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Mayson rated in exalted company as Frankel bolsters ‘greatest’ tag
3:33pm Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in Sport
Frankel was confirmed as the highest-ever rated racehorse on the Flat, according to the 2012 World Thoroughbred Rankings which came out last week, writes Alec Russell.
No-one who saw the unbeaten superstar in action would dispute this judgement, but to see him described, as he was in several publications, as the greatest racehorse of all time is open to conjecture.
These internationally accepted ratings were only introduced in 1977 and there were many fine racehorses before that.
Rankings from the respected Yorkshire-based form specialists, Timeform, confirm the official figures and Timeform have been publishing their valued judgements since 1947, so that Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard and Sea Bird II are all rated inferior to Frankel.
All these opinions are purely subjective and we shall never really know if Frankel was better than Mill Reef, likewise if Roger Federer was better than Lew Hoad, or Rory McIlroy superior to Jack Nicklaus. But it does provide material for stimulating discussion.
The horse rated the world’s best sprinter was the Australian mare Black Caviar, winner of all 22 races that she has contested – finishing with a dramatic victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
But coming much nearer to home, the best British sprinter to be graded was Mayson, from Richard Fahey’s Musley Bank stable.
Mayson’s first two seasons had shown that he was a fine performer over five and six furlongs, but his 2012 record was way ahead of his earlier exploits.
He showed a particular partiality for the Newmarket air and scored twice at the Suffolk track, winning the Group 3 Palace House Stakes in the spring and then reaching the peak of his achievements in midsummer, winning the Group 1 Darley July Cup – one of racing’s showcase contests – unchallenged, by five lengths.
Unfortunately he was unfit for the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock Park and finished off the season – and his career – with a terrific run in the Qatar Prix l’Abbaye, at Longchamp, being narrowly beaten by the French horse Wizz Kid, with his Ryedale neighbour, Tim Easterby’s Hamish McGonagall, a close third.
Shortly after this race, Mayson’s retirement was announced and he will, this year, start his career as stallion – appropriately at Newmarket’s Cheveley Park Stud.
Mayson’s successful career over the shorter distances brought to mind the exploits of some past sprint champions from Ryedale.
Timeform’s ratings, now going back 65 years, show Abernant as the best sprinter of all, with Pappa Fourway in second place. Pappa Fourway was trained, for all his races, at Grove Cottage Stables in Norton by Bill Dutton. Bought, in 1953, as a yearling for 150 guineas, his sire’s main claim to fame was a victory in the mud in Doncaster’s November Handicap: hardly the expected pedigree of a top sprinter.
At two, Pappa Fourway showed himself to be a game and consistent performer with four wins but did little to suggest his record for the following year. In 1955, though, he ran eight times and won eight times. Starting off with a handicap win at Chester, he went to Epsom and carried top-weight in the five-furlongs Stewards Stakes – which he duly won in a canter by six lengths in near record time. Further successes at Birmingham and Newcastle followed before his victory in the July Cup at Newmarket.
The King’s Stand Stakes and the Diadem Stakes at Ascot followed and Pappa Fourway ended his career with a win at Manchester in the Tetrarch Stakes.
His 12 victories, over two seasons, earned his owner £9,889 and he was sold, as a stallion, to the United States where he had reasonable success before finishing his days in Mexico.
Grove Cottage, for a few years, was the home of a number of good sprinters. After Bill Dutton’s death, his son-in-law, Pat Rohan, took over the yard and such speedy performers as Right Boy and Tin Whistle continued the run of success.
The next really great Ryedale sprinter was Lochnager, trained at Sheriff Hutton by the redoubtable Mick Easterby. In 1975 Lochnager raced exclusively in handicaps and was only once beaten in his last five starts – by Roman Warrior in a thrilling finish to the Ayr Gold Cup As a four-year-old, in 1976, Lochnager simply swept the board in England’s sprint contests and became the first horse since Abernant, in 1949, to win the King’s Stand Stakes, the July Cup and the Nunthorpe Stakes in the same season. These races were, at that time, regarded as the sprint Triple Crown.
Lochnager may not have been as brilliant a performer as Pappa Fourway, and did not win his races in the devastating fashion of that horse, but he did just keep on winning and must be regarded as one of the turf’s truly great speedsters. In all his major wins he was ridden by the North’s top jockey, Edward Hide, who still lives in Huttons Ambo.