Lockinge Stakes Preview - Frankel Bids For More Group One GloryOn Saturday 19th May 2012, Sir Henry Cecil’s wonder horse Frankel bids to add a sixth Group One success to his already glittering CV, in Newbury’s Lockinge Stakes. But will Frankel be able to stretch his unbeaten run to ten races, or is there a surprise package lurking amongst the Lockinge entrants…?

Race History

Inaugurated in 1958, the Lockinge Stakes was elevated to Group One status in 1995 and is open to horses of either sex, aged four or older. Run over a distance of one mile, the best performing horses usually go on to take part in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last year’s winner of the Lockinge – Canford Cliffs – did just that and went on to complete a memorable double.

Key Trends

As always, we’ll take a look at recent winners of the race to attempt to identify any trends that might emerge, which we can use to thin out this year’s Lockinge Field.

Age

  • 10 of the last 14 Lockinge Stakes winners were aged 4
  • 3 of those 14 were aged 5

A really strong trend to emerge from recent Lockinge winners concerns the younger horses. If we take only the last ten years, we can see that 50 four year olds lined up in the race, producing 7 winners and 13 places at a strike rate of 14.00%. Four year olds produced 2 winners and 4 places from 24 runners (8.33%), with horses aged six and seven producing 1 winner and 1 place from 20 runners (5.00%).

Clearly then, horses aged five and younger are the place to focus, with preference for four year olds.

Past Form

  • All of the last eleven winners of the Lockinge Stakes had won over 8f or further
  • 10 of the last 11 were contesting their first Lockinge Stakes

A strong trend emerges for proven form over the distance, with all of the last 11 winners having bagged at least one race over one mile in their career, before heading to Newbury. This isn’t the race to be testing out horses more used to shorter distances.

Additionally, most horses that win the Lockinge Stakes are taking part for the first time, which suggests that we should oppose anything that wasn’t good enough to win this race when they were younger.

Ability

  • 11 of the last 11 winners were officially rated 113 or better
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had landed a Group One or Group Two race prior to the Lockinge

Clearly it takes a talented beast to land any Group One race, but the Lockinge Stakes is an especially classy affair. An Official Rating of below 113 is unlikely to cut it at this level.

Furthermore, proven class is a bonus, as the majority of Lockinge Winners have already tasted success at the highest level, with 9 of the past 11 winners having won either a Group One or Group Two race (with both exceptions having finished second in a race of this class).

Summary

Taking all of the above trends into consideration, the 2012 Lockinge Stakes field can be cut to just three – Ransom Note, Excelebration and Frankel.

I can’t have Ransom Note for anyone’s money; although the Charles Hills trained five year old has won a Group Two, the horse has never finished better than 5th of 7 in four attempts at Group One level. With two far classier (and younger) rivals in the shape of Excelebration and Frankel, I’m simply not interested and the best price of 67.00 (Ladbrokes) is entirely justified.

Henry Cecil’s Frankel is currently the best rated flat horse in the world at present and it’s fantastic to see that connections have opted to keep racing, rather than bank the millions of pounds that could be earned by sending him to stud. If Frankel can keep on producing the results, he could very well end up with the highest ever Timeform rating and really cement his place in history.

However, that is for the future. Looking to this weekend at Newbury and we have a horse who is yet to race this season, having suffered a tendon injury just a month ago. Although Cecil has issued positive reports about scans to the tendon and was said to be “delighted” with Frankel’s recent work, there could be enough of a doubt about the superstar to justify taking him on – as if the prohibitive odds of 1.40 (Paddy Power) weren’t enough.

Aidan O’Brien’s Excelebration could therefore be the way to bet on the 2012 Lockinge Stakes. Having just landed both the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, O’Brien’s stable is clearly hitting form ahead of racing’s biggest prizes and if anyone is capable of exposing a chink in the mighty Frankel’s armour, it is the master of Ballydoyle.

Aged four and with proven form over the trip, Excelebration has tasted success at the highest level in France, as well as at Group Two level at Newbury Racecourse. He was beaten four lengths by Frankel in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes back in October, but he has already had a winning run this season, a race that may have shaken off any rust after his seasonal break. If Frankel shows any signs of rustiness, or the tendon injury has caused unforeseen problems, then the best price of 4.00 about Excelebration (Paddy Power) could look very juicy indeed.

To reiterate, there’s a very strong chance that Frankel, the superstar horse that he is, will win the 2012 Lockinge Stakes. But equally, there’s enough of a chance that he may not be over that injury and as such, a small bet on Excelebration looks like excellent value. Regardless of the outcome, the sport is the real winner, thanks to Frankel’s owner Khalid Abdullah and his decision to keep Frankel on the racecourse.

Advice

The JLT Lockinge Stakes
Saturday 19th May 2012, 15:40

Excelebration @ 4.00 (Paddy Power)