The web slang is GOAT, short for greatest-of-all-time. It has the merit of brevity if not grace. It is also terminally imprecise. By definition anyone or anything that gets the GOAT label is in receipt of a subjective opinion. And that’s all. Just thought I’d put that out there in the face of all the definitives about Frankel right now.
Maybe Frankel is the GOAT. Maybe he isn’t. Arguing about it can be fun, especially over a drink or two. But no one knows for certain because it’s an unknowable subject. And you might not realise that judged by some of the coverage of Frankel’s Champion Stakes victory.
Maybe everyone got caught up in the emotion of the moment. It can happen. Just three years ago, Sea The Stars was the GOAT after he won the Arc. That wasn’t definitive either, although you’d hardly have known it at the time. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he still is, maybe he isn’t.
Maybe Sea Bird still is, or Ribot, or Mill Reef. Bringing Secretariat into it though is dirty pool. That’s like trying to compare the merits of a rugby union star to a rugby league player; just impossible. And the medication issue in America dulls the waters even more. But you get the point. Playing the GOAT is fun but a bit like the Kilkenny football team – pointless.
This isn’t a contrarian attempt to pee on the Frankel parade. He is without doubt one of the names that will always swirl around the GOAT pot. That Queen Anne victory might just be the most awesome single performance ever seen. But the ‘might’ is important.
Officialdom, through the international handicappers, believes the most awesome single performance they’ve seen remains Dancing Brave’s Arc. Timeform believe different. Who’s to say who’s right. The handicappers get it wrong. So do Timeform. Windy City is their highest ever ranked Irish trained horse. Windy who?
None of which matters a jot, except if language has a purpose it is to convey information and determinedly stating Frankel is the best ever is fine in terms of opinion but not so if it is presented as bald fact. Sorry to be a pedant, but there you go.
And one more Frankel thing: there seems to be general acceptance that retirement was inevitable at the weekend. But why?
Presumably Khalid Abdullah ain’t short of a bob. Equally presumably the entire Juddmonte operation is built around creating exceptional talent. So why not keep the most exceptional talent of all around for as long as possible? Enjoy him while you can.
Especially since there remains a sense of what more Frankel might have achieved at ten furlongs, maybe even a mile and a half, as a five year old. What for instance did winning the Sussex Stakes prove this year? Surely a tilt at the Eclipse would have revealed more, giving the colt another outing at a longer trip at which he obviously excels.
There was no sign of any erosion of his talents or enthusiasm at the weekend, and he will be a long time retired. Racing may be only one side of the flat industry coin, but still; a sense of regret remains.
It would be nice to be able to say the same about BBC television’s disappearance from terrestrial racing coverage. Champions Day was their last flat card. The last National Hunt fixture will be in December. For those raised on the authoritative tones of Peter O’Sullevan and Julian Wilson it will be a pity, but the Beeb’s desultory attitude to the game has been established for some years now.
Again, everyone’s opinion is different and maybe the modern-day Clare & Willie show was entertaining for some. But one thing you can’t say is that the authority of yore was exuded. Cackling empathy maybe, but not much editorial rigour. And if the state broadcaster can’t provide that, then it’s missing out big time.
What odds Godolphin will miss out big time on Frankie Dettori?
If the boys in blue genuinely believed piking Barzalona and De Sousa into the jockey mix wouldn’t undercut Dettori’s authority then they were guilty of real naivety. So presumably they feel the Italian is yesterday’s news. That looks a dangerous presumption.
Almost as dangerous in fact as Paddy Power’s 6-4 price about Dettori riding a Group 1 winner in Britain or Ireland next year. A motivated Dettori takes some stopping, and if the Power quote of 4-1 about him being the Ballydoyle No.1 in 2013 has any basis, then Group 1’s are damn near inevitable.
A motivated Dettori also remains the best in the business. But that’s not fact; just opinion.
And finally, Big Buck’s V Rite Of Passage in the World Hurdle? That’s a prospect to make the winter seem not quite so long.