THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Dawn Approach winning the Dewhurst in "great style"PICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
Dawn approaching champion status
Thank goodness that Newmarket missed the sort of rain that fell on York, writes Matthew Tester.
When Group 1 races are run in a bog you do not find out which was the best horse. You find out who coped best with the conditions. The ground on Future Champions Day was as close to good as you could expect and the races worked out as close to perfect as any handicapper could have wished.
Going into the Middle Park, my top-rated was Reckless Abandon on 116 with Moohajim on 115. The two joined battle with Reckless Abandon coming out a neck in front. Both ratings stayed where they were and confirmed the levels we already had for the Prix Morny and the Mill Reef Stakes.
The Dewhurst was dominated by Dawn Approach. His sire, New Approach, had won this race in 2007 running to an exceptional 126. Dawn Approach went into this race with a 121 rating from his win in the National Stakes. There were a few seconds in the race when I thought that he might lose. On the downhill section he took ages to get himself organised. But he came up the hill in great style.
There is a difference of opinions among my international colleagues as to whether he should now be rated 121 or 122. The proximity of his stablemate Leitir Mor is the fly in the ointment since he was only rated 105 before the race. However, apart from that large fly, everything else falls into place. On my reading he gave an 8lb beating to George Vancouver. In the Prix Morny, Reckless Abandon had given the same horse a 2lb beating. So it makes sense to have Dawn Approach 6lb ahead of Reckless Abandon's 116.
We will work it all out when the European Handicappers meet in December. Either way he remains the top-rated juvenile in Europe.
PROSPER PROSPERS TO MAKE HISTORY
One of the phrases in racing that is often trumpeted is the lack of a gulf in class between top handicappers and Group-class performers, so it was somewhat pleasing to see Aaim To Prosper, a regular in Group/Listed company over staying distances, turn in a tremendous effort to defy top weight in the Cesarewitch, writes Stephen Hindle.
Brian Meehan's eight-year-old's last appearance in a handicap was when winning the 2010 renewal off a mark 20lb lower than the one he defied on Saturday, when he became the first horse ever to win the race twice. Few punters were celebrating, however, as he went off at 66-1.
That starting price was not hard to fathom on this season's form. Although campaigned in a higher grade 11 times between his Cesarewitch wins, Aaim To Prosper had not been in the best of form going into the race and was actually due to be dropped 2lb having been beaten around nine lengths in a Listed race, also at Newmarket, 16 days earlier. Never previously rated higher than the 107 he competed off, there is no questioning that this rates a career-best.
The second, Countrywide Flame, came in looking attractively treated. After a magnificent juvenile hurdling campaign which saw him take the Triumph at Cheltenham, Countrywide Flame advertised his abilities on the Flat with a smooth enough win at Chester, and he went to Newmarket 2lb well in despite his 4lb penalty.
Given the positives surrounding the second, I felt the third, Tominator, was a better guide to the level of the form. Previously with Reg Hollinshead, Tominator is now in the care of Jonjo O'Neill and will no doubt be seen over hurdles himself in the near future. Competing off 98 here, Tominator had never been higher than 100 on the Flat and I felt that would be a fair mark to return him to. If anything, I could have gone a shade higher, but that would have made him worse off with the winner of the race he competed in last time out and it will clearly take a career-best for him to defy a mark of 100 next time on the Flat.
This looked a strongly run renewal so there seemed no reason to credit the winner with any extra over the second, nor the second with extra over the third, so by raising Tominator to 100 that equated to 112 for Aaim To Prosper, two-and-three-quarters in front of him at the line. Countrywide Flame was carried left slightly by the winner but I felt it had little impact on the result and I called the half length from winner to second the usual 1lb, meaning a new mark of 92 for Countrywide Flame. Compared to the ran-off marks, the winner would be 5lb higher, with the second 4lb and the third 2lb higher.
With the first three six lengths clear, I don't have any of the other 31 runners performing up to their marks. To underline the toughness of this race, half the finishers were beaten over 50 lengths, with five of those beaten more than 100 lengths.
BRITISH ABBAYE INVASION SEES HOME FILLY WIZZ
The final 5f Group 1 race of the European season was the Prix L'Abbaye run at Longchamp on Arc day, writes Chris Nash.
It is a race in which British-trained runners have historically done very well and this year 15 of the 18 runners were trained on these shores. The French provided only one runner and she ended up as the winner.
Wizz Kid finished late and fast to collar Mayson and Hamish McGonagall winning by a neck, and half a length. There was a gap of two-and-a-half lengths back to the fourth (Ballesteros) so there are reasons for thinking that the first three have performed with credit. The French filly arrived with a rating of 110 and received 1.5kgs (or 3.3lb) as a fillies' allowance. As I had done in the Nunthorpe of this year, I turned to Hamish McGonagall to provide a le vel for the race. He had run a figure of 113 when beaten one-and-a-quarter lengths in the Nunthorpe this year and a figure of 114 when beaten theree-quarters of a length in the Nunthorpe of 2011.
In being beaten three-quarters of a length here I settled on a figure of 114 for him again. This had Wizz Kid also running 114 and Mayson coming out as the best horse in the race in running a figure of 116. Confirmation of this level was provided by Ballesteros running a figure of 107 which equated to his previous highest official rating.
Taking the view that he may well be a better horse over 6f I decided to leave the rating of Mayson unchanged on 119 - a mark he obtained after spreadeagling the July Cup field.
Unfortunately we will not get to see him in the Champion Sprint at Ascot on Saturday but it will take a dazzling performance by someone to knock him off his perch as the leading British-trained sprint horse this year.
Perhaps Society Rock who returned a figure of 117 when winning the Haydock Sprint is best placed to challenge for that title - his form receiving a timely boost on the Arc card when Gordon Lord Byron (who finished second to him at Haydock) won the 7f furlong Group 1 Prix de la Foret. The form of the Abbaye may well get an early test at Ascot as Wizz Kid remains in the field after the entry stage.
This blog appears courtesy of the BHA