Five years on: how Frankel settled into his stallion career
Martin Stevens on the first steps of the champion's life at stud
Frankel was due to cover the first mares in his stallion career on February 15, 2013. Five years on, we republish an article printed that day outlining his early steps at Banstead Manor Stud
Frankel's new career as a stallion begins in earnest today, with the unbeaten ten-time Group 1 winner set to cover his first mare at his new home of Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket.
The first mating will be with fellow Khalid Abdullah homebred Midday, who gave birth to her first foal, a colt by Frankel's sire Galileo, last month. For safety reasons, Frankel's first foray into the breeding shed is a liaison with a mare who has already foaled and had experience of being covered.
Frankel is getting a gentle introduction to breeding. He will start off covering one mare a day, which will escalate to three when he gets the hang of the job - one at around 8am, one at around midday and one at around 4pm, with timings decided by Banstead Manor manager Simon Mockridge. There will be around 130 mares to serve between now until early summer, including 60 Group 1 winners or producers, or both in the cases of Zee Zee Top and Zomaradah.
As Frankel's activity in the breeding shed increases, his daily exercise of a seven-mile walk around the farm will drop off. The regime has been an important first step towards becoming a stallion.
Juddmonte general manager Philip Mitchell said: "The walks instil a level of discipline in the horse; he walks around the farm and becomes acquainted with his surroundings and settled in himself. He has noticed mares he has passed on his walks but it's important he learns his only serious interest in them comes in the covering yard."
The end of Frankel's covering season will be decided by breeders, who are entitled to send their mare to the stallion as many times when she is in season as necessary for her to be confirmed in foal. As the gestation period of a thoroughbred is around 11 months and most breeders would want a Flat-bred foal to be born by May at the latest, Frankel is unlikely to cover many mares beyond Royal Ascot in June.
Frankel's book was full by the Tattersalls foal and breeding-stock sales in the first week of December. By way of comparison, it took until Christmas for Juddmonte to put up the fully booked sign for his premier league studmates Dansili and Oasis Dream, who have sired 20 Group 1 winners between them.
A reflection of how Frankel captured the imagination of breeders worldwide is the distinctly international flavour of his book. Japanese champion racemare Vodka is in there and there is a strong American contingent, including Zenyatta's half-sister Balance and other stateside Grade 1 winners Dynaforce, Eden's Moon, Heat Haze, Icon Project and In Lingerie.
Mitchell is not surprised by the vote of confidence from US breeders. "They have bought his three-parts brother and lead horse Bullet Train to stand in Kentucky and besides that I think the whole world was in awe of his ability as a racehorse - and his soundness," he said.
A decision on whether Frankel will cover mares to southern-hemisphere time will be taken in April or May, when it is clear how he has coped with his first European book. Those mares would be shipped back south of the equator to foal so their progeny would be eligible to run in southern-hemisphere two- and three-year-old races. There has reportedly been strong demand for Frankel's services from Australian and New Zealand breeders.
Considering Frankel's own exceptional ability and the illustrious roll-call of mares set to visit him, expectations will be high for his first crop of runners. Mitchell is hopeful, but realistic.
"My belief is that a stallion's chances of making it are more than half - possibly around 60 to 70 per cent - dependent on the mares he is sent," he said. "So Frankel has more of a chance than most because he's getting such a world-class book.
"I'm not suggesting he'll get a horse as good as himself, but he doesn't have to do that to prove himself a very good stallion.
"We don't feel more pressure on us with Frankel. For us it's just as important that Bated Breath [who also begins his stallion career at Banstead Manor Stud this week] is a success."
Many of Frankel's first mares will be in the ownership of owner-breeders, so his few commercially bred offspring will be expected to command sky-high prices at the sales. His first foals will go under the hammer next year and yearlings in 2015, while Mitchell expects racegoers to see the first two-year-olds around the time of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
"I wouldn't expect them to be early types," Mitchell said. "The first will probably appear from Royal Ascot onwards and more likely from September. Trainers will know they are dealing with horses of tremendous value and will have every respect - they won't force them."
All the forecasts for Frankel's stallion career hang on him successfully impregnating a mare. He has already demonstrated he has the appetite and the capability by covering a test mare last week.
"He did it with the professionalism he always showed in his racing career," Mitchell said. "He knows what is expected and we have huge confidence in him. But the only proper test is if he gets a mare in foal."
As with all of Juddmonte's major stallions, Frankel is insured against mortality but not against infertility. A disaster on the scale of George Washington, who got only one mare in foal before being returned to the racecourse, is not even contemplated at Banstead Manor Stud.
"We don't think about that," Mitchell said.
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