Horse Racing: Frankel set to earn owner millions in retirement

Rated the world's best racehorse, four-year-old Frankel has already earned millions for his Saudi owner but will prove even more valuable if he makes a successful transition to siring future champions.

Horse Racing: Magical swansong for Frankel at Ascot

View photo

2011 Tom Queally Frankel

Victorious in all 13 previous starts, Frankel, who has been called the 'Usain Bolt of racehorse' will run in front of Queen Elizabeth at a packed Ascot in southern England on Saturday. He is odds-on favourite to win the aptly named Champion Stakes and a prize of £737,230 in what is likely to be his last race.

Some commentators have said Frankel, trained by Henry Cecil in Newmarket, could be worth as much as £100 million, based on what he could earn over a decade or more at stud. That figure is academic as owner Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, part of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, will not sell his prize asset.

"To Khalid Abdullah, the horse is priceless for what he has achieved on the track," said Tom Goff, co-owner of the Blandford Bloodstock company, a firm that specialises in supplying thoroughbred horses.

"Ascot on Saturday is a sell-out which is great for racing," he added.

Frankel has captured the hearts of Britons spoilt for sporting choice in an Olympic year. He has also given a welcome boost to horse racing at a time when it is fighting with a growing number of sports for gamblers' money.

"He has a tremendous will to win, it's like nothing I've ever encountered, his sheer determination," Teddy Grimthorpe, Prince Khalid's racing manager, told Reuters.

Allied to that is the ability of Frankel, to reach and sustain a top speed of approaching 40 miles per hour (64 kph). He will race a middle distance of 1 mile and 2 furlongs (2,000 metres) on Saturday.

"He has a very economical action, it just flows. He moves beautifully," said Grimthorpe.

Frankel, a bay with a distinctive white marking between his eyes, has had three successful years, a rarity in horse racing and has won £2.25 million in prize money.

Named after the late American champion trainer Bobby Frankel, the colt was sired by 2001 Derby winner Galileo.

Buyers who want to own a future champion are likely to pay as much as £100,000 for every young horse Frankel sires and there could be upwards of 100 of them every year.

"The best owner breeders in the world will send their mares to him," said Goff of Blandford Bloodstock.

"2016-17 will be the acid test when his first crop of 2-3 year olds are running," he added.

Frankel's presence has added lustre to Saturday's Champions Day at Ascot, being staged for only the second time, featuring end of season races for top horses in five categories.

"Champions Day came about because key stakeholders felt we needed to do more to promote British flat racing and to give it a fitting finale," said Rod Street, chief executive of the British Champions Series.

Organisers have sold out the 32,000 tickets despite the autumn chill and the day's racing is being broadcast to 100 countries. Sponsorship from Qatar's QIPCO Holding private investment company has made it Britain's richest race day, with more than £3 million of prize money on offer.

Horse racing is like other sports where an elite is thriving but the lower ranks face a tough struggle financially.

It remains Britain's second best attended sport after soccer but has been hard hit by recession and reduced funding from an annual levy imposed on bookmakers.

Many online bookmakers are based overseas and do not have to pay a levy that has declined in value in recent years to around £70 million from a peak of over £100 million.

"That did create a big financial hole and it does create pain throughout the sport," said Simon Bazalgette, Chief Executive of the Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British horse racing.

Higher crowds, as well as improved commercial and media deals had limited the impact on prize money, he added.

Bazalgette said racing remained central to the gambling industry despite increasing amounts staked on sports like football during live matches.

"Racing is on seven days a week and at times like weekday afternoons when other sports are not available," he said, noting £10 billion was gambled on horse racing in Britain each year.

"We've done pretty well at holding up revenues."

View comments (40)