Of Frankel and a new-born foal
THAT life, death and renewal are coupled on the tote was affirmed on a fine day this week.
The galloping of racehorse Frankel seemed like a life force - a gravity-defying, irresistible affirmation of vigour. Watching and marvelling at this great creature's power was his doting trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, who is fighting a battle with cancer.
Frankel is named after another trainer, American Bobby Frankel, who also worked for the horse's billionaire owner, Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah, and died of leukaemia in 2009.
Frankel was labelled the greatest European thoroughbred of modern times, and perhaps ever, after 12 consecutive victories on British racetracks.
But a grain of doubt lingered about his legend, as the four-year-old colt had never been tested beyond a mile (1600m).
The doubt was blown to the four winds in Wednesday's Juddmonte International Stakes over 2100m at York.
Frankel was slowly away from the start and jockey Tom Queally allowed him to tarry near the tail of the field as it whipped at a lick around the Knavesmire turf. As the runners turned into the finishing straight, the world drew breath: would Frankel make up 10 lengths? Would he have the stamina to match moves by smart horses like St Nicholas Abbey and Farhh?
I'm not sure anyone quite saw it, it happened so fast. Suddenly things were rearranged, as in a dream. From being several lengths off the pace, Frankel was abreast of the leaders.
Jockeys all around were pumping arms forward and back, horses off the bridle, and in the midst of it stood Queally quietly in his irons, a great force flowing beneath him.
Then Queally shook the reins.
The race commentator barely got out a choked yell about "poetry and destruction, power and majesty!" before it was over. Jaws dropped. Frankel had won by seven lengths. Thirty metres from the line it seemed the lead margin was two lengths, such was the acceleration.
The horse was not for turning either. It took Queally half a mile to get him to stop running, turn him around and return to wild adulation in the grandstand.
We're in the last days of the racing life of the amazing Frankel, with the colt likely to compete just once more before being retired to stud. But the sad, premature loss to racing brings new life to the breeding sector. It's hoped Frankel will fashion in his image, though we cannot expect his offspring to be quite as good as him.
In a paddock far away, a foal, just hours old, blinked curiously at the world. Perhaps the excited chatter of that racing commentary wafted across on a cool breeze from the farm homestead and the little one wondered at its meaning. Would he be part of such drama one day?
I'm certainly hoping the portents are good for my newest arrival, a sturdy colt born on the day of the greatest triumph of his distant relative.
VAAL, TOMORROW: PA - 4 x 2 x 2,8 x 4,6 x 1,2 x 3,6,9 x 8,11,12 (R72)