With a Timeform rating of 147, unbeaten champion Frankel is rated as the greatest racehorse ever.
Now, the five-year-old stallion is facing perhaps his greatest test, as he marks the start of what the team hope will be a £200 million life at stud.
Success at stud is by no means guaranteed no matter how great a horse’s race track performance has been. Quickly comes to mind is another former unbeaten champion Lammtarra.
In his 3YO season, the Godolphin-owned Lammtarra won three Group One races in 1995 and was voted the Cartier Three-Year-Old European Champion Colt. He won the Epsom Derby in record time, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Eventually he was sold to Japanese breeders for $30 million to stand at Arrow Stud in the Hidaka area for a stud fee of £30,000. His offspring met with very limited success as he had only ever sired 6 stakes winners, and his fee was reduced later to £2,500.
Although Frankel’s fertility is unproven, breeders from around the world are queuing up with blue-blooded mares to visit the stallion at his new home, Banstead Manor in Newmarket, his Saudi owner Prince Khalid Abdullah’s stud just a few kilometres from the stables where the equine superstar spent his racing career with trainer Sir Henry Cecil. So much so that Frankel has been fully booked for the next three years.
For each encounter, or ”cover” by Frankel, the fee is £125,000. He could cover up to three mares a day, making the son of Galileo the most valuable stallion in the world.
Grimthorpe, together with the stud managers, are carefully monitoring which mares make the grade.
”The demand is huge because Frankel is a worldwide phenomenon, as well known in Australia, Japan and America as he is in England,” he said. ”But not just any mare can come and see him. We look carefully at pedigree and the quality of a mare’s performance.”
German mare Danedream, winner of the 2011 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is booked in, as is Japanese champion Vodka, and Oatsee from the US, considered among the world’s finest broodmares.
Even connections of champion sprinter Black Caviar have been mentioning about a possible future mating with Frankel.
Mares meeting Frankel will be brought to nearby stables where they will be monitored daily so they are presented during the optimum period for conception.
The breeding season runs from February 14 to July 14, and Frankel is expected to cover 135 mares, 35 of which will be Prince Khalid’s.
Philip Mitchell, Banstead’s general manager, is hopeful. ”You never know, there are some stallions who can wander into the yard, look up at the roof and count the sparrows. It’s unknown territory for us all. You’re never really sure if you have the chicken that lays the golden egg. But this horse is probably the best horse we have ever seen,” he said.
”We would like to think that if Frankel saw some mares in the distance, he would be taking a natural interest. I’m sure that he’ll be all male.”
By Owens Wong