There was a point last year when you might have thought Frontiersman had the world at his feet. He has a pedigree to die for, he had just been an impressive runner-up in a prestigious Group 1, he appeared to be progressing significantly, and he’s owned by a vast organisation renowned for their patience with developing racehorses.
So it may be something of a surprise that today the 5-year-old will be making his debut on an all-weather surface in a Class 2 conditions stakes over an extended two miles at Wolverhampton.
It was at Epsom last June when he finished a powerful second to Highland Reel in the G1 Coronation Cup over a mile and a half. He then started a short-priced favourite for the G2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket, finishing a good second to stablemate and G1 winner Hawkbill.
His father is Dubawi, the second-ranked stallion in the world, and his mother is Ouija Board, whose seven G1 victories in 2004-06 included the Epsom Oaks and the Irish Oaks, a Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, a Nassau Stakes, a Hong Kong Vase and two Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turfs.
Ouija Board has been a pretty successful broodmare too - her progeny include Australia, winner of the 2014 Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and Juddmonte International, as well as Aussie G3 winner Our Voodoo Prince.
Bearing in mind his somewhat disappointing career trajectory over the last seven months - three defeats on slow ground punctuated by a win in a listed race, the chances of Godolphin-owned Frontiersman emulating his illustrious half-brother and becoming a sought-after young flat stallion appear to be receding. But let’s not dismiss his prospects of a bright future just yet. In fact, if trainer Charlie Appleby is right, today’s race could be a new beginning.
The extended two-mile Tapeta contest is a Fast-Track Qualifier, with the winner receiving a free and guaranteed place in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships over two miles on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, March 30.
Appleby commented: “Frontiersman has been working well on the all-weather at home. We always wanted to try him over this trip and we might as well have a go on the all-weather as they tend to go a bit steadier, which will give him every chance of staying.
“He gives us every indication that he will get two miles and this will hopefully tell us whether to try and make him a Cup horse or to continue over a mile and a half in the spring. If he wins, it opens up a couple of options over the winter, including going out to Dubai or keeping him here for Finals Day [at Lingfield on March 30].”
Don’t think, though, that today’s race will be a pushover for Frontiersman, who will be ridden by Adam Kirby. His ten rivals include recent Deauville all-weather winner Funny Kid, who makes the trip over the Channel for the Wertheimer Brothers and will be ridden by Maxime Guyon, and a number of seasoned British performers on all-weather tracks.
Frontiersman isn’t necessarily the best-bred runner in the field, however. A likely outsider is De Coronado, now in England under the care of Seamus Durack but who was trained until the end of last year by Aidan O’Brien and owned by the Coolmore Partners.
Despite two wins on the all-weather at Dundalk, De Coronado never really lived up to his pedigree: he is by Street Cry out of the Kris S mare Vertigineux.
Which makes him a full-brother to Zenyatta.