Frankel’s first starter makes winning debut at Newbury

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

May 13th, 2016

The Frankel legend is entering a new phase. An unbeaten world champion, Frankel is now a freshman sire, and the Juddmonte stallion wasted no time in recording his first winner – from his very first starter, Cunco, at Newbury on Friday.

Cunco also holds the distinction of being the first Frankel embryo to make his presence known in a scan, and fittingly his firstborn foal. As Juddmonte Farms tweeted:

Cunco is the first foal produced by Chrysanthemum. Purchased by Eaton Sales at that Tattersalls December for approximately $1.37 million, the multiple Group 3-winning mare is owned by Don Alberto Corp.

Chrysanthemum is the same age as Frankel (now eight), and her racing career spanned the same three seasons (2010-12). She was trained by David Wachman for the Coolmore partners of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith. Chrysanthemum won both of her starts at two, debuting successfully in the listed Flame of Tara and following up in the C.L. Weld Park (G3). Third in the Pretty Polly (G1) during a limited campaign at three, Chrysanthemum added the Park Express (G3), Alleged, and Cork's Navigation S. as a four-year-old.

The Frankel mating furnished an intriguing pedigree pattern. Frankel is by supersire Galileo, himself a son of influential patriarch Sadler’s Wells, and out of a mare by dual hemisphere celebrity Danehill. Thus Frankel is bred on the Sadler’s Wells/Danehill cross. Chrysanthemum’s pedigree is a mirror image, or what is called a reverse cross: she’s by the Danehill stallion Danehill Dancer, and out of a Sadler’s Wells mare.

Thus Cunco is inbred 4x4 to both Sadler’s Wells and Danehill. The bay has a certain resemblance to his sire, from his face to his discreet white socks, and as The Guardian’s Chris Cook pointed out, he “wears a cross-noseband suggestive of a free-running habit.”

Trained by John Gosden, the Don Alberto homebred acted up prior to this debut. He reared in the saddling stall, and reportedly exhibited his studdish prowess in the parade ring.

Cunco was given a patient, educational ride by Rob Havlin. The 7-2 chance was allowed to find his comfort zone off the pace, nestled behind horses but traveling better as the race unfolded. Angled to the inside to deliver his challenge, Cunco lengthened stride with gusto, collared new leader Isomer, and won going away by three-quarters of a length. There was a gap of 2 3/4 lengths back to 15-8 favorite Oceanus in third.

“He was where I wanted to be,” Havlin told Racing Post, “but they didn't go very fast and a few just got first run on me and he had a bit to do. He took a few strides to hit top gear, but I'd say he had a few more gears left.”

“He’s shown a great attitude and galloped out extremely strongly,” Gosden said in Cook’s Guardian report, noting that the June 18 Chesham at Royal Ascot could be next.

“I never mind that,” the horseman said in response to a question about Cunco’s antics beforehand. “He’s quite a character and full of himself and it’s his first time at the races.”

Cunco appears the type to progress, making his relatively early unveiling all the more encouraging. Frankel didn’t debut until mid-August, and Chrysanthemum wasn’t seen until September, of their juvenile year. And as Juddmonte Farms tweeted, Frankel scored his first winner faster than his own sire, Galileo, did. When Galileo’s first crop began racing in 2005, he didn’t get off the mark until July 17. Not to read too much into that stat, but it is a positive indicator.

Needless to say, Cunco’s debut was warmly greeted by Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, which has a whole battalion of baby Frankels readying for action.

Grimthorpe spoke with Channel 4 Racing, in an interview helpfully transcribed by the Press Association:

It couldn't be better - Prince Khalid's absolutely delighted. It's really exciting. To have his first foal be his first runner and his first winner is pretty remarkable.

There's been a mixture of excitement, tension, apprehension - the whole gamut of emotions. We've been excited about him, but there's been a lot of very good racehorses who weren't good stallions.

From the point of view of Frankel, the interest in him has never waned. It's been ongoing and phenomenal.

We've got them (homebreds by Frankel) with a variety of trainers. Michael Stoute has got a horse out of Midday, we've got a very nice horse that Andre (Fabre) likes that's a half-brother to Byword.

John (Gosden) has got a few of ours as well and he rang me up straight after today's race - so he's fired up.

If Gosden’s “fired up,” look out.

Cunco photo courtesy of Newbury Racecourse via Facebook.