Cracksman Destroys Champion Rivals For Frankel’s Breakthrough

By Tom Frary

Fittingly staged against the backdrop of “Storm Brian”, Saturday’s G1 Qipco Champion S. at Ascot witnessed its own equine tempest as Anthony Oppenheimer’s Cracksman (GB) (Frankel {GB}) lorded it over some class rivals to make his much-loved sire’s first European group 1 a special affair. In the race that not only capped the golden campaign of Frankel but which also played host to the greatest moment in the career of his brother Noble Mission (GB), the family momentum well and truly carried over to the homebred from Hascombe and Valiant Studs. Backed into 13-8 favouritism despite lacking a top-level success, the bay was always comfortable just off the pace and when sent forward into the lead by Frankie Dettori turning for home responded in his sire’s formidable and generous-galloping style to open up. Alone and exposed in the gusts up the middle of Ascot’s expanse, Cracksman was as professional as he was remorseless and by the time he pounded past the line he had stretched his advantage over the Irish Champion runner-up Poet’s Word (Ire) (Poet’s Voice {GB}) to a commanding seven lengths, with Highland Reel (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) upholding the standard in third. “He’s a very talented horse and Frankie rode him positively and beautifully in the straight,” John Gosden said of the colt who at last showed the brilliance that had long had connections dreaming of 2018. “Enable and him will be fun. You can now see why I didn’t want him to run in the Arc, as there’s not much between them. This is great for Frankel, it’s his first group 1 winner in Europe in the race he won himself.”

Introduced in the same Newmarket mile maiden as his stablemate Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) almost exactly a year before this crowning moment, Cracksman served instant notice that he was one to be kept in mind for the following year’s Derby and his road to the blue riband aptly began at Epsom six months later. Getting up late despite a slow start and trouble in running to deny the high-class and ill-fated Permian (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) by a short head in the 10-furlong Investec Derby Trial Apr. 26, he faced a crucial crossroads as York’s G2 Dante S. neared but was taken out of the rain-hit trial which ultimately franked his quality after Permian ran out a ready winner. While the easy conditions were the key factor in that decision, his owner-breeder was keen to stress that the dam had relished testing ground and it was more a matter of timing with Gosden keen to avoid a slog just over two weeks before the main event.

As a result, Cracksman went to the June 3 G1 Epsom Derby possessing all the qualities required but lacking essential conditioning and that told as he came off the bridle early in the straight before staying on to be a length behind the more streetwise Wings of Eagles (Fr) (Pour Moi {Ire}) and Cliffs of Moher (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). It was the same story again at The Curragh four weeks later as the bay came under the pump from Pat Smullen before the straight and galloped on resolutely to be narrowly denied by Capri (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). Following a seven-week chrysalis period, Cracksman re-emerged on good-to-soft ground in York’s G2 Great Voltigeur Aug. 23 and it was as though the real Frankel element had begun to come through as he put up an unforgettable display. It is well-documented that Oppenheimer and Gosden had planned to stop at that point and craft a real 4-year-old program for him, but leaving him alone was becoming increasingly difficult as he continued to grow in stature.

After his easy success in the G2 Prix Niel at Chantilly Sept. 10, he would undoubtedly have gone back there for the big French autumn test had Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) not had first dibs on that prize and so Ascot became the main focus. While Oppenheimer continued to pour cold water on suggestions he might after all be engaged in a major race before the season’s end, Gosden was plotting the route to the Champion S. and every day that Cracksman stepped out on to the Newmarket gallops he further enhanced his prospects of being here. In confident mood and well aware of what he had in store, Gosden had committed to running as early as the Tattersalls October Part 1 Sale, when the going was still an unknown quantity and his foresight was rewarded by more British downpours which would compromise the fast-ground contingent.

Breaking alertly, Cracksman raced in the slipstream of stablemate Maverick Wave (Elusive Quality) as they raced third and fourth with Highland Reel taken wide by Ryan Moore in search of better ground before halfway. Habitual front-runner Success Days (Ire) (Jeremy) took no prisoners and it was clear by the end of the back straight as Highland Reel crossed back over to re-join the pack that only slow-ground specialists need apply. Sent between Maverick Wave and Success Days and into the front with three furlongs remaining, he lowered his head in his sire’s inimitable style and drew away to settle the result fairly quickly, with the French challenger and surprise package Recoletos (Fr) (Whipper) looking for a while likely to come off second best. As Cracksman ground out his wide-margin success in the kind of glorious isolation Frankel made his trademark, it was left to Poet’s Word and Highland Reel to provide ballast to the form at a respectable distance.

Frankie Dettori, who will face one of the greatest dilemmas of a jockey in the modern era when the Gosden stable goliaths eventually clash, was remarkably registering a belated first Champion success and he said, “That was amazing. He put a good field to bed in the manner of a champion. It was a fantastic feeling and I’ve not got words to describe it. We’ve given him time to develop and that’s what you’ve got now. He’s been working so sweetly and he got the success that he deserved. If I had to choose between him and Enable, I wouldn’t know who to ride, they are two champions and we go into the winter to dream. He’s learning and there’s so much more to come from him.”

Gosden added, “If he was a middleweight earlier in the season, he is a light heavyweight now. He’s really progressed and to do this against older horses, he’s a fast-improving horse. We hope the horses have a good winter and go through to next year, but I’ve been around long enough not to count too many chickens. I thought he’d win the race extremely well if things went right for him, but a mile and a quarter here and you have to handle the ground–I’ll be absolutely honest, I didn’t think he’d win as big as that.”

Sir Michael Stoute was probably relieved he opted to take out Ulysses (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) with the storm bringing more rain, but was satisfied that Poet’s Word had earned another second in a Champion S. “He’s run well. He’s pretty versatile ground-wise and trip-wise, but I don’t think he wants the ground as bad as this,” he said. “I’m very pleased with him and he’s been beaten by a very good one today.” Highland Reel ran a creditable race after taking the long way round and may ultimately have put up an ideal prep for his Breeders’ Cup Turf defence. “I’m very happy and he ran a great race,” Aidan O’Brien commented. “He’d like the ground quicker and he’ll probably go to America next if everything is well.”

Cracksman is now without doubt the best of his sire’s first crop and like his dam Rhadegunda (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) is getting better with each racecourse experience. Responsible for the G3 Solario S. scorer Fantastic Moon (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}), who was her first foal, she was also a lover of testing conditions as she proved when registering her sole black-type success in the Listed Prix Solitude on her final start. The third dam is the 1000 Guineas and Sussex S. heroine On the House, whose descendants include the G2 Royal Lodge S. winner Leo (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) and who is related to the recently-deceased 1997 G1 Coronation S. winner Rebecca Sharp (GB) (Machiavellian), as well as the G1 Epsom Derby, G1 Eclipse S. and G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Golden Horn (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}). The latter and Cracksman have now firmly re-established Hascombe and Valiant Studs in the big time, justifying Oppenheimer’s decision to breathe new life into his broodmare band. Rhadegunda’s 2-year-old colt by New Approach (Ire) named Military Band (GB) was purchased for just 80,000gns by John Ferguson Bloodstock at the 2016 Tattersalls December sale.

Saturday, Ascot, Britain
QIPCO CHAMPION S.-G1, £1,300,000, ASC, 10-21, 3yo/up, 9f 212yT, 2:11.75, sf.
1–CRACKSMAN (GB), 127, c, 3, by Frankel (GB)
1st Dam: Rhadegunda (GB) (SW-Fr), by Pivotal (GB)
2nd Dam: St Radegund (GB), by Green Desert
3rd Dam: On the House, by Be My Guest
1ST GROUP 1 WIN.
O-Anthony Oppenheimer; B-Hascombe Valiant Studs (GB); T-John Gosden; J-Lanfranco Dettori. £737,230. Lifetime Record: GSW-Fr G1SP-Ire, 7-5-1-1, $1,784,069. *1/2 to Fantastic Moon (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}), GSW-Eng. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report 5-cross pedigree.
2–Poet’s Word (Ire), 131, c, 4, Poet’s Voice (GB)–Whirly Bird (GB), by Nashwan. (300,000gns Ylg ’14 TAOCT). O-Saeed Suhail; B-Woodcote Stud Ltd (IRE); T-Sir Michael Stoute. £279,500.
3–Highland Reel (Ire), 131, h, 5, Galileo (Ire)–Hveger (Aus), by Danehill. (460,000gns Ylg ’13 TAOCT). O-Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier Michael Tabor; B-Hveger Syndicate (IRE); T-Aidan O’Brien. £139,880.Margins: 7, NK, 1. Odds: 1.60, 7.00, 8.50.
Also Ran: Recoletos (Fr), Desert Encounter (Ire), Brametot (Ire), Cliffs of Moher (Ire), Maverick Wave, Barney Roy (GB), Success Days (Ire). Click for the Racing Post result or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. Video, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

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