THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Address Unknown (left) led home a one-two for Richard Fahey at ChesterPICTURE: Getty Images
Fahey to the fore in Chester Cup
In this week’s blog, Stephen Hindle discusses the Chester Cup, won by Marwan Koukash’s Address Unknown, while Dominic Gardiner-Hill makes sense of the Qipco 1,000 Guineas that provided Richard Hughes with his first British Classic win on Sky Lantern, but featured a disappointing beaten favourite in Hot Snap. For jump enthusiasts, David Dickinson looks at Barizan’s victory in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.
FAHEY TO THE FORE IN CHESTER CUP
One man who’ll have fond memories of the 2013 Stanjames.com Chester Cup is Richard Fahey, whose only two runners in the race finished first and second, writes Stephen Hindle.
Address Unknown, owned by Dr Marwan Koukash, who had no fewer than four runners in the race, ran out a half-length winner from Ingleby Spirit, despite failing to keep straight.
As with the vast majority of these top staying handicaps, it’s usually a good idea to view the form positively. This year’s renewal seems no exception, with the next three home having run well in similar events in the past.
Third-home Tominator won the Northumberland Plate in 2011 for the late Reg Hollinshead. Now in the care of Jonjo O’Neill, he looks just as good, if not better than ever having been beaten by less than a length here off a 10lb higher mark than when successful at Newcastle.
Simenon, the joint top-weight, ran an excellent race in fourth, making up the best part of 10 lengths in the final 2f and beaten by just over a length at the line. He too has winning form in prestige events, having won twice at Royal Ascot last year.
Joint-favourite Countrywide Flame was second in the Cesarewitch when last seen on the Flat but is better known as one of the top hurdlers around, having finished third in this year’s Champion Hurdle. He gives the Chester Cup form further substance in fifth, just a head behind Simenon.
The first five had clearly run well and, in opening a small gap to the rest, it seemed sensible to think they had all run above their marks, so I raised all of them. That meant a 4lb rise to 101 for Address Unknown, 2lb to 93 for Ingleby Spirit, 2lb to 102 for Tominator and 1lb each for Simenon (to 108, though no actual rating change to put through as he is Irish-trained) and Countrywide Flame (to 93).
Of those in behind, the other joint-favourite, Justification, didn’t have things go his way and is possibly worth another chance, while Suraj ended up with a fair bit to do on his first run in nearly 6 months and, despite finishing tenth, this wasn’t a bad effort. He ran several pounds below his rating though, so I still felt compelled to drop him a couple, and he is now eligible for 0-95s.
Further back in the field, Buckland was disappointing having run so well in the Sagaro. This clearly wasn’t his running though and the level of the Sagaro stays the same, at least for now.
Ile De Re won this last year and then followed up in the Northumberland Plate, but those races were run on much softer ground and he found himself back in thirteenth this time. Surprisingly for such a big handicap, the form of the Northumberland Plate hasn’t worked out and I’ve dropped Ile De Re by 2lb to 103.
Finally, a quick mention for Mount Athos, who was left with little to beat due to the disappointing performance of Memphis Tennessee in the Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes. He looked as good as ever on his reappearance, leaving his Group 3 opposition trailing and appearing well worth his lofty rating of 117. Another owned by Marwan Koukash, a repeat bid in the Melbourne Cup, in which he finished fifth last year, is apparently the long-term goal again.
SKY LANTERN PUTS CHAMPION ON CLOUD NINE
Having witnessed one of the best 2,000 Guineas performances of recent years the previous day with Dawn Approach’s romp across the heath, the Qipco 1,000 Guineas produced a closer and more thrilling finish but a winner that ranks at the lower end of recent winners in terms of her rating, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
I am in no way decrying Sky Lantern and hope that she can go on and improve upon her rating as the season progresses but at the present time it is hard to raise her from her pre-race rating of 111 – a figure which puts her on a par with Jacqueline Quest (disqualified) and Special Duty (awarded the race) in the 2010 renewal.
Having returned figures of 111 when winning the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh last year and when runner-up in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes on her reappearance, Sky Lantern appears to performed to that figure for a third time.
Under normal circumstances one would expect a Classic winning performance to be an improvement on what has gone before but in this case I find that hard to justify. Half-length runner-up Just The Judge went into the race rated 107 and is raised 3lb to a new mark of 110 for her effort, fourth placed Winning Express is also raised 3lb from 104 to 107, Irish challenger Snow Queen had a mark of 100 pre-race and is raised 6lb to 106 for finishing fifth, the winner’s stable mate Maureen is adjudged to have run to her 106 in sixth while eighth placed Masarah goes up 5lb to 100 for her effort.
In short four of the first eight home have been raised, two stay the same, third placed Moth didn’t have a published rating pre-race so leaving French challenger What A Name as the only top eight finisher to have run below form – as I said, it is difficult to get Sky Lantern any higher!
One slight query I had post-race concerned the rides given to Moth and Maureen – both flew late and finished in eye-catching style. I cannot decide at the present time if Messrs O’Brien and Peslier gave them too much to do or whether they are a pair of fillies who basically need a stiffer test than Sunday’s mile presented – hopefully the answer will become clear as the season progresses.
In terms of revised ratings the problem horse from my perspective was vanquished favourite Hot Snap, ninth, who was one of the first beaten. She was the top rated filly going into the race with a mark of 113 gained when winning the Nell Gwyn but blew out in no uncertain terms on the big day.
It is unusual to leave the winner of a trial rated above the winner of a Classic but given that she beat Sky Lantern and Winning Express pretty comprehensively in the Nell Gwyn it is safe to say she didn’t run anywhere near her best on Sunday and her form has a solid look to it.
Given the subsequent reports from connections it appears all was not well with her and I am happy to leave her on 113 for the time being. Fingers crossed she returns later in the season to prove that decision right or wrong...
BARIZAN BOUNCES BACK
Barizan’s return to top form in winning the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday was a welcome sight for his backers, but the long gap back to the third horse gave me a considerable headache, writes David Dickinson.
Granted the race was transformed by morning rain and two high profile withdrawals but my problem was that every horse finishing between third and ninth had run to their mark last time out, all bar one of them within the previous six weeks. So just how much should I call the 19 lengths between second and third. Second home Mr Mole, had travelled like a really good horse but has been described as quirky - his head goes in the air somewhat and he does hang - but that said he continued to close near the line.
So my first decision was to call the half a length that Barizan beat him 2lb as the winner looked decidedly on top after the last. I also then decided that those between third and ninth should not move significantly in the ratings but that still left the problem of what to call that 19 length gap.
I took the view that the much publicised wind operation and the first time tongue tie had seen Evan Williams coax his charge back to something like his best for this considerable prize. At his best as a juvenile, Barizan was rated 146 for his Triumph Hurdle second, a rating that included seven pounds of weight-for-age. The rating of 138 I have allotted him for this success is within a pound of that figure with the weight for age taken out but also gives him a chance in a further handicap if he can recapture that high mark of 146.
The runner up Mr Mole goes up by two pounds less to 152 from 142.