Frankel still on the brink but second crop keeping him on a roll
Nelson is Moonstone's fifth black-type winner from five starters
This weekend always had the look of a crossroads for Frankel, with a series of good chances to break his Group 1 duck in Europe – not to mention the prospect of a son forcing himself into Arc consideration, with Cracksman measuring his progress at Chantilly on Sunday.
True, by only managing third in Ireland on Saturday evening, Eminent passed the Group 1 buck onto Lady Frankel and Rostropovich on Sunday. Indeed, this was a day for his record-breaking sire to remind Frankel who remains the daddy, with Galileo responsible for both Hydrangea and Decorated Knight. Win, lose or draw, however, there had already been renewed momentum at Leopardstown behind a young stallion of whom expectations – thanks to the combined quality of his own first career, and the mares enlisted to assist his second – are unsparingly giddy.
To some, indeed, Frankel's first books were so strong that judgement has been reserved despite a Group-winners-to-foals ratio of ten per cent in his initial crop, now three-year-olds. They compare the way a sire like Dark Angel has had to graft his way to the top, hauling his fee all the way from €7,000 to €65,000; and producing Harry Angel (who confirmed his elite calibre at Haydock on Saturday) off a €12,500 cover.
As such, both camps could take a view of the fact that the first two races on the card were won by members of Frankel's second crop. On the one hand, here were two more youngsters apparently born to run, much like Herculean at Ascot the previous afternoon; on the other, both were out of Group 1 winners.
First up was Lightening Quick, the second foal out of Marju's Cheveley Park Stakes winner Lightening Pearl. Her first, likewise by Frankel and trained for breeders Qatar Racing by Ger Lyons, has won a couple of mile handicaps; while her Japanese brother Satono Crown beat Highland Reel in Hong Kong last December and recently won a second Group 1 on home soil. Further back it is the family of My Emma and Classic Cliche.Nelson become Frankel's 16th stakes winner in the Group 3 Willis Towers Watson Champions Juvenile Stakes.
After clearing away into the straight Nelson conserved a three-length advantage over two stablemates, both sons of Galileo. The way Kew Gardens and Delano Roosevelt stayed on, from off the pace, would augur well for their prospects over middle distances next year; but Nelson, equally, is out of an Irish Oaks winner in Moonstone, who was also runner-up in the Epsom original.
Moonstone is by Dalakhani out of a Law Society mare, and has already produced a Derby runner-up US Army Ranger, who continued his sad decline when last on Saturday's card. As a son of Galileo, US Army Ranger is very closely related to Nelson, who for now only seems to be getting better with racing. In brief careers at Ballydoyle, two of Moonstone’s previous foals – siblings Words and Nevis, by Dansili – both achieved their best figures around a mile and a half. All in all, Nelson has every right to stay middle distances at three, not least given the way horses like Cracksman have suggested that Frankel might profitably have tested his unrelenting rhythm over longer trips.
Moonstone has now produced five black-type winners from five runners, another measure of the quality with which Frankel has been blessed. Like Dark Angel, another sire who could have done with that kind of help in his early days was Iffraaj, who was down to €6,000 by the time his first runners appeared but has produced three Group 1 winners in 2017 – notably Ribchester, who seeks another big prize at Chantilly on Sunday.
Iffraaj appears to have another smart prospect in Chilean, impressive winner of a Listed race at Haydock on Saturday for Martyn Meade. Chilean is the first foal of a black-type winner by the neglected Duke Of Marmalade, and was bought (just like Eminent) by Dermot Farrington for 130,000gns, in his case out of Tattersalls Book 2 last October.
Another youngster to build a promising first layer on deep genetic foundations was Fajjaj, who rallied to win his debut at Ascot. A 140,000gns Book 1 purchase last October, the son of rookie Dawn Approach is trained for Al Shaqab by Hugo Palmer.
Fajjaj is the third foal of Pleasantry, an unraced Johannesburg half-sister to none other than Kingman. Pleasantry was culled by Juddmonte for 80,000gns at Tattersalls December in 2011, when Kingman was just a foal. She and Kingman are both out of Zenda, a Classic-winning half-sister to Oasis Dream, and while it remains early days connections are entitled to view Fajjaj as potentially well bought.
Later on the Ascot card, incidentally, Frankel’s son Elarqam was withdrawn because of the going. Now scheduled to make his debut at York on Sunday, he is out of Attraction, a five-time Group 1 winner, and cost 1,600,000gns. With Frankel, it seems, you will seldom be comparing like with like – but then that is a prerogative of being unique.