good filly I won the Matron with for him.

“When you talk about Juddmonte, you talk about excellence and when you talk about Prince Khalid you talk about loyalty to his trainers. In this changing world, this was a great quality that shone out from the man.”

Prince Khalid Abdullah – the founder of a racing legacy beyond equal

Khalid Abdullah provided the racing world with a platinum legacy as the owner-breeder of a string of equine greats including Enable and Frankel.

Through his breeding operation Juddmonte Farms, the Saudi prince was the driving force behind generations of many of the best horses to grace the turf.

Dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable and unbeaten superstar Frankel lit up the early 21st century, yet were following in the hoofprints of Rainbow Quest, Dancing Brave and Zafonic among a stellar list of mighty Juddmonte forebears.

Equine ancestry was always key for Abdullah, from his first steps into racing more than 40 years ago, as he built up a battalion not merely for the present, but long into the future through home-bred stallions and broodmares.

Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud was born into Saudi Arabian royalty, in 1937, in the Middle East Kingdom’s Mecca Province.

His earliest association with the blue bloods of the turf, however, did not begin until many years later.

A spark was reportedly lit in the most appropriate of surroundings, given exploits to come, on a chance 1950s trip as a young man to Longchamp – home of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s premier middle-distance Flat prize.

Known Fact (right) won the 2000 Guineas in the stewards' room in 1980
Known Fact (right) won the 2000 Guineas in the stewards’ room in 1980 (PA)

Yet history records the first victory in his pink, green and white colours arrived only in May 1979 – courtesy of Charming Native and trainer Jeremy Tree at Windsor.

Major investment was already under way by then – in terms of bloodstock, with real estate to follow – and success at the highest level was swiftly achieved.

Known Fact had been bred for American dirt but put a new, expanding enterprise on the map with victory in the 1979 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket – returning the following spring to win the 2000 Guineas, after the disqualification of Nureyev who had passed the post first by a neck.

No matter, the prince’s outlay was repaid – as it already had been for the first time at Royal Ascot a year earlier with Abeer’s success in the Queen Mary Stakes.

Significant milestones arrived on and off the track in 1982 – with the first home-bred winners and the founding of the Juddmonte banner.

Dancing Brave's exploits in 1986 set the bar high for Juddmonte
Dancing Brave’s exploits in 1986 set the bar high for Juddmonte (PA)

It was to take up residence in due course at renowned farms in Britain, Ireland and America, including Newmarket’s Banstead Manor Stud, home to its top European stallions.

Abdullah’s early racecourse successes were pioneering on behalf of several new fellow owner-breeders from the Middle East – including Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, from the United Arab Emirates.

Coolmore, in Ireland and America, evolved as another powerful rival as a breeding ground for champions.

Juddmonte’s best were elite – and it was Dancing Brave who first set the bar with his remarkable deeds in 1986.

After his Guineas victory, he agonisingly failed to catch Shahrastani in the Derby – but following a brilliant performance in the Eclipse at Sandown, trainer Guy Harwood sent his colt to Ascot’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes to exact emphatic revenge for the Epsom near-miss.

That was little more than half the tale which culminated when Dancing Brave, ridden by Pat Eddery who had replaced injured Greville Starkey at Ascot, produced astonishing late acceleration to mow down the Arc field at Longchamp, mastering one of the best fields ever assembled in Paris.

Juddmonte therefore retained a title won the previous year in the stewards’ room by Rainbow Quest.

Throughout, Abdullah was a notably unassuming presence on the racecourse – allowing the splendid narratives around him to speak for themselves.

His varied, characterful trainers and brilliant racehorses ensured that task was duly fulfilled.

The unblemished career of Frankel was perhaps the finest example.

Frankel after his brilliant 2000 Guineas win, with his victorious connections - including jockey Tom Queally. owner Khalid Abdullan and trainer Sir Henry Cecil
Frankel after his brilliant 2000 Guineas win, with his victorious connections – including jockey Tom Queally, owner Khalid Abdullah and trainer Sir Henry Cecil (PA)

The son of Coolmore’s great sire Galileo was named after Abdullah’s former trainer, the great American Robert ‘Bobby’ Frankel, but was in the care of Sir Henry Cecil – ailing, much-admired doyen of the British ranks – and ridden by stable jockey Tom Queally.

It proved a prolific winning combination which entranced millions, especially after an astonishingly impressive 2000 Guineas victory in 2011 – one of 14 occasions in all, 10 at Group One level, when Frankel proved utterly superior.

When he did so on his penultimate start in the Juddmonte International at York – over his longest trip, 10 and a half furlongs – he pulled off another feat by prompting rare public expression from his owner at victory in the race he sponsored.

“It’s exceptional – I’ve never seen it like that,” Abdullah said in the winner’s enclosure, as he took in the universal goodwill of racegoers – none of whom could have got rich backing the 1-10 favourite.

Other superstars carried the Juddmonte mantle with great distinction.

Zafonic and Pat Eddery lead the field en route to victory in the 1993 2000 Guineas
Zafonic and Pat Eddery lead the field en route to victory in the 1993 2000 Guineas (Fiona Hanson/PA)

They included the mercurial Zafonic, victor in the 1993 Guineas and a brilliant juvenile for Andre Fabre, Commander In Chief – Cecil’s Derby winner in that same year – and late-maturing mare Midday, a six-time Group One heroine.

Arrogate was the most successful globetrotter of all, amassing earnings of over £13.5million largely thanks to his Dubai and Pegasus World Cup victories – flying the flag for his connections’ American base too with a 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic win.

Nonetheless Enable, trained by John Gosden and ridden to all her major triumphs by Frankie Dettori, is Juddmonte’s home-bred queen.

Queen of the turf Enable, with winning jockey Frankie Dettori, after their 2019 Yorkshire Oaks success
Queen of the turf Enable, with winning jockey Frankie Dettori, after their 2019 Yorkshire Oaks success (Nigel French/PA)

A three-time champion owner in Britain – with more than 100 individual top-level winners worldwide – Abdullah was verging on 80 before Enable burst onto the scene.

His homebred superstar racked up a 12-race unbeaten sequence, which took in the Oaks and four more Group Ones in 2017 – lastly in the Arc, displaced at Chantilly.

She did not lose again, including at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, until runner-up to Waldgeist in the Longchamp mud when bidding for a record third Arc in 2019.

Enable’s brilliance and resilience has been a crowning glory, even by Juddmonte’s elite standards, and embodiment of its founder’s vision and ambition.

Seven of the best for Prince Khalid Abdullah

Prince Khalid Abdullah’s famous green, pink and white silks have been carried by some of the greats of the turf. Here we look back at just a handful of his spectacular performers:

Dancing Brave (Guy Harwood)

Dancing Brave won the King George at Ascot in a stellar three-year-old season
Dancing Brave won the King George at Ascot in a stellar three-year-old season (PA)

Dancing Brave was quite simply one of the greatest horses of all time. He won two low-key races at two, but victory in the Craven Stakes launched him into the big time and he then justified favouritism in the 2000 Guineas. He was favourite for the Derby, too, and much has been written about his defeat at Epsom, where he devoured the ground in the straight and just failed to reel in Shahrastani. Dancing Brave went on to win the Eclipse, King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and, after a warm up at Goodwood, produced an amazing performance to sweep down the outside and beat one of the best fields ever assembled in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Enable (John Gosden)

Enable has won 10 Group Ones to date
Enable has won 10 Group Ones to date (Julian Herbert/PA)

It is not difficult to argue a case that Enable is the best racemare Abdullah has ever owned. A 12-race unbeaten run, kicking off in May 2017 and running through to October 2019, encompassing 10 Group One victories, really is the stuff of dreams. Her haul includes the English-Irish Oaks double in 2017, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf and, of course, back-to-back wins in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. She also became the first three-time winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last summer.

Frankel (Sir Henry Cecil)

Frankel spreadeagled his rivals in the 2000 Guineas
Frankel spreadeagled his rivals in the 2000 Guineas (Steve Parsons/PA)

A 14-race career that had not a blemish, and included 10 Group Ones, there is not much new that can be said about Frankel, who might have been the late, great Sir Henry Cecil’s finest work. While possibly not his best performance on the book, his 2000 Guineas demolition job, perfectly accompanied by astonished commentator Ian Bartlett screaming “he’s 15 lengths clear”, will live long in the memory. Having carried all before him at a mile, he stepped up to 10 furlongs and was just as effective, leaving a host of Group One winners in his wake at York in the Juddmonte International, sponsored by his owner.

Zafonic (Andre Fabre)

Zafonic bursts clear to win the 2000 Guineas in 1993
Zafonic bursts clear to win the 2000 Guineas in 1993 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

His spell of brilliance did not last as long as some, but on his day Zafonic was right up with the best. Unfortunately for his connections he was a precocious type and would never hit the heights once promised, but he did win the 2000 Guineas. Unbeaten at two, he won three Group Ones in the Prix Morny, Prix de la Salamandre and the Dewhurst at Newmarket. He lost his unbeaten record first time out at three to Kingmambo, but bolted up back at Newmarket, breaking a long-standing course record. On his only other start he burst a blood vessel in the Sussex Stakes and was subsequently retired.

Commander In Chief (Sir Henry Cecil)

Sir Henry Cecil (left) enjoyed some great days with Khalid Abdullah
Sir Henry Cecil (left) enjoyed some great days with Khalid Abdullah (Phil Cole/PA)

A typical late bloomer. Unraced at two, Commander In Chief even ran in Abdullah’s second colours for his finest hour, when winning the Derby in 1993. Having won three small races, Cecil opted to go for the Derby, a race in which he already had the Abdullah-owned odds-on favourite Tenby. However, the market leader could finish only 10th as Commander In Chief and Mick Kinane charged to an impressive victory. He went on to follow up in the Irish Derby.

Midday (Sir Henry Cecil)

Sir Henry Cecil with Tom Queally and Midday at Goodwood
Sir Henry Cecil with Tom Queally and Midday at Goodwood (Max Nash/PA)

The majestic Midday won just one of her four juvenile outings, but really came into her own as she got older, finishing second in the Oaks at Epsom and third in the Irish equivalent, before bagging her first Group One in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Another six top-level successes were to follow, including two more wins in the Nassau and a day to remember in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

Arrogate (Bob Baffert)

Arrogate has won more prize-money than any other horse
Arrogate has won more prize-money than any other horse (Asuncion Pineyrua/Juddmonte)

Abdullah’s success is far from confined to Europe – and his colours have been carried to many big-race victories in America, where undoubtedly his best performer has been Arrogate. Despite failing to run in any of the Triple Crown races, he was champion three-year-old in 2016 – courtesy of a five-race winning streak culminating in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He then went on to win the inaugural Pegasus World Cup before winning the Dubai World Cup, taking his career earnings to more than £13.5million.

Godolphin dominates opening day of October Yearling Sales

A Dubawi colt out of a daughter of Attraction and a Frankel colt out of Attraction herself – both sold to Godolphin – were among the top lots on the first day of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales in Newmarket.

The Dubawi colt cost Sheikh Mohammed’s operation 2.1 million guineas with the Frankel going for 1.1 million.

The Frankel youngster is a full-brother to the Mark Johnston-trained Elarqam, a six-times winner, including at Group Two level, while the Dubawi colt is out of Cushion, who was trained by John Gosden in her early days before going to America.

Attraction was owned by the late Duke of Roxburgh and the yearlings were bred by his Floors Stud.

An emotional Duchess of Roxburgh said: “This family means a huge amount to us, and Attraction is an absolute heroine, we are all very emotionally attached to her. The Duke adored this Dubawi colt as a foal, so I hope he is watching upstairs!

“I am thrilled for my late husband, who did nothing but dream of Attraction and she has really done us proud. They were two really lovely horses, and they have been since they were foals. My husband always thought they were two of the best he had ever produced – and he has been proven right.”

Of the Frankel colt, Floors Stud manager Chris Gillon added: “It’s absolutely brilliant, absolutely fantastic.

“We loved him as a foal and he came perfect all the way through his prep. He got down here and everything went so well. He is a beautiful-looking colt. He never stopped (having viewings) and (was) so popular with everyone. Just to see him go through the ring and do that – it is the icing on the cake.

“The late Duke saw him as a foal and he loved him and thought he was the best yet that Attraction had had, but for the colt to come here and do exactly that – the Duke will be up there smiling, that’s for sure.

“It is brilliant for everyone involved, the late Duke, the Duchess, everyone, it is brilliant and we couldn’t ask for any more.”

Lot 162 is a half-sister to Derby winner Golden Horn
Lot 162 is a half-sister to Derby winner Golden Horn (Julian Herbert/PA)

Godolphin also went to 2 million guineas for a filly by Frankel out of Fleche d’Or, which makes her a half-sister to Derby and Arc winner Golden Horn.

Anthony Stroud was buying on behalf of Godolphin and said: “She’s very athletic and has a wonderful pedigree – she’s a sister to Golden Horn and by Frankel, who is a wonderful sire. She’s a beautiful mover.

“(Sheikh Mohammed) is the force behind it all, he’s the energy and the drive. He loves it.”

Godolphin purchased three of the top four lots, with a half-brother to Classic winner Galileo Gold earning the distinction of top lot at 2.7 million guineas.

Selling as lot 174 and consigned by Houghton Bloodstock, the Kingman colt was purchased by Oliver St Lawrence Bloodstock.

Monday Musings: A Minor Miracle in the Numbers

Most numbers associated with the last two months of life in the UK, first under the imminent threat, and then quickly the awful reality, of the Coronavirus pandemic have been shocking, writes Tony Stafford. More than 28,000 deaths with at least 75% of them in the 75-and-above age group justifying the Government’s initial and apparently over-the-top strictures that it could be several months before those over 70 could be allowed freely to leave home except under highly-limited conditions.

But one statistic which has been little discussed is the most miraculous. The latest detailed data is up to April 22, showing that 119 NHS staff died from the virus. With more than 1.5 million people working throughout the NHS and a further 350,000, taking in temporary staff and also medical workers in the private sector, that means fewer than 1 in 15,000 have died. That said, many more will have been infected in differing degrees of severity and have recovered.

Considering the exposure to patients in hospitals suffering from the virus – Boris Johnson talked of having up to eight nurses and others attending to him during the most severe stages of his stay in ICU – those 119 deaths are truly miraculous. Approaching 200,000 people have been admitted to hospitals suffering from Covid-19. The overall death rate in the total population is closer to 1 in 2,500. In the NHS 60% of those that have died have been age 50 and above.

Numbers have been the key to the Government’s release of details over the last two months with sensitivities in the media and how it would react to the numbers being paramount. You can only draw that conclusion when upon the figure of 20,000 deaths being reached, even though it was inevitable for some time beforehand, it brought the usual BBC and Piers Morgan blame-game hysteria.

Much has been said about the rights and wrongs of allowing Cheltenham to go ahead. For it to have been cancelled, it would have meant a decision at least a week before the March 10 starting date. At that time, the daily briefings were still two weeks off, and the first figure I have found for daily deaths is the 15 on March 15, two days after Cheltenham finished.

Since the end of March I’ve kept a table of the daily fatalities and until early last week, the highest single number was an admittedly-shocking 980 hospital deaths on April 10. Then last Tuesday, with figures clearly on a downward curve among people dying in hospital, for the first time the increasing proportion of fatalities in care homes and elsewhere was included. Now April 10 is revealed to have had an even higher overall number, 1,152, one of eight days when the total death toll exceeded 1,000.

It’s still horrendous, but when the Government’s reaction to the situation initially instructed people to stay home, no single day had yet brought more than the 43 deaths, on Wednesday March 19, by which time I, and many in my advanced age group, was already locked away. The first three-figure “score” was the 149 on Monday March 24 but by eight days later it was 670 and soon after it reached those eight thousand-plus spikes.

As racing fans we’ve been denied so much normal action where, in my case, reading a book every two days, catching up on television and our once-a-week walk were only partial consolation; although somehow I’m almost a stone lighter! But then an hour on Racing TV yesterday brought home the frustration of our missing the scheduled Guineas meeting over last weekend.

It was great to see the last 30 years of what is probably the most significant race in the selection of stallions. Not all of them won the race, notably Dubawi, only fifth in his year to Footstepsinthesand, and both Kingman and Australia just a few years ago, stumped late on by Night of Thunder despite the winner’s across-the-course wanderings in the last 150 yards.

We saw Sea The Stars denying my 33-1 win only ante-post bet on Delegator and Camelot’s narrow defeat of formerly Ray Tooth-owned French Fifteen in two thrillers, but still pride of place goes to the extraordinary Frankel, off like a scalded cat under Tom Queally and thereafter never closer to his pursuers than his six-length winning margin over Galileo Gold. In 14 unbeaten runs, this highest-rated horse of all time gets my vote over another Guineas hero, Brigadier Gerard from the 1970’s, and Sea Bird II, a brilliant Derby winner from my youth a decade earlier. Can Frankel’s romp really have been nine years ago?

The timely reminder of the pre-eminence of that race comes with racing deriving positive vibes from recent meetings with Government. May 15 is now being suggested as a likely starting point with Lingfield close to London and Newcastle in the north providing the initial hubs for behind-closed-doors sport. Both have hotels, in the case of Lingfield, part of the grandstand, while Newcastle’s well-appointed Gosforth Park Hotel is a walk along the avenue of rhododendrons which always brightens the spring and especially the summer meetings there.

My first visit to Newcastle was in my Press Association days to cover a jumps meeting one May Bank Holiday in the early 1970’s. Arthur Stephenson dominated the card that early evening and I still remember the leisurely stroll down after lunch in the hotel and the surprising discovery that the horses had gone out of sight behind the trees down the far side. I found it difficult to find them again when they came back into view.

Racing has advantages over other sports in that you need not be there to get the impression that you are; in fact sometimes you get only a limited view of the race compared with viewers at home. A commentator’s crescendo as the horses near the line is much more vital than any crowd noise. The big races that have continued in Hong Kong and Australia without the public have given the UK authorities a blueprint of why and how it should be possible, while as I’ve said before, it must help that the Health Secretary’s East Anglian constituency includes Newmarket.

I haven’t been able to check this fact, but one friend yesterday told me that the Minister is also godfather to one of John Gosden and Rachel Hood’s children. If it is true that can’t hurt either.

The ambitious plan for two weekends of Group races in the lead up to the revised proposed Guineas meeting on the first Saturday of June means that if racing does get the go-ahead, it will start with a flourish. The bookmakers will do wonderful business and I can imagine action-starved horse racing enthusiasts jamming the phone lines and internet connections to get on.

Bookmakers do not always get the best of press coverage, but I was gladdened to hear last week that the 2019-20 Levy yield at £97 million is £2 million higher than the top estimated figure. It seems to make the BHA’s “promise” of races at reduced prize money more than niggardly. Apart from the better races, foreign owners laugh at what’s on offer here day to day. As trainers and owners will tell you, the one thing that never reduces are BHA and Weatherbys’ administration costs.

But in these times, I prefer to take a glass half-full attitude rather than the faux-combative criticism of Government. The Nightingale hospitals haven’t really been needed and within the awful figures, at least one miracle – those 119 deaths where thousands were being predicted – exists whatever the point-scoring after-timers think.

- TS