These days, when talk turns to Frankel its about his remarkable success rate as a breeding stallion – he has produced dozens of progeny, with many of them going on to win big races in their own right.
Is it any wonder that Frankel’s stud fee has been increased to a whopping £350,000 a turn? That rate went up on the back of a stellar 2023 season, in which he made more than £67 million for his connections!
Thanks to those post-racing exploits, it’s perhaps easy to forget just how successful Frankel was out on the track in his heyday. That’s become more of a talking point since City of Troy, perhaps the finest horse still in racing today (at the time of writing), was awarded an official rating of 125 – just 1lb shy of Frankel’s all-time high of 126.
What City of Troy goes on to achieve in the sport only time will tell, although he’ll have some way to go to match or better the Group 1 winning ways of Frankel, who was simply untouchable in an unbeaten 14-race career.
So is Frankel the greatest racehorse of all time?
Which Horse Has Won the Most Group 1 Races?
Of all the various measures of success for a horse’s career on the Flat, ranking their haul of Group 1 victories – in theory, the highest echelon of racing – is perhaps a useful place to start.
It should be noted at this point that Frankel was retired at the end of his four-year-old season – there’s a chance he may have missed out on further Group 1 victories down the line. Therefore, there’s something of a question mark, rather than an exclamation point, against his big race tally.
Even so, Henry Cecil’s horse still racked up ten Group 1 wins, they were:
Frankel’s Group 1 Victories
|20th Oct 2012
|22nd Aug 2012
|1st Aug 2012
|19th Jun 2012
|Queen Anne Stakes
|19th May 2012
|15th Oct 2011
|Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
|27th July 2011
|14th Jun 2011
|St James’s Palace Stakes
|30th Apr 2011
|16th Oct 2010
There’s another caveat too. All of Frankel’s runs came on British and Irish soil, at a level that might be described by some as the absolute pinnacle of racing. Others on the list of top Group 1 winners have raced in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, where it might be argued that the big races lack the same depth of quality in their fields.
Nevertheless, leading the way in this particular league table is the extraordinary Winx, the Australian horse whose haul of 25 Group 1 wins is so good she even has a page dedicated to her in the Guinness World Records.
The naysayers – or neighsayers, if you prefer – would argue that many of Winx’s Group 1 victories came in races that are exclusively for fillies and mares only, which inflates her tally compared to male horses that have to compete in open racing.
Special mention must therefore be made of Hurricane Fly, who before Winx came along actually held the record for the most Grade 1 (the equivalent of Group 1) victories in the history of the sport.
The hurdler, whose career was overseen by the legendary Willie Mullins, won eleven different incarnations of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, Leopardstown and Punchestown, racking up 22 Grade 1 wins in all.
The top three of the most prolific Group 1 winners of all time is rounded out by the duo of John Henry and Kauto Star. The former campaigned largely in the United States in the 1980s, winning 16 Grade 1 races (as well as a remarkable 39 at all grades) such as the Arlington Million and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Kauto Star, meanwhile, was an outstanding chaser who won many of the National Hunt’s most prestigious prizes, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup (twice), the Ascot Chase and the King George VI Chase a remarkable five times in all.
Which Racehorse Has Won the Most Prize Money?
There is some conjecture as to the accuracy of the all-time prize money list.
Different amounts won are listed by various sources, and that’s before we even dig deeper and examine the nature of the prize money accrued – a horse with a long career running at a lower grade may have won more cash for connections than a premier thoroughbred with a much shorter span of action.
Even so, there’s no doubt that Frankel WON’T feature on the all-time money list. He earned his owner, Khalid Abdullah, just shy of £3 million from his racing career – very nice work if you can get it.
But that amount is dwarfed by those that have won the richer races that can be found in America, Asia and Oceania. Golden Sixty is one such example. Still racing at the time of writing, the Hong Kong based horse has won a mammoth £16.7 million in prize money from a record of 26 wins – no runner in HK has ever won more.
Victories in the Hong Kong Gold Cup, Champions Mile, Jockey Club Mile and Stewards’ Cup have helped to swell the coffers of owner Stanley Chan Ka Leung, and it was a third consecutive triumph in the Champions Mile in 2023 that ultimately saw Golden Sixty surpass Winx (£15.5 million) as the horse with the most prize money accrued in history.
In third place in the standings is the Japanese horse Orfevre, who won his domestic Triple Crown as well as twice finishing second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. There’s no doubt that the mammoth prize funds in Japan have helped to inflate Orfevre’s career haul, but at the same time there can be no doubt that he was a premier performer too.
The British horse to have claimed the most prize money is Enable, who won eleven Group 1 outings around the globe including the Oaks, King George, Arc and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. That earned her Juddmonte Farms connections a handy £10.6 million.
And so Frankel is nowhere to be seen on the list of prize money champions, although his short career – and an absence of money-spinning overseas racing – ultimately put paid to those chances anyway.
Who is the Highest Rated Racehorse?
Because there are different ratings authorities, each with their own specific grading criteria, there is no single highest-rated racehorse.
However, there has typically been consensus on one thing: Frankel is amongst the very best ever to grace the track.
The Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, known by the challenging acronym of LWBRR, is perhaps the single ratings system that is most of interest in the sport. Developed over decades, this uses the grading of racing officials and handicappers from around the globe to come up with a uniform numerical metric.
First published in 1977, the LWBRR gained most prominence in the nineties when horses predominantly racing in the United States and Japan were added into the equation for the first time.
The Longines team rank horses in each of the various racing disciplines, before the horse with the highest overall rating is considered the world’s best for that year. Only two animals have ever won the annual LWBRR award twice: Arrogate and Frankel.
Arrogate won two of the most prestigious races on the planet in consecutive years: the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2016 and the Dubai World Cup a year later, while Frankel’s domestic domination saw him crowned the highest-rated horse in 2011 and 2012.
Interestingly, only two horses have ever received a Longines rating as high as 140: Frankel and Flightline, the latter having been retired in 2022 with a perfect 6-0 record – including victories in top-class renewals such as the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pacific Classic.
Another of the premier ratings authorities is Timeform, who have devised their own ranking criteria which date back to the 1960s. Crucially, their historic ratings are continuously updated to ensure that horses of all generations can be compared on an equal footing.
Once again, it’s Frankel that comes out on top. His rating of 147 is the highest ever handed out by Timeform to a Flat horse, eclipsing legends of the sport such as Brigadier Gerard, Mill Reef and Shergar – as well as being eight points higher than Arrogate.
So when you amalgamate the findings of what are considered to be the two most respected ratings systems in racing, it’s clear that Frankel deserves his place at the head of the conversation of who is the best ever.
Which Horse Has the Most Consecutive Group 1 Wins?
Earlier on we looked at the horses which had won the most Group 1 races – always a handy marker of quality.
But what about when we consider the most consecutive Group 1 renewals won – a sure sign of a horse that has dominated their discipline within the sport.
Frankel delivered nine straight Grade 1 victories for his connections, as did Hurricane Fly and the American horse Zenyatta. Winx came in with a perfect ten, but it’s Honeysuckle – Henry de Bromhead’s popular mare typically ridden by Rachael Blackmore – that leads the all-time charts with eleven.
She dominated the hurdling circuit in the late 2010s and into the 2020s, winning three consecutive editions of the Irish Champion Hurdle and two each of the British and Punchestown versions, as well as serving up two wins in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – all told, Honeysuckle made owner Kenny Alexander a cool £1.3 million in prize money.
Who is the Most Successful Sire of All Time?
Even accounting for your chosen measure of success, it’s highly likely that Frankel will be somewhere near the front and centre when it comes to determining your leading racehorse of all time.
As he enjoys retirement at stud in the village of Cheveley, Frankel is building another legacy – this time as a breeding stallion, passing on his all-time great genetics to the next generation of horses.
Pedigree and bloodlines are often so instructive when it comes to predicting the quality of a racehorse. You might think that Frankel is simply a one-off: a winning machine who was made, rather than born. But his success was born from a specially curated breeding programme, with the likes of Sadler’s Wells, Danehill and Northern Dancer – some of the most prolific creators of champion horses – in his immediate bloodline.
There is an annual award given to the leading sire, with the prize money of their progeny added up to determine which horse sired the most prolific winners in that particular season. The top sire in this category is Sadler’s Wells, the grand-sire of Frankel, whose offspring dominated the 1990s and the start of the new millennium.
Sadler’s Wells is a 14-time champion sire, followed by Highflyer (13 wins back in the 1700s), Galileo and Sir Peter Teazle.
Horse racing prize money has typically been increasing over time in line with inflation, so Galileo’s modern-day dominance sees him as Britain’s most prolific sire….ahead of his own old man, Sadler’s Wells. Between 2008 and 2020, Galileo’s offspring – who include Frankel, Waldgeist and Minding to name but three – won more than £85 million in prize money combined.
Of course, it takes two to tango, and while a stallion can father hundreds of racehorses over his breeding ‘career’, for mares that number falls to around 10-15 at best – and is typically even lower.
So broodmares are, by their nature, less prolific when it comes to producing champion racehorses. Kind, who gave birth to Frankel, also bred his younger brother, Noble Mission, with Galileo. He, like his big brother, was a Group 1 winner of the Champion Stakes, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
And Frankel’s grandmother, for want of a better expression, was Urban Sea. She won the Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe in her own right, before giving birth to two Derby winners in Galileo and Sea the Stars – the only broodmare to have a pair of Derby champions amongst her progeny since the dawn of the new millennium.
Like we say, there’s no secret to quality breeding in horse racing….hence why Frankel and the 2022 champion sire, Dubawi, are priced at £350,000 for each stud session!
Owners of broodmares and breeding operations will be falling over themselves to pair their mare with Frankel, whose progeny are already starting to produce results now that more and more of his fathered offspring are taking to racing.
Punters have also been taking note. In middle-distance races on European soil in 2023, Frankel’s offspring won a cool £5.3 million in prize money – an incredible win rate of 36% from all races entered.
Here’s a look at various categories of horses sired by Frankel, and how much prize money they earned in 2023:
Leading the way was Westover, who was retired in 2023 after a career which saw him win the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, amongst other races, and command a Timeform rating of 132. He too has been retired to stud, which will keep the Frankel DNA pipeline operational.
There were also notable victories for Chaldean (2000 Guineas), Soul Sister (Epsom Oaks), Inspiral (Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mares Turf), Nashwa (Falmouth Stakes), Hurricane Lane (Jockey Club Stakes) and Mostahdaf (International Stakes) in 2023, with many juvenile horses bred by Frankel set to hit the turf in 2024.
The legacy of Frankel, one of the greatest racehorses in history, will continue to live on for a number of years to come.