The Story of the Charity Frankel Project
Frankel the Legendary Horse
Sir Henry Cecil the Legendary Trainer
2000 Guineas the Legendary Race
Rowley Mile the Legendary Race Course
The legendary racehorse Frankel was unbeaten in his fourteen-race career and was the highest-rated racehorse in the world from May 2011. Many equine artists and photographers worldwide clamoured to record his achievements for posterity.
In 2010 a renowned equine artist called Michael Jeffery had a vision to immortalise Frankel. At this time Michael became acquainted with Sir Henry Cecil while they were both receiving chemotherapy and this is where the story of the ‘Frankel Project’ began.
When Sir Henry Cecil visited artist Michael Jeffery’s studio to discuss the early stages of his ‘Frankel Project’, he was impressed by his two visions: firstly, that Jeffery was to pay homage to George Stubbs’ famous 1765 painting, ‘Gimcrack on the Newmarket Heath’, where Michael envisioned a composition using Frankel against a rubbing-down house, with his trainer Sir Henry, Jockey Tom Queally, travelling head lad, stable lad and a background of Frankel’s rivals. Secondly, he fully supported Jeffery’s wish to gift a quarter of the sale profits to cancer charities.
Jeffery was most gratified to have Sir Henry’s support and, a few days after Sir Henry & Lady Cecil had visited the studio, Sir Henry arranged for Jeffery to follow Frankel out for his routine exercise on Warren Hill. A week later he arranged a photo-shoot with jockey Tom Queally in his silks, the travelling head lad Michael McGowan and the colt’s stable lad Sandeep Guavaram suited and booted, so that Jeffery could photograph them placed in the positions they would appear in the painting. Jeffery had a model stand-in for Sir Henry, as he was away at this time having treatment. Michael was also given access to photograph Frankel at the races. With all these contributing factors for the development of the project Michael was able to find a sponsor; Peter Merchant, entrepreneur and racing enthusiast.
Tragically Sir Henry and Michael Jeffery didn’t live long enough to see the finished ‘Frankel project’. But renowned equine artist Nichola Eddery was so moved by this story, she decided to take on the challenge of the project, but honouring Michael’s original idea. She also loved the idea of immortalising this story especially due to her stong connection to the famous green and pink silks, as her father Pat Eddery was a retained jockey by HRH Prince Prince Khalid Abdullah (owner of Frankel) for eight years.
Nichola Eddery was given Michael's preliminary sketches and photographic reference, but as with any project she preferred to take her own reference that involved visiting and photographing/sketching Frankel, Tom Queally, the rubbing down house and making a copy of the Stubbs’ painting to understand the structure of his composition. She also visited Lady Cecil, as Michael had no reference of Henry, and Jane kindly described how he would have liked to be painted.
Honouring the original layout of Jeffrey’s figures, starting from the figure on the far left is the travelling head lad, Michael McGowan and then to his right is Frankel’s stable lad, Sandeep Guavaram who is holding Frankel after his victorious win of the 2011, 2000 Guineas and then onto the central figures, Jockey Tom Queally and Frankel’s trainer Sir Henry Cecil. Nichola decided to change the horses in the background to walking in after the race rather than galloping in the distance, so the painting was not an exact copy of Stubbs. The five horses to the right in the background are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th (Dubawi Gold, Native Kahn, Slim Shady and Fury) and then Rerouted from the 2011, 2000 Guineas. Nichola wanted to convey the obvious connection with the Rowley Mile Racecourse to Frankel winning the 2000 Guineas. It was an incredibly challenging painting, after five months of research, sketching, photographing she was able to combine all her references with her imagination to create 'Legends'. Nichola named the painting 'Legends' after a legendary horse, trainer, race and racecourse.
With the completion of the project, Peter and Nichola now have the opportunity to launch the painting at Newmarket’s new National Horseracing Museum, Place House during the Newmarket 2016 July festival with the intention to sell and raise 25% of the proceeds for National Heritage and Cancer Active. It is a perfect time and venue to exhibit ‘Legends’ especially as the painting will be exhibitied within their first art exhibition in the Rothschilds Yard for the celebrations of 350 years of history made at Newmarket; ideal for a painting based on history made at the Rowley Mile racecourse, Newmarket.
Lady Cecil, Tom Queally and Lord Grimthorpe (racing manager to Frankel’s owner HRH Prince Khalid Abdullah) have already voiced their support and approval before the painting has it’s first public showing.