Frankel is one win away from retiring unbeaten to stud, where the champion racehorse may earn as much as 100 million pounds ($161 million) siring new generations of thoroughbreds.
The four-year-old bay colt, nicknamed “Usain Colt” by the U.K. media, will try to end his career with a perfect record of 14 victories in three days’ time on British Champions Day at Ascot. His earnings as a stallion are set to outstrip the 2.3 million pounds in prize money he’s already won for his breeder and owner, Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Frankel may earn “50 to 100 million pounds” in stud fees, according to Simon Bazalgette, chief executive officer of The Jockey Club, the largest commercial group in British horse racing. It manages and operates 14 racecourses including Epsom Downs and Aintree.
“You need your stars, and our athletes are horses,” Bazalgette said in an interview. “Frankel is possibly the greatest of them all.”
That means Frankel may out-earn his father and Epsom Derby winner Galileo, the most influential stallion of his generation.
Part owned by Irish millionaire John Magnier’s Coolmore operation, the 14-year-old Galileo has been rated the top flat racing sire by the Racing Post in each of the last three years.
Although Galileo’s stud fee has been private for the past five years, a Daily Telegraph report in 2009 said that the stallion earned 150,000 euros ($195,000) per foal conceived. A stallion may cover up to 150 mares per season. The stud fee for Oasis Dream, who is rated second to Galileo by the Racing Post, is 85,000 pounds, while No. 3 Pivotal commands 45,000 pounds.
As a three-year-old, Frankel won races including England’s 2000 Guineas classic, the Sussex Stakes and Royal Ascot’s St. James’s Palace Stakes. This year’s campaign includes victories in the Lockinge Stakes and the Juddmonte International Stakes.
Frankel, the No. 1 racehorse in the World Thoroughbred Rankings compiled by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, will probably be retired after Ascot, Teddy Grimthorpe, Prince Khalid Abdullah’s racing manager, told the British Broadcasting Corp. Oct. 1.
“We’ve had three wonderful years, he’s been exceptional literally from day one,” Grimthorpe said.
British Champions Day, the climax to flat racing’s British Champions Series, sold out more than a month before the event. Queen Elizabeth II will be attending.
Last year, the British monarch went to the paddock on a sunny day at Ascot to study Frankel up close, with her bloodstock and racing adviser John Warren by her side.
The four races that featured Frankel this year posted a 20 percent increase in total attendance to 112,334, according to the Jockey Club.
The 35-race British Champions Series started last year to broaden racing’s appeal to younger audiences in the U.K. sports market. Its average television audience in the U.K. rose 4 percent to the end of August. The series attracted 750,000 spectators ahead of Champions Day, the same as in 2011. British Champions Day itself has sold out all of its 32,000 tickets, or 20 percent more than last year.
Total attendance across the sport of racing until the end of September dropped from 5.2 million last year to 4.7 million this year due to adverse weather which led to 91 fixture cancellations, the Jockey Club said. British racing drew a record attendance last year of 6.15 million.
Last week’s yearling sales at Tattersalls -- Europe’s biggest bloodstock auction house in Newmarket, England -- were dominated by Galileo.
A yearling colt sired by Galileo was sold for 2.5 million guineas ($4.2 million) to Qatari royal Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al Thani on the last day of the auction. That’s the most this year, and the third-highest price paid for a yearling colt -- a one-year-old, untrained racehorse -- in Europe. Two fillies sired by Galileo fetched 1.3 million guineas and 1.5 million guineas, respectively. A guinea, an antique monetary unit used in bloodstock sales, is equivalent to 1.05 pounds.
Victories on the racecourse don’t always guarantee success as a stallion. George Washington was retired to Coolmore stud with a fee of 60,000 euros after winning the 2000 Guineas and the Queen Elizabeth II stakes in 2006. He made his comeback on the racetrack a year later because of fertility problems, Coolmore said at the time.
Still, expectations that Frankel will follow in Galileo’s footsteps are high.
“We can all look forward with enormous excitement to his first crop of yearlings, because he’s something else,” Tattersalls marketing director Jimmy George said in an interview last week when asked about Frankel.
The economics of breeding at times deprive the sport of racing of its biggest stars.
“The challenge we always have in racing is that they may only have a two-year career before they go to stud because the breeding side is so important,” Bazalgette said. The British Champions Series “has made the most of Frankel over his two years.”
Although Frankel’s entire racing career spans three years, he competed in the series for two years, as it is for three- year-old horses and above.
Prince Khalid Abdullah could have retired Frankel last year, instead choosing to let him fulfill his potential on the track, according to Bazalgette. The Saudi royal may have lost out on as much as 20 million pounds in breeding fees, he said.
“He won’t win that in prize money,” Bazalgette said.
Trained by Henry Cecil, Frankel is the 1-6 favorite with bookmaker William Hill Plc (WMH) to win the 1 1/4-mile Champions Stakes on Oct. 20 at Ascot. That means a successful $6 bet would return $1 plus the original stake. Cirrus Des Aigles is second favorite at 7-2. The winner will receive 737,230 pounds on Britain’s richest raceday, where more than 3 million pounds in prize money is on offer.
“Making it work economically is almost impossible,” Bazalgette said. “Obviously, the more we can get prize money up for the top races, that helps a bit. What we really need, and we’ve been lucky to have, is people who own horses who are not just doing it for business reasons.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh on the London sports desk at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com