Far be it for me to rain on the parade of the spectacular Frankel, but by awarding him the highest ever rating of 147,Timeform immediately raises the perennial debate of who was the best.
Sea Bird II was given the previous highest of 145. The only time he was beaten in eight starts was in the Grand Critérium as a two-year-old when, shockingly ridden by Maurice Larraun (he never sat on him again). Yet there are those who believe that his second to his very good stable mate Grey Dawn in that race was one of his finest performances because of the ground made up in the last furlong.
Perhaps it was the nature of Frankel’s wins (the last by 11 lengths) which persuaded Timeform, because being unbeaten over 11 races is not unique, by any measure. Let’s see what he can do against Camelot!
Frankel has not won the Derby and the Arc in the same year, and while not wishing to be churlish, none of the horses he has beaten at this stage, will set the world on fire. But look at some of those who Sea Bird vanquished
He raced three times at two, winning his first two, the Prix de Blaison at Chantilly the Critérium de Maisons-Laffitte both times beating Blabla (who won the Prix de Diane the following year). His third was the Grand Critérium. At three, Sea-Bird won all his five races contested. The Prix Greffulhe was won by three lengths. He next thrashed a very good Diatome in the Prix Lupin by six.
Sea Bird started as the 7/4 favourite in a field of twenty two for the 1965 Derby . He raced wide up to Tattenham Corner, until entering the straight, and in the words of a racing journalist “then moved easily up to take the lead on the bridle with Glennon sitting still as a statue”. Sea-Bird beat Meadow Court by two lengths and I Say was third. .Meadow Court subsequantly won the Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (then the richest race in England). The victory was described as “one of the best in living memory” It was breathtaking and memorable and in Rhodesia it took our minds off UDI. (Rhodesia had TV, unlike SA)
It was Sea Bird’s only outing in England. In July he ran in the Grand Prix de St Cloud, which he won, easing up by three lengths from classic winner Couroucou.. But it was the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victory which really set Sea Bird on his rightful pinnacle. Frankel has never faced and never will face a field of that strength. Apart from Meadow Court, it included Preakness winner Tom Rolfe, Prix Du Jockey Club winner, Reliance, Prix de Diane winner Blabla, Russian derby winner Anilin and Diatome, who would go on to win the Washington DC International.
Starting at 6/5, Sea Bird won easily by six lengths from Reliance. Five lengths further back in third was Diatome, fourth place went to the Oppenheimer stallion Free Ride, (the Oppenheimers won the July that year with King Willow), fifth was the Soviet runner Anilin, and sixth was Tom Rolfe.
In their definitive work, A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Sea-Bird the greatest racehorse of the 20th century, one pound ahead of Secretariat, and two pounds ahead of Ribot and Brigadier Gerard. (Note these are all post war horses).
Frankel two pounds better than Sea Bird? For my money, not yet. Frankel is amazing and wonderful to watch in action but I am not convinced he is 2lbs better than Seas Bird II. If he is half as successful as Sea Bird II was at stud, he truly will then be among the greats!
via email – David Mickleburgh