Named after a former parish located to the North of Newbury, the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes was established in 1958, to be run over the straight mile at Newbury Racecourse. The first running was won by a three-year-old, Pall Mall, owned by Her Majesty the Queen, and he took the inaugural Lockinge fresh from victory in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. The horse went on to win the 1959 Lockinge Stakes, becoming the first of three dual winners of the race.
There are few who weren’t aware at some stage of the Frankel phenomenon.
Unbeaten in 14 starts from 2010 to 2012 including 10 victories at Group 1 level (the highest class races in the sport), he remains for many the greatest Flat racehorse of all time.
Racegoers at Newbury were lucky enough to see Frankel twice in his extraordinary career, winning the Aon Greenham Stakes in 2011 just prior to his famous win in the 2,000 Guineas, and in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes on his seasonal reappearance a year later.
The Frankel story was made even more poignant by the fact that the horse was trained by Sir Henry Cecil, one of the most popular and enduring figures in the sport, who throughout Frankel’s career was battling cancer. The illness would claim Sir Henry’s life in the year following Frankel’s retirement to stud, but his consummate handling of the horse’s career was a fitting epitaph to one of the turf’s greatest men.
On the big day at Newbury, Frankel was ridden by Tom Queally, as he was for every race in his career. Sent off the red hot favourite at odds of 2/7, Frankel tracked his pacemaker Bullet Train before powering clear and deploying his trademark raking stride to score by an effortless five lengths.
Excelebration, a multiple winner of top class races in his own right, finished second to Frankel, which he did on all three of the occasions they met.
Frankel’s win in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes in 2012 may not have been his most visually impressive, but his appearance at Newbury was enough to add an estimated 2,000 people on the gate and create a celebratory atmosphere amongst all who were present.
Frankel retired as officially the highest-rated racehorse in the history of the sport. Given that he predominantly raced over a mile, it seems appropriate that the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes, one of the world’s premier mile contests, will have its rightful place on Frankel’s unprecedented roll of honour.
To watch the 2012 Lockinge Stakes, click HERE
Al Shaqab Lockinge Day is on Saturday, May 16, at Newbury Racecourse.