THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Jack Dexter: Bronze Cup winner could go for the Ayr Gold Cup next yearPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Ayr sprints produce some classy efforts
This year's Ayr Western meeting saw for the first time all three big sprints, Gold, Silver and Bronze run on the Saturday, writes Stewart Copeland.
The fact they were run at all was a great credit to all concerned at Ayr, having been hit by a deluge of rain throughout Thursday, which washed out the first day of the meeting.
Thankfully conditions, albeit testing, had improved a good deal by the time I arrived at the track on the Friday morning, and with a promising forecast for the next two days, everyone could focus on the racing rather than the weather.
First up on the Saturday was the Bronze Cup, which was won by the three-year-old gelding Jack Dexter, a popular success with the crowd given he's trained in Scotland by Jim Goldie. Competing off 84, Jack Dexter had already shown his ability to act on soft/heavy going, and coming here off the back of a promising fourth at York, he showed himself a sprinter still very much on the upgrade with an impressive success.
His decisive two-and-a-quarter -ength defeat of Cheveton, no stranger himself to success at the Western meeting, means a revised rating of 93. No doubt connections already have one eye on next year's Gold Cup, and with further improvement surely to come, they'll be hoping he breaks the long wait for a Scottish-trained winner of the race, which stretches back to Roman Warrior in 1975.
The dust, or more accurately mud, had barely settled on that race when next up was the Silver. It produced a thrilling finish, with the Michael Dods trained five-year-old gelding Mass Rally getting up in the last stride to deny the well-backed Highland Colori. It's been a frustrating season for Mass Rally, with numerous placed efforts in big handicaps to his name, and on occasions appearing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
However there was no faulting his attitude on this occasion, keeping on well under a determined ride to lead literally on the line. With Highland Colori already due to race off a 4lb higher mark in the future after finishing second in a handicap at Doncaster's Leger meeting, I've taken the view he's reproduced that form, which means a 5lb rise for Mass Rally. His rating therefore goes up from 94 to a career-high 99.
With a two-year-old group race next on the card, there was just enough time for punters to analyse and dissect those results, and what clues they may give, before the main event of the day was upon us.
The weights for the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup were headed by the sole Irish challenger Maarek, recent winner of the Group 3 Renaissance Stakes at the Curragh, and competing here off a mark of 114. Indeed the lowest rated horse ran off 96, which emphasises the quality of horse which is required to get a run these days in Europe's richest sprint handicap.
Even though the aforementioned Maarek ran an excellent race to finish third, the honours on the day went to the six-year-old gelding Captain Ramius trained by Kevin Ryan, who was landing his third Ayr Gold Cup in six years.
Always on the pace, Captain Ramius made his bid for glory well over a furlong out and never looked in danger of being caught thereafter, coming home two and a half lengths clear of Regal Parade, himself a former winner of the race.
Captain Ramius had shaped with plenty of promise in both the Bunbury Cup and Great St Wilfrid this season, and with track, trip and going looking an ideal combination, it's no surprise in these quarters (and Pricewise!) that he posted a career-best on Saturday. That equates to a new mark of 109, having won off 100, with the runner up Regal Parade, also competing off 100, returning a figure of 103, on a par with the form he was showing earlier in the campaign. That means Maarek has run to a figure of 114, which is a reproduction of his Renaissance form and the highest performance rating achieved in a sprint handicap this year in Britain. Along with the winner, he comes out of the race with a tremendous amount of credit.
It's pretty common knowledge how the weighing out and weighing in system works and it took me rather by surprise that there was not only one issue at ‘scales' in my races this week, but two, writes Graeme Smith.
The second, and more high profile, came at Ayr on Saturday when Phillip Makin mistakenly bypassed scales on his way into the changing room after partnering Capaill Liath into second place behind Common Touch in the 7f handicap, and in the process brought about the disqualification of the horse and earned himself a seven-day suspension. This posed the obvious question of whether I adjusted Capaill Liath's rating or not.
In going down by a short head with two and a half lengths back to the third I had him running to a figure of 90 - 3lb higher than the 87 he ran off - assuming of course that he did run off 87 and that Makin and his equipment neither gained nor lost weight since weighing out. Herein lies the problem. The reason for Capaill Liath's disqualification was that the clerk of the scales had no way of checking that the correct weight was carried, and if there's enough uncertainly to disqualify the horse handicapping policy dictates there's enough for us to discard the run. As a result, Capaill Liath's rating remains at 87.
The other case I dealt with had a rather different result. This concerned Divine Rule, who was beaten a length into second by Wyndham Wave in division two of the 1m handicap at Kempton on Thursday evening. Amir Quinn weighed out at 8st 121lb, which equated to a rating of 48, only to weigh back in after the race at 9st. Quinn was handed a three-day suspension for the discrepancy but the result was allowed to stand due to the horse clearly having gained no unfair advantage.
As there's no doubt how much weight Divine Rule carried I was able to rate his performance accurately, assessing him as having run off a mark of 50 as opposed to the scheduled 48. That got him running to a figure of 52 and brought about a 2lb rise to that rating (a 4lb rise from his published mark). Those who backed him might well be reflecting on what might have been as the 2lb overweight equates to a length at 1m and without it he'd surely have pushed the winner mighty close.
AND FINALLY THE SMALL MATTER OF THE ARC APPROACHES
Little in the way of Group fare in Britain this week but plenty of it across the English Channel with the Arc trials at Longchamp, writes Stephen Hindle.
The Japanese colt Orfevre shot to the top of many ante-post markets for the October showpiece with his handy win in the Prix Foy. I felt he did it a touch cosily and went 121 with a shade extra factored in, which is a tad higher than my international counterparts. Meandre had won Group 1 events on his two previous starts but it is the third, Joshua Tree, who holds down the form, as he has never been higher than 115 in the past. Joshua Tree beat Fiorente in the Foy but had finished second to him in the Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket so I decided to put them both on the same mark, 117. I was reluctant to go lower as Fiorente beat Red Cadeaux fair and square at Newmarket and Red Cadeaux is a fairly solid 116.
On our figures, Danedream, joint or second favourite for the Arc depending on your bookmaker, has achieved a higher level of form both this season and last. She earned 128 in last year's World Thoroughbred Rankings, though 123 is our best figure for her this year. Being a filly, Danedream would also receive weight from Orfevre in the Arc.
Saonois took the Niel. I have him running to 117 and he will need to improve to be major player next month, but that's certainly not out of the question given that he's a three-year-old who has a progressive profile. There is also reason to think he may already be slightly better than his rating as the Niel turned into something of a sprint and therefore the field was less strung out than it might have been in a more truly run race.
Restricted to fillies and mares, the Vermeille had easily the biggest field, 13 lining up for this year's renewal. It was also run at a better pace than the other two trials, and the time was easily fastest so the form should prove reliable. Shareta is a model of consistency and followed up her win in the Yorkshire Oaks with a two-length victory over Pirika. It's hard to believe Shareta has improved given that Pirika was rated just 109 by the French handicapper going in, while on our figures she wasn't even worth that. A rating of 117, the same as her pre-race mark, for Shareta, ties in with the third, and that is what I went for. Like Saonois, Shareta is around 10-1 for the Arc.
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