THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
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Excelebration at Ascot: the explanation
Following on from the action on Champions Day at Ascot last Saturday, I have been taken to task on various internet sites and by one daily paper journalist in particular, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
They all took exception to my comments that Excelebration’s performance in winning the Qipco QE II should not be taken into account when assessing Frankel’s final rating. I’m afraid I take the comment “How can these opinionated form boffins get it so wrong?” somewhat insulting in itself and feel that a detailed explanation of my thinking is in order.
In my opinion Excelebration put up two 125 performances last year as a three-year old – when landing the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury by six lengths and when four lengths second to Frankel in last year’s renewal of the QE II. In that contest he beat Dubawi Gold (117) by three and three-quarter lengths and Side Glance (115) by five lengths – these are important “marker horses” by which to measure his 2012 performances.
Having moved to Aidan O’Brien during the close season, Excelebration started the new campaign by finishing five lengths second to Frankel in the JLT Lockinge at Newbury – a four length gap back to Dubawi Gold (117) suggesting that he had once again performed to 125 given that the two of them had reproduced their previous Ascot running to within a quarter of a length. It was after this performance that I raised Frankel to a new mark of 138.
While 'team O’Brien' had taken the view that they would try and 'jump' Frankel with a turn of foot at Newbury, they tried different tactics in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in as much that they tried to race Frankel from over two furlongs out – a mistake as it turned out as he paid the price through the final furlong and only just held on for second place.
The close proximity of old adversary Side Glance (114 - beaten a neck into third) and the German Listed race winner Indomito (112 – beaten a further length into fourth) suggest that, figures wise, Excelebration ran about 10lbs below his best at that time. I fully appreciate the fact that he paid the penalty for trying to make a race of it with Frankel and if he had purely been ridden to gain the best possible placing I’m sure he would have been a very clear cut runner-up, probably running to around 125.
So at this point in his career he had met Frankel five times and the distances between them read:
Greenham 2011 = 4 lengths
St James’s Palace 2011 = 2.25 lengths
QE II 2011 = 4 lengths
Lockinge 2012 = 5 lengths
Queen Anne 2012 = 11 lengths
And so Excelebration moved on to France where I was delighted he landed the Jacques le Marois by one and a quarter lengths from Cityscape, with John Gosden’s filly Elusive Kate a further neck away third – again general opinion was that he had performed to a figure around the 124/125 mark in securing the success. My thoughts at the time were one of relief that he had suffered no ill effects from the Queen Anne battle but also that the run confirmed him to be still no better than a 125 horse.
As I said in this blog last week however, I believe Champions Day saw a new and improved Excelebration. Let’s look at the facts:
• He increased his superiority over Cityscape from the Jacques Le Marois from one and a quarter lengths and a neck, to a long looking three lengths and three and a quarter lengths – and it was achieved in an easier manner – suggesting at least a 4lb improvement.
• He increased his superiority over Side Glance from a neck in the Queen Anne and five lengths in last year’s QE II to approaching seven and a half lengths – suggesting around a 5lb improvement.
• He increased his superiority over Indomito from one and a quarter lengths in the Queen Anne to approaching ten and a half lengths in the QE II – suggesting about an 18lb improvement!
Let us also consider the relativity with Frankel using the Queen Anne performances of Side Glance and Indomito:
• Frankel beat Side Glance 11.25 lengths at Ascot, Excelebration beat him 7.35 lengths last week – suggesting Frankel is about a 4 lengths (or 8lb over a mile) better horse than Excelebration (see table above of head to head performances!!).
• Frankel beat Indomito 12.25 lengths at Ascot, Excelebration beat him 10.35 lengths last week – suggesting Frankel is about a 2 lengths (or 4lb) better horse.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Excelebration we saw saunter away with this year’s QE II was a better horse than the one Frankel was beating earlier in the season – I believe the facts stated above prove that. I await Mr Duval’s form based analysis to counter this argument and prove me wrong.
Oh, and one other thing. Frankel ended last season on 136 and Excelebration ended it on 126 – the difference 10lbs. Their current ratings are 140 and 130 – difference 10lbs. Other than the Queen Anne, the weight conversion of Frankel’s winning distances over Excelebration are:-
Greenham 2011 = 8lb
St James’s Palace 2011 = 5lb
QE II 2011 = 8lb
Lockinge 2012 = 10lb
How much more detail do I need to go into?
BARNS STORMS IN CLASSIC PICTURE
Britain’s last big two-year old race of the year is the Racing Post Trophy, writes Matthew Tester.
In the previous 21 runnings, the median rating for winning the Doncaster showpiece is 116 and recent winners have included star performers Camelot, High Chapparal, St Nicholas Abbey, Motivator and Authorised.
The key to this year’s renewal looked to be the excellent Steeler. He was 112 for winning the Royal Lodge but I thought that this track would suit him better than Newmarket where he seemed to get a little unbalanced on the downhill section, as he had at Goodwood.
Just like last year, we had a once-raced Aidan O’Brien favourite in Kingsbarns who won the race in tidy style. He was kept up to his work to the line, unlike Camelot last year who spent the minimum of time off the bit and won with plenty in hand.
Camelot was credited with 119 and my figure for Kingsbarns is just 1lb lower at 118. Steeler was caught for second on the line by the previously unbeaten Van Der Neer and each of them now gets a 114 rating. Two lengths back was the Irish Group 1 winner First Cornerstone who ran to his pre-race mark of 110 on my figures.
There are still big races to come in the USA and in France but it still looks like Dawn Approach will be our champion when the European Handicappers sit down in December and hammer it all out.
Saturday’s Group 3 Worthington Champion Shield Navigation Brewery St Simon Stakes went to a filly for the fourth time in the last seven years, this time in the shape of the improving three-year old Hazel Lavery, writes Graeme Smith.
Charles Hill’s daughter of Excellent Art has kept listed or pattern company throughout the year and, after making the breakthrough at listed level in the Aphrodite Stakes at Newmarket in July, opened her pattern-race account with a game defeat of the Gordon Stakes-winner Noble Mission.
Rating the race proved very straightforward with Noble Mission – who carried a 3lb penalty for his aforementioned Group 3 success – drawing two and a half lengths clear of the third-placed Songcraft, which was exactly how their pre-race marks of 113 and 106 suggested they would finish.
That meant an improvement in Hazel Lavery’s figure from 102 to 108, which looks a very good fit according to her Park Hill form, where she was second to Wild Coco (113) and had the 108-rated Estimate a short-head behind in third. Admittedly that Doncaster race is still rated a bit below the level those fillies’ ratings suggests but that has to be the case with the steady gallop having led to several with less exalted form also finishing close up.
The other improver from the St Simon was the fourth-placed Khione. Luca Cumani’s daughter of Dalakhani has progressed throughout her six career starts and appeared to relish the increased test of stamina that heavy conditions provided.
While pre-race marks strongly suggested the level I settled on, race standards also made a convincing case. The average level for both the first three and first four over the last five years pointed towards 108 on the winner, whilst that for the first five was also thereabouts at 109. It doesn’t always work out that neatly of course, but I’ll certainly settle for it when it does!
This blog appears courtesy of britishhorseracing.com