Article first published May 2020
1. Frankel (Timeform rating 147)
A phenomenon of the sport. Frankel was a truly exceptional racehorse and is Timeform’s highest-rated Flat horse. Unbeaten in 14 starts, among them 10 Group 1s, Frankel made his debut at Newmarket in 2010, and immediately made a big impression, confirming the reputation he brought to the track. Frankel notably went on to win the Royal Lodge Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes later that season.
Frankel won the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on his reappearance in 2011, setting him up for the 2,000 Guineas, in which he produced a performance which has gone down in history.
His Timeform report read: ‘A Guineas that will go down in racing history, all because of the phenomenal performance by Frankel, not only for the form he achieved, putting him in the elite bracket of Guineas winners alongside Tudor Minstrel, Brigadier Gerard and Dancing Brave as well as making him one of the very best Flat horses ever in Timeform's experience, but also the way he did it, as rarely if ever has a classic been completely bossed in the manner Frankel did this.’
Frankel dominated the rest of the 2011 season, recording wins in the St James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. However, it was the following year, in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, that Frankel achieved his peak rating, producing the greatest performance in Timeform's history as he demolished the field (including a top-class rival in Excelebration) by 11 lengths, a margin rarely seen in any Flat race, let alone a Group 1.
Frankel stepped up to a mile and a quarter later in the season, firstly winning the Juddmonte International at York before bowing out with victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on less-than-suitable ground, getting the better of another top-class rival in Cirrus des Aigles.
Sir Henry Cecil handled Frankel expertly since day one, maturing him from the ebullient three-year-old of spring 2011 into a fully-relaxed, consummate professional that developed into the best racehorse ever seen - the Frankel and Cecil legacy is one that will last forever. Sir Henry Cecil
2. Rip Van Winkle (134)
Rip Van Winkle was awarded the race in the stewards’ room on debut – he would have been a most unlucky loser – and followed up impressively in the Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown, prompting him to be sent off a warm favourite for the Dewhurst on his final start that season. Even though he was disappointing on the day, he still shaped like the best prospect in the race having not had the best preparation, while he also finished with running left after not enjoying the clearest of runs.
It was in Rip Van Winkle’s three-year-old season that he developed into a top-class performer. After proving no match for Sea The Stars in the 2000 Guineas and the Derby, Rip Van Winkle gave his old adversary a fright in the Coral-Eclipse, making the dual Classic winner work hard. Rip Van Winkle then recorded a deserved win at the top level back at a mile in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and followed up in the QEII at Ascot, though he had to do it the hard way. He raced close to the very strong pace and pressed on nearly three furlongs out, so it says plenty about his ability and staying power that he was going away again at the finish.
Rip Van Winkle won only once during 2010, but it came at the highest level in the Juddmonte International at York, where he gained his third win in Group 1 company. Aidan O'Brien
📆 July 4, 2009— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 24, 2020
What a battle! Sea The Stars was forced to pull out all the stops to defeat Rip Van Winkle in the 2009 Coral-Eclipse 💪#IconicMoments #RacingTVFlashback pic.twitter.com/mTS5Tr6uGU
3. Waldgeist (132)
Andre Fabre’s Waldgeist rapidly made up into a smart sort, registering a Group 1 success in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud over ten furlongs at the end of his two-year-old season. It was apparent then that he was sure to stay further and he looked a hot prospect. Things, however, did not go ideally to plan during his three-year-old campaign with Waldgeist failing to win any of his five starts, though his level of form was still bordering on very smart.
It didn’t come as a huge surprise then that he picked up the winning thread in impressive fashion in 2018, racking up a four-timer in France to take him to the level of a high-class performer. However, it was in 2019, during his five-year-old campaign, that he made his mark at the very top of the game, posting three victories in five outings, including picking up the prized scalp of Enable in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He was campaigned expertly to peak for the Arc and duly delivered his crowning moment before being retired to stud later that year. Andre Fabre
3= Australia (132)
Only greenness prevented the Aidan O’Brien-trained Australia making a winning start to his career at the Curragh and the well-bred colt never looked back thereafter.
Clearly exceptionally well thought of by top-class connections, Australia, a wide-margin Group 3 winner on his third and final two-year-old start, was sent off the 5/2 favourite for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on his reappearance. He found a couple too good in Night of Thunder and Kingman, but the style of his performance enhanced his chances for the Derby at Epsom given the longer trip looked sure to suit. He duly made no mistake in the Derby having again been all the rage in the betting, and he then cemented the impression that he was much the best middle-distance three-year-old when barely coming off the bridle to land the odds in the Irish Derby later the same month.
Australia then put up a top-class performance against older rivals in the Juddmonte International and, though his run of Group 1 wins was ended by The Grey Gatsby in the Irish Champion stakes, he had a clear excuse at Leopardstown having been trapped very wide throughout. Unfortunately, due to an injury he was retired to stud in the lead up to British Champions Day and was never able to gain compensation, but Australia’s earlier exploits show that he was a top-class racehorse. Aidan O'Brien
3= New Approach (132)
New Approach built his reputation on a perfect two-year-old campaign for trainer Jim Bolger. Having made a winning start in a Curragh maiden mid-way through July, the tall colt took rises in grade in his stride, making all in the Group 3 Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown and both the Group 2 Futurity Stakes and the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh. Despite these successes, New Approach would regularly show quirks before races and he was accompanied to post by an outrider ahead of the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. Despite an awkward start and a change of tactics, New Approach was able to complete the five-timer and establish himself as the clear favourite for the 2000 Guineas.
New Approach was sent off 11/8 favourite for the 2000 Guineas but he narrowly failed to land the classic, overhauled close home by Henrythenavigator having made most of the running. He again found that rival too good in the Irish 2000 Guineas later that month, but the second half of the year proved more rewarding and New Approach showed his class and proved his stamina by winning the Derby at Epsom, a performance made all the more impressive by the fact he pulled fiercely early on.
In a perfect finish to his career, New Approach twice scored impressively against older rivals, following success in the Irish Champion Stakes with a six-length romp over Twice Over in the British version, producing the best performance of his career on Timeform ratings. Jim Bolger
6. Soldier of Fortune (131)
While not appearing until October of his two-year-old season, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Soldier of Fortune was still able to make up into a smart juvenile in double quick time. Having won a maiden at Navan, Soldier of Fortune was thrust straight into Group 1 company in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud and only narrowly missed out to Passage of Time, the pair coming clear of the rest.
Soldier of Fortune didn’t take long to record Group-race success, however, making hay in the spring of 2007 with a pair of victories at Longchamp and at Chester. He could manage only fifth in the Derby a month later but showed that form to be all wrong with a wide-margin success in the Irish Derby a few weeks on. The soft ground proved ideal for him that day as stamina was very much his forte.
The narrative of his four-year-old campaign, his final one before retirement, was an ongoing rivalry with the top-class Youmzain. Soldier of Fortune got the better of Youmzain in the Coronation Cup on his reappearance but twice finished behind that rival thereafter, including when a creditable third in the Arc. A strong, attractive horse, he is remembered as being game and genuine. Aidan O'Brien
7. Ulysses (130)
Ulysses produced a useful performance to get off the mark by a wide margin at the third attempt in a maiden at Newbury in the spring of his three-year-old campaign. Just a month later he was fast-tracked to the Derby by expert handler Sir Michael Stoute and, though the steep rise in grade proved too much for him on the day, it wasn’t long before he made his mark at Group level with a victory in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
Like so many from his yard, Ulysses continued to progress as a four-year-old and, looking more and more professional as he went, ultimately went on to make his mark at Group 1 level in no uncertain terms. Having edged out Barney Roy in the Eclipse, Ulysses produced his most commanding performance of all to beat Churchill in the Juddmonte International at York before confirming that top-class form with an excellent third to Enable in the Arc on his final start before retirement. Sir Michael Stoute
ULYSSES wins the Juddmonte International Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) pic.twitter.com/H2765265Yv— Champions Series (@ChampionsSeries) August 23, 2017
7= Cape Blanco (130)
A prolific winner for Aidan O’Brien, Cape Blanco followed a perfect two-year-old campaign with an impressive three-and-a-quarter length success over subsequent Derby winner Workforce in the Dante. Despite laying down that marker in the Derby trial, Cape Blanco avoided Epsom and was aimed at the French Derby at Chantilly, where he proved to be a disappointment. It didn’t take long, however, for Cape Blanco to regain the winning thread, landing the Irish Derby and then putting up the performance of his career to slam Rip Van Winkle by five and a half lengths in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Having failed to match that standard in Dubai and Europe during the first half of his four-year-old season, Cape Blanco was campaigned in the United States for the remainder of the year and rattled up a hat-trick of Grade 1 wins, including the Arlington Million and the Turf Classic at Belmont. Cape Blanco suffered a fractured knee in that final success and was retired with five Group/Grade 1s to his name. Aidan O'Brien