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, but his performance in the 2000 Guineas went down in history, just as the extract from the Timeform report states:
‘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.
It was the following year, in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, that Frankel achieved his peak rating:
‘This year's Queen Anne was only ever about one horse, Frankel, and it's a race that will live long in the memory because of what he achieved, producing the greatest performance in Timeform's 64-year 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, and bowing out in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on less-than-suitable ground:
‘A most memorable Champion Stakes, made extra special by Frankel's participation, and it will forever be remembered as the final race of a true champion's career, getting the better another top-class opponent in Cirrus Des Aigles, whose performance in finishing second here would have been good enough to win any average renewal of this contest comfortably.’
Sir Henry Cecil, who handled Frankel expertly since day one, maturing him from the ebullient three-year-old of spring 2011, into a fully-relaxed, consumate professional that developed into the best racehorse ever seen, the Frankel and Cecil legacy is one that will last forever.
2. Reference Point (Timeform rating 139)
Reference Point had a cracking pedigree, by Derby winner Mill Reef out of a high-class mare who won the Sun Chariot Stakes in the shape of Home on The Range.
In early 1987, Reference Point's training was disrupted by sinus problems, which required surgery, ruling out any possibility of a challenge for the 2000 Guineas. On his three-year-old debut, Reference Point ran in the Dante Stakes at York, a recognised trial race for the Epsom Derby, and led from the start and ran on strongly in the closing stages to win by a length from Ascot Knight.
In the Derby itself, Reference Point started the 6/4 favourite and was given a positive ride, sent into the lead entering the straight and repelling the challenge of all his rivals. He then raced against his elders for the first time in the Eclipse at Sandown, but was perhaps ridden too aggressively back at a mile and a quarter, and was just edged out in the finish.
It didn’t take long for Reference Point to resume winning ways in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, well suited by the step back up in trip and proving much too good for his rivals. More success in the Great Voltigeur at York followed (started at odds of 10/1-on) before stepping up in trip and winning the St Leger at Doncaster. Reference Point went on to run in the Arc, again starting odds-on, and was given a typically aggressive ride, but he weakened out of proceedings in the straight and could only finish eighth. Reference Point was found to have had an abscess on his foot after the race. He was retired to stud after.
3. Old Vic (Timeform rating 136)
Old Vic was a rangy, good-bodied colt who was a tremendous mover with a powerful action. He went unbeaten in 1989, his most impressive performances coming in the Prix du Jockey-Club Lancia at Chantilly and Budweiser Irish Derby at the Curragh on his last two outings that season.
Sweating and edgy beforehand, he produced easily his best effort of the 1990 season when a neck second to Belmez in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot in July, making most of the running before quickening entering the straight, then rallying well despite wandering in the final furlong.
Old Vic unfortunately suffered an injury after and was subsequently retired to stud. Although Old Vic failed to produce any top-class Flat horses, he became one of the leading National Hunt sires, some of his offspring including Kicking King, whose wins included the King George (twice) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as Comply or Die and Don’t Push It, both of whom won the Grand National.
3= Slip Anchor (Timeform rating 136)
Slip Anchor was lightly raced as a two-year-old, easily winning a maiden on his second start at Nottingham, and it didn't take him long to make his mark when returning the following year, with his wins in the Heathorn Stakes and the Lingfield Derby Trial quickly identifying him as a leading contender for the 1985 edition of the Epsom classic.
The second of those wins – when making all the running to land the spoils by 10 lengths – provided a blueprint for the tactics to be adopted in the Derby itself by Steve Cauthen, who again sent his mount straight into the lead. This time in a much deeper race, with his rivals including the 2000 Guineas winner Shadeed, Slip Anchor ultimately put his rivals to the sword in much the same manner, forging clear in the straight to justify 9/4 favouritism by seven lengths from Law Society.
Not only was that Cecil's first win in the Derby, but Slip Anchor's performance compared favourably to most others in the race, both before and since. Indeed, his Timeform rating of 136 was the highest achieved in the race since Shergar four years earlier, whilst no horse has matched his rating in victory since, with Generous coming closest when running to 135 in 1991.
Slip Anchor was so superior to his rivals at Epsom that he seemed sure to be a major force when tackling his elders in the middle-distance division in the second half of 1985, but injury sadly put paid to plans of running him in the King George. He failed to win either of his two starts when returning in the autumn, which included a second behind the top-class filly Pebbles in the Champion Stakes, and was retired after again meeting with defeat on his seasonal debut in 1986.
5= Le Moss (Timeform rating 135)
Le Moss was one of the best stayers of his era, winning 11 times from a total of 15 starts between 1977 and 1980. He was bred to do so, too, out of Feemoss who came from a strong staying family, being a daughter of the Yorkshire Oaks winner Feevagh and a half-sister of the Queen Alexandra Stakes winner Laurence O.
He showed smart form as a three-year-old in 1978, winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and, having won the March Stakes at Goodwood on his next start, he was a warm fancy for the St Leger at Doncaster. He went on to finish second to Julio Mariner in the St Leger later that season.
However, it was as an older horse that Le Moss really progressed. In 1979 he recorded an historic treble in the Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup.
Le Moss suffered a set-back in 1980, but made his reappearance in the Ascot Gold Cup and went on to complete the same hat-trick as a five-year-old, beating fellow top-class performer Ardross on each occasion. Le Moss was Timeform’s highest rated older horse in 1980 on 135.
5= Kris (Timeform rating 135)
Kris ran four times as a two-year-old in 1978, winning all four of his starts, but suffered an injury after his second win at Folkestone and didn’t return until October later that year. That was in the Marston Moor Stakes at York, where he accelerated clear in the closing stages to win by eight lengths. Kris then started the odds-on favourite for the Horris Hill at Newbury and showed a good attitude to prevail by a neck.
Kris made a winning start as a three-year-old in the Greenham Stakes back at Newbury, and as a result started favourite for the 2000 Guineas, even though the yard were also responsible for Lyphard’s Wish, who has just won the Craven. Kris was beaten half a length in the 2000 Guineas but was quickly back in the winners’ enclosure with a routine success in the Heron Stakes at Kempton. Success in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot followed before Kris proved too tough of a match for his elders in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. Kris continued his domination with more victories in 1979, notably in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.
Kris picked up right where he left off as a four-year-old, notably overcoming trouble in-running to win the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, where he had to survive a stewards’ enquiry, and also broke the course record. Several minor injuries meant his missed intended targets later in the year, but returned to action in September with a win in a minor event at Goodwood. Kris started the odds-on favourite for his final start, in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but was beaten by three-year-old 2000 Guineas winner Known Fact in a thrilling finish.
5= Royal Anthem (Timeform rating 135)
Royal Anthem was a $500,000 purchase who didn’t make his debut until a three-year-old in 1998. He won a maiden at Newbury in the style of one who was ready for better company and he was quickly fast-tracked to listed company next. Royal Anthem had to work hard to land the odds, coming off the bridle in third place before halfway but ultimately well on top in the closing stages. A first pattern success in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot followed and Royal Anthem went on to win at the highest level in the Canadian International at Woodbine later that season.
Royal Anthem achieved his Timeform rating of 135 in the 1999 Juddmonte International at York, a strongly-run mile and a quarter belatedly revealing his true ability, travelling strongly just behind the pace until moving easily to the front over three furlongs out, and powering further and further away when shaken up, still galloping on with tremendous enthusiasm at the line. He was unable to reproduce that effort in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on his final start for Henry Cecil, and transferred to America after.
8= Bolkonski (Timeform rating 134)
Bolkonski started his career in Italy trained by Sergio Cumani, and developed into one of the best two-year-old colts in 1974.
He was then switched to Henry Cecil ahead of his three-year-old season, and made his first start in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, beaten four lengths in second to No Alimony. As a result, Bolkonski started at 33/1 for the 2000 Guineas, but came out on top in a tussle against the favourite Grundy, prevailing by half a length to give Henry Cecil his first win in a British Classic (he had won the Irish 1000 Guineas in 1973).
Bolkonski started the 5/4-on favourite on his next start in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and he duly followed up from Royal Manacle. He also proved too good on his first start against his elders in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, despite showing signs of temperament before the race.
On his final start, Bolkonski turned in a below-par performance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, beating only one rival home. Connections had plans to step him up to a mile and a quarter in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket later in the season, but some poor gallops at home deterred them, and Bolkonski was retired to stud.
8= Ardross (Timeform rating 134)
Ardross was originally trained by Paddy Prendergast in Ireland, but was purchased by new owners as a five-year-old and sent to Henry Cecil.
Ardross was smart as a three-year-old, but it was as he got older that he progressed into a top-class performer. He finished second to the Henry Cecil-trained Le Moss three times in 1980, in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup.
Ardross started his career for Cecil in 1981 and began with a victory in the Yorkshire Cup at York, and duly followed up in the Ascot Gold Cup when starting at odds of 10/3-on. Ardross then became the shortest-priced favourite of the Goodwood Cup since 1935 on his next start, before taking a step back in trip for the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury, proving much too good for his rivals on both occasions. A solid effort in the Arc (finished fifth) followed that year before gaining more success in the Prix Royal-Oak.
In 1982, Ardross’ notable victories included a second Ascot Gold Cup (a fourth successive win in the race for Henry Cecil), before again winning the Geoffrey Freer and Doncaster Cup. On his final start, Ardross was beaten a head in the Arc. Ardross was a superior stayer and a credit to connections.