What is Timeform?

Timeform, which was founded by the late Phil Bull in 1948, but is now part of the Paddy Power Betfair Group, is a highly-respected sports data provider. Timeform, as a company, is well-known for its various publications, including its ‘Racehorses’ and ‘Chasers & Hurdlers’ annuals, ‘Black Books’ and daily racecards, but is probably most famous for its private handicapping, or performance rating, system, also known as ‘Timeform’.

Timeform ratings, which have been available on the Flat since the late Forties and over Jumps since the early Sixties, express, in Imperial pounds, the calibre of each horse, so that the runners in any given race can easily be compared. In fact, such is the credibility of Timeform ratings that they are considered, by many industry professionals, to be the definitive, if unofficial, measure of thoroughbred performance in Britain and beyond.

Was Frankel the best horse ever?

Between August 13, 2010 and October 20, 2012, Frankel won all 14 of his races, including ten at Group One level and, in so doing, became the first horse since Abernant, in 1948, 1949 and 1950, to be the best of his generation at two, three and four years, according to Timeform. Indeed, following an 11-length win in the Queen Anne Stakes, over a mile, at Royal Ascot in June, 2012, Frankel was awarded a provisional rating of 147 – the highest ever in the history of Timeform – and the same rating, again, following a 7-length win in the Juddmonte International Stakes, on his first attempt over a mile-and-a-quarter.

The following January, his Timeform Annual Rating was confirmed at 147 and, according to World Thoroughbred Rankings, he was rated 140, making him the highest-rated horse in the history of that organisation, too. However, the 2012 World Thoroughbred Rankings did involve what was called ‘historical recalibration’, which saw the rating of the previously highest-rated horse, Dancing Brave, reduced from 141 to 138.

Frankel was widely hailed as the ‘best horse ever’, but it is worth remembering that Timeform ratings were only first published in 1948 and until fairly recently only included horses that raced in Britain. Similarly, World Thoroughbred Rankings were only first published in 1977 and before 1995 did not include horses that raced in North America. Frankel was, probably, the best horse of the modern era but, because he cannot be compared, at least not empirically, with the champions of yesteryear – such as Kincsem, Man o’War and Secretariat, to name but three – whether or not he was the best horse ever is really just a matter of opinion.