November 28, 2021

The Top 10 elite talents for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms

Enable at the 2018 Breeders' Cup
(Coady Photo/Churchill Downs)

Although a few prizes eluded him (the Kentucky Derby [G1] being the primary example), Prince Khalid Abdullah’s life in Thoroughbred racing was generally an embarrassment of riches that few owner-breeders throughout the sport’s history had attained, or could ever hope to. The master of Juddmonte’s passing, on Tuesday at age 83, has given many throughout the racing world an opportunity to reflect on the many equine gifts he helped bring to the turf over the past four decades.

Here are 10 runners that were arguably Juddmonte’s elite and which brought joy and happiness not only to Abdullah but countless others.

Frankel

“This perfect mix of poetry and destruction. This glory of power, rhythm, and majesty,” exclaimed York racecourse commentator Stewart Machin as Frankel roared home in the 2012 Juddmonte-sponsored International (G1), the penultimate start and victory in a career that was perfection defined over 14 starts. Extended (and then only briefly) on the rarest of occasions, the son of Galileo was Britain’s all-time premier miler who, at the end of his career, unsurprisingly proved a dominant force over 1 1/4 miles as well. Handled as perfectly as he performed by the beloved but terminally-ill Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel earned a stratospheric Timeform rating of 147.

Dancing Brave

In some ways remembered as much for the two races he lost — an Epsom Derby (G1) many felt he would have won if not for the ride, and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) as a seemingly invincible super horse — the son of Lyphard was otherwise a flawless individual on course who commanded a rarely bestowed Timeform rating of 140 in 1986. His four standout performances at age three occurred in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and against older in the Eclipse (G1), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1), and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), the latter in course-record time of 2:27.70 for 1 1/2 miles. Odds-on in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, he failed to pick up when finishing fourth behind the standout American-based trio of Manila, Theatrical, and Estrapade, though it was subsequently revealed he had suffered an eye injury during the running.

Enable

Undone twice by soft-to-heavy ground in attempts to win an unprecedented third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Enable’s legacy before then was nonetheless firmly secured having won 11 Group 1s in a career that saw her win 15 of 19 starts. In addition to the two Arcs (one of which was achieved with a single prior run that season), Enable scored a record three victories in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the first of which followed classic wins in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom and its Irish equivalent (G1) at The Curragh. U.S. fans were fortunate to catch a glimpse when she pulled out a dramatic victory over Magical in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on footing that was as testing as that rival.

Arrogate

Bringing a mere $114,600 in earnings and no stakes experience into the 2016 Travers (G1), this gray shooting star proceeded to become North America’s all-time leading money winner with more than $17 million by winning four stakes within seven months. Upending a century and a half of Saratoga history with the first sub-2:00 Travers ever, and by a scarcely believable 13 1/2-length margin, Arrogate then ran down the imposing California Chrome to notch the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and thus champion 3-year-old honors. Again dominating that rival, and others, in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream, he turned in perhaps his most amazing performance by overcoming an awful start to win the Dubai World Cup (G1) going away over Gun Runner. The latter ultimately had the final laugh as Arrogate unexpectedly flamed out after returning to America, and a similarly unexpected death last year prematurely extinguished Arrogate’s promising stud career as well, adding yet more “What Ifs?” to an incredible tale.

Kingman

Like several on this list aside from Frankel, he proved nearly perfect and was unlucky to have his career end in 2014 when significant prizes loomed for the taking in his immediate future. The one blip on his record occurred in the 2000 Guineas, when he was narrowly beaten by a longshot he had handled perfunctorily in the Craven (G3). Rebounding quickly to take the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and St James’s Palace (G1), Kingman then proved the dominant miler of the year when beating older in the Sussex (G1) and Prix Jacques le Marois (G1). Although not a Frankel-level talent, his record and un-mined potential suggests he wouldn’t have been too far behind.

Zafonic

Europe’s champion juvenile in 1992 after winning Group 1s on both side of the English Channel, he unexpectedly lost for the first time to the highly-acclaimed Kingmambo in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte in his sophomore debut. But the Andre Fabre-trained son of Gone West grandly bounced back to capture the 2000 Guineas with such devastating ease in course record time that it prompted television presenter John McCririck to give an amused Abdullah a hammy kneel and bow before the cameras in the winner’s enclosure. The depth of the colt’s talent would prove unknown as he was retired after breaking a blood vessel in his lone post-Guineas outing in the Sussex.

Workforce

Less consistent than most on this list, he could prove untouchable on his best day. That was never more evident than in the 2010 Epsom Derby, in which he coasted by seven lengths in a course-record 2:31.33 having captured only one of two prior starts. Subsequently disappointing badly in the King George at odds-on, he returned 2 1/2 months later to gamely capture the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by a head in only his fifth lifetime start. Although kept in training at age four, the Sir Michael Stoute trainee’s season proved an anti-climax following a Derby/Arc double that remains rare and supremely difficult.

Empire Maker

The regally-bred son of Unbridled and the blue hen Toussaud was both Juddmonte’s most serious Kentucky Derby contender to date and also an unlucky victim of persistent foot problems that denied him bigger prizes and a longer career. A monstrous score in the Florida Derby (G1) and a measured victory in the Wood Memorial (G1) made him the favorite to win the 2003 Derby, but the effects of an ill-timed foot bruise could not be overcome as the gelding Funny Cide reversed the form of the Wood. However, Empire Maker would enact revenge in the Belmont Stakes (G1) by halting his New York rival’s bid for the Triple Crown, thus providing Abdullah and the late Hall of Famer trainer Bobby Frankel with their sole American classic victory.

Commander in Chief

Achieving what his father Dancing Brave could not, Commander in Chief captured the Epsom Derby in his stakes debut by a convincing margin of 3 1/2 lengths while becoming the first horse in two decades to win the Blue Riband without having raced as a 2-year-old. In the subsequent Irish Derby, he bested French Derby (G1) hero Hernando by three-quarters of a length, prompting Henry Cecil and jockey Pat Eddery to compare him favorably at that stage of his career to other greats with whom they had been associated. However, his six-race career that spanned four months ended after he was overtaken in the stretch of the King George, finishing third in his one and only setback.

Ventura

A beneficiary of the U.S.’s brief synthetic era, over which she won races like the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) in devastating fashion, Ventura in fact spent slightly more of her time in North America proving herself one of the continent’s top turf milers while more than holding her own in open company. Signature victories against her own sex included the Matriarch (G1) and Just a Game (G1), but the real highlights occurred against the boys in 2009 when she sped a since-eclipsed stakes record of 1:32.04 in the Woodbine Mile (G1) and narrowly missed beating dual male turf champion Gio Ponti in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1).