Top 10 Most Popular Horses: Unbeaten Frankel storms into 2nd place

2nd: Frankel
2nd: Frankel

Our countdown of the Most Popular Horses In The 21st Century is nearing the end, but just missing out on top spot and grabbing a credible second place is the Sir Henry Cecil-trained Frankel, who was a phenomenon during his unbeaten career on the Flat...

At Warren Place on the morning of August 13, 2010, an exciting two-year-old was being loaded on to the horsebox and sent to Newmarket's July Course. A beautifully bred colt out of Galileo and Kind, Frankel was duly making his racecourse debut, and while his trainer Sir Henry Cecil must've known he had a smart performer on his hands, what was to happen over the next few years on the track would be legendary.

Sent off a 7/4 favourite for his debut, Frankel bumped into a future King George and Group 1 winner Nathaniel and the pair served up an almighty tussle, but it was to be Frankel that prevailed and he had kicked off his career on a winning note. Impressive, but far from flashy that day, the rest of his juvenile campaign saw him obliterate his rivals with consummate ease, and he would duly rocket to an official rating in the mid-120s by the end of 2010.

A facile 13-length win in a Doncaster conditions event enhanced Cecil's idea that he had a real exciting prospect, and he then elected to send him into his first Group contest. A field of five lined up for the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes, which was run at Ascot, but Frankel, under Tom Queally (rode the superstar throughout his whole career) won at a hack canter, as he sauntered clear of his rivals to win by a runaway 10 lengths.

Now, the world began to watch this exhilarating colt, who possessed a glorious long stride, and was a two-year-old that appeared to just maintain a fierce gallop. Ending 2010 in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, Frankel would lock horns with some of the premier youngsters in training in the seven furlong event. But, yet again he dispatched his rivals with a sheer ease that saw him beat Roderic O'Connor by nearly three lengths. Four races and four wins had launched Frankel to the top of the tree in the two-year-old division, and it would be all systems go for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket the following May.

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Most Iconic Performance

A return in April saw him line up at Newbury for the Group 2 Greenham Stakes, where he would show that he had trained on spectacularly, as he cruised to a four-length win over the Aidan O'Brien-trained Excelebration, who would turn into a long term rival throughout his career.

But, Cecil had his sights firmly set on Newmarket and the 2000 Guineas, so having blown the cobwebs away at Newbury, Frankel - who was five from five at this point - was all the rage in the betting heading to the Group 1 Classic, but what racegoers were to witness that day at Flat HQ will be remembered for decades to come.

Sent off a 1/2 favourite, Frankel broke from stall 1, and with the pace a little slower than he liked, Queally opted to let Frankel stroll to the lead. With his intended pacemaker Rerouted unable to hand him the lead he wanted, Queally took things into his own hands and let Frankel find a rhythm on the front end, but as they hit the halfway mark, Cecil's superstar was an astonishing ten-lengths clear of his adversaries. With a host of jockeys in behind getting lower in the saddle, as they attempted to bridge the gap with the leader, Frankel pulled further and further clear and as they entered the final two furlongs he was 15 lengths clear.

An open-mouthed audience watched poetry in motion, as Frankel continued to power it on out front, and while Dubawi Gold (second) and Native Khan (third) tried to reel in the Warren Place raider, Frankel maintained a healthy advantage, and he went on to win by a scintillating six lengths. Classics weren't supposed to be won that way, but the manner in which Frankel dispatched of some top class rivals just highlighted the fact that a superstar was performing right in front of our eyes, and what a joy it was!

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Returning to the track six weeks later for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Frankel arguably had his toughest day on a racecourse, as having kicked well clear of his rivals again in that contest, he began to tie up in the closing stages, but Queally managed to find enough under his mount to beat the staying-on Zoffany by three-quarters-of-a-length.

A marquee campaign continued at Glorious Goodwood that summer, as he took part in a memorable 'Duel On The Downs' with the Richard Hannon-trained four-year-old Canford Cliffs. A real top-class miler himself, Canford Cliffs had won the Queen Anne Stakes the month previous at Royal Ascot, but giving weight away to the up-and-coming superstar in Frankel, Canford Cliffs was unable to deal with Cecil's raider, who obliterated his rival by five lengths.

Locking horns with the aforementioned Excelebration in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on British Champions Day in October 2011, Frankel was to make his last racecourse visit as a three-year-old, but he duly went out on a winning note to extend his unbeaten record to nine out of nine!

Frankel Stats

Excitement reverberated around the racing world when owner Prince Khalid Abdullah elected to keep Frankel in training, and his four-year-old season would prove to be similar to those before. Dominant victories that saw him become the highest rated racehorse of all time.

Making his hotly-anticipated return in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, Frankel maintained his reputation as the one mile king, as he eased to victory that day, while wins in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and a second win the Sussex Stakes saw him reign supreme in the eight furlong division.

But, there were some questioning whether or not he could do the business over 1m 2f, and Cecil elected to throw the dice and send him to York's Ebor Festival for the Juddmonte International Stakes. Taking on the proven top-class middle distance runner in the shape of Aidan O'Brien's St Nicholas Abbey, Frankel arguably improved for the step up in trip, as turning for home on the Knavesmire he sauntered to the front a couple of furlongs from home - leaving St Nicholas Abbey in his wake - and he went on to romp to a seven-length win over Farhh.

Now 13 out of 13, Frankel would make his farewell appearance at the 2012 British Champions Day at Ascot, where he would remain over 1m 2f and take on the French superstar Cirrus Des Aigles in the Champion Stakes. Handed soft conditions that day, the 2/11 favourite was made to work by the European rival, but Frankel found enough in reserve to bow out at the very top, and a career spanning three magnificent years ended in tremendous fashion.

Dominant throughout his career, Frankel well and truly captured the public's heart, as his bond with Sir Henry Cecil was sensational, but ultimately it was his performances on the track that blew you away. A rapid cruising speed twinned with the ability to quicken in a matter of strides saw rivals peel away with regularity, and now having become a tremendous sire, Frankel's legacy shall live on through his progeny, but his career on the track will last for years to come.

Ranking so far:

10 - Native River

9 - Sea The Stars

8 - Tiger Roll

7 - Hurricane Fly

6 - Enable

5 - Sprinter Sacre

4 - Faugheen

3 - Denman

Today's Horse Racing Tips
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