One of the more unlikely success stories of the year so far has to be that of Frankyfourfingers, a five-year-old who has gone from the relative obscurity of the French provincial tracks to the riches of the Dubai Carnival in a matter of months. This from a horse whose sire was bred in Japan, raced in the USA and now stands in France.
Despite winning on his only two appearances at major tracks in the Paris area, Chantilly and Maisons-Laffitte, Frankyfourfingers did most of his racing in France for trainer Christian Delcher-Sanchez in the Provinces. While he was placed several times in listed races, he never did manage to win one, including when sent across the border to his trainer’s native Spain on one occasion. But those listed efforts included a second at Compiegne in June 2014 to Baltic Baroness who subsequently beat Treve in the Prix Vermeille before that filly landed her second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
A €23,000 yearling, it was at last year’s Arc sale that Frankyfourfingers went through the ring again, this time bought by Anthony Stroud Bloodstock for €100,000 and destined for the Dubai Carnival to race in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed’s son, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum for new trainer Salem bin Ghadayer. Raced only on turf for his previous stable, Frankyfourfingers was put straight on the new dirt track at Meydan and made an immediate impact, outrunning odds of 33/1 to finish second in a fifteen-runner field for the first round of the Maktoum Challenge Series.
An even better result followed in February when Frankyfourfingers won the second round of the Maktoum Challenge, a Group 2 contest. Among those he left in his wake under a bold ride from the front by Mickael Barzalona were Surfer, winner of Round 1, back in fourth place, and the 2014 Dubai World Cup winner African Story who was only seventh.
Frankyfourfingers’ sire Sunday Break is standing for just €2,800 in France this year. Although bred in Japan, Sunday Break (no relation to Sunday Silence, by the way), has an American pedigree – which doubtless explains why Frankyfourfingers has taken to the Meydan dirt so well – by US champion two-year-old colt and Kentucky Derby runner-up Forty Niner out of a Storm Cat mare.
Sunday Break’s dam Catequil has since bred another colt in Japan who has made a name for himself in France, though on the track rather than at stud, as she is the dam of the Japanese Derby winner Kizuna who subsequently won the 2013 Prix Niel from Epsom Derby winner Ruler of The World on the way to finishing fourth in Treve’s first Arc. A particularly successful broodmare, Catequil’s first good horse in Japan was Phalaenopsis who was the leading three-year-old filly in Japan in 1998. The Canadian-bred Catequil, a daughter of the Grade 1 Delaware Oaks winner Pacific Princess, ran just twice in Britain in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed.
The Japanese-owned Sunday Break never raced in the land of his birth; his US career brought him a Grade 2 win in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont over nine furlongs before being beaten ten lengths into third in the Belmont Stakes. Initially at stud for five seasons in Kentucky, Sunday Break struggled for support before moving to France in 2009. That came a year after his best offspring to date, Never On Sunday, began to make a name for himself as a three-year-old in France, winning the Group 3 Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp for Jean-Claude Rouget. The following year, Never On Sunday became a Group 1 winner when taking the Prix d’Ispahan at the same course before finishing third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. Never On Sunday ended his career racing in the States where he was placed in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap but failed to win again. In view of what Frankyfourfingers has achieved on dirt, in hindsight maybe Never On Sunday’s American connections should have tried him on dirt too.
Frankyfourfingers shares much more than just his sire with Never On Sunday. For a start, both are out of mares by the Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Kendor but their dams have more than just that in common. Frankyfourfingers’ dam Texaloula is out of a half-sister to Never On Sunday’s dam Hexane. While Texaloula ran just four times without success, Never On Sunday’s dam Hexane was more talented, winning four races at up to a mile and finishing second in the Group 3 Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly.
On Saturday at Meydan, Frankyfourfingers will contest the third and final round of the Maktoum Challenge which has Group 1 status. His rivals will once again include Surfer and African Story, as well as the placed horses from Round 2, Le Bernardin and Prince Bishop, the latter of whom reduced Frankyfourfingers’ advantage to just a head at the line last month. If he can see out the extra hundred metres of Saturday’s race, Frankyfourfingers could earn his place in the biggest prize of all later this month, the Dubai World Cup. Fingers crossed.
[Image courtesy of Vaikunda Raja]