THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Excelebration (left) cements his position as the top miler behind FrankelPICTURE: ScoopDyga.com
Excelebration time with no Frankel in the way
THE Haras de Fresney-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois was never going to crown a champion miler this year with Frankel having set his sights on York's International instead, but it still endorsed his superiority in the division as his perennial whipping boy Excelebration stepped out from the shadows to cement his position as number two, writes Graeme Smith.
It was a deep and high-class field that Excelebration saw off by upwards of a length and a quarter, and it proved a relatively straightforward race to rate. Having Excelebration running to his Irish figure of 125 - a middling if unspectacular performance judged against past winners - tallied perfectly with third-placed Elusive Kate's Prix Rothschild-winning mark of 119. That left runner-up Cityscape 2lb shy of his 124-rating, but that career-best figure had come at 1m1f and he'd never previously got this high over 1m.
The bare result suggests Moonlight Cloud was a shade disappointing in fourth but that was far from the case after she'd been shuffled back to the rear approaching the last 2f as the front three were striking on, and she did remarkably well to get as close as she did. Her Prix Maurice de Gheest-winning mark of 121 leaves her 1lb behind Excelebration when her sex allowance is taken into account, which equates to half a length at 1m, and that's probably a fair estimate of where she'd have finished with a clear run.
The first five drew clear of the remainder and congratulations go to Alan McCabe for his handling of Caspar Netscher, who increased his rating 7lb to 121 from his Greenham and German 2,000 Guineas-winning efforts in going down by less than two lengths.
The pick of the British action I dealt with over the week was Thursday's Group 3 totepool.com Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury and again that proved straightforward to rate. The Andrew Balding-trained pair of Tullius and Highland Knight came in rated 112 and 110 respectively, and with three-quarters of a length between them in first and third those figures looked a good starting point.
Historical standards for the race also suggested 112, and I'm quite happy to have the three-year-old Sovereign Debt improving from 106 to 111 after splitting them given his rating has improved with every run this year.
It's been Pattern races all the way in this piece so far and that could well be the destination for Stirring Ballad before long after she completed a four-timer in a fairly valuable handicap over an extended 7f at Chester on Saturday. Another trained by Balding, I have her improving from 89 to 96 with this effort, and while her trainer was quoted as saying he may put her away with next year in mind, she already looks up to being competitive in Listed races if kept on the go.
One final mention goes to David Simcock and Hayley Turner for their success with I'm A Dreamer in the Grade 1 Beverley D Stakes at Arlington in Chicago on Saturday night. The five-year-old gained the verdict over the strong-finishing Marketing Mix by a head - the same distance she'd been denied by in the EP Taylor at Woodbine, Toronto, on her previous trip across the pond last autumn. As part of the 'win and you're in' initiative, this success guarantees her place in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf should her connections opt for that route, though that will likely require a further improvement on this new mark of 113 (up 2lb).
FINE KIRBY RIDE SEALS HUNGERFORD
THE Betfred Hungerford is one of four Group 2 7f races run each season in Britain and as the 7f handicapper I would, obviously, be keen for at least one of them to be upgraded to Group 1 status, writes Mark Olley.
If it were to happen the Hungerford would just shade favouritism with me based on the level of horses it has attracted in the past couple of seasons.
Having said that, this season's renewal was a strange race thanks to the well thought out tactics of Clive Cox and Adam Kirby's excellent execution of them. Kirby soon had Lethal Force in a clear lead and with just over a furlong to run it became apparent that the remainder of the field had let him get too far clear and were not going to peg him back.
I based the race around Irish runner Alanza (108), in third, and Majestic Myles (110), in fourth. Alanza received the 3lb fillies' allowance and in defeating Majestic Myles by half a length they ran to their pre-race ratings. This means that I have Strong Suit running to a figure of 114, which is 9lb below his pre-race rating of 123 and I am going to drop that 3lbs to 120. This was Strong Suit's best run this season, but he has generally struggled and when looking at his career record it is noticeable that his Newmarket Challenge Stakes victory is his only performance above 117 and that figure is beginning to look more isolated. Things haven't really gone the way of Richard Hannon's colt this term and it wouldn't surprise me if he bounced back to his best at some stage.
All of the above means that I have Lethal Force running to a career high figure of 115 (up 8lb). The way this race was run makes me wonder if this could be a one off, but he deserves full credit at this stage. This is slightly below the 118 five year standard for the winner of this race, but is on a par with 2009 winner Balthazaar's Gift and 2007 winner Red Evie. Last season's winner Excelebration, with a figure of 125, set the standard.
ATHOS LOOKS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MELBOURNE TEST
I WAS surprised to learn that Mount Athos apparently needed to win the Geoffrey Freer Stakes to guarantee himself a run in the Melbourne Cup, writes Stephen Hindle.
I've assessed the vast majority of races over staying distances in Britain this year and on my ratings only Colour Vision, the Gold Cup winner, had run to a higher figure at an "extended" distance. That covers all races at a mile and three quarters and beyond, while Mount Athos sat clearly at the top of the weights for the Ebor, Europe's richest handicap, when they came out.
Melbourne Cups aside, the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes is a prestigious race in itself and represented a step up in class for Mount Athos, so it was well worth winning. The victory was made all the sweeter for owner Marwan Koukash as Mount Athos beat the Tom Dascombe trained and therefore Cheshire based Brown Panther, so in a sense there was something of a local rivalry about the contest.
I used Modun's solid-looking piece of form behind Fox Hunt in March to come up with Mount Athos' new figure, leaving Modun on 110 and raising Mount Athos to 120. Brown Panther ran slightly below his mark of 118 and goes back down to 117.
Masked Marvel's connections ran a pacemaker but he possibly went a little too quick and last year's St Leger winner ended up in front a fair way from home. That said, Masked Marvel has been disappointing this season as he has run nowhere near to the form he showed in the St Leger in four starts in 2012. There is little wrong with that form either. Brown Panther was three lengths behind him in second that day, while the third, Sea Moon, won this year's Hardwicke. Masked Marvel is now down to 112 having been 10 lb higher last year.
No such problems for Mount Athos, however, Luca Cumani's five-year-old continuing to progress to a very high level. He heads to Melbourne as the favourite for the race that stops a nation.
DO THE FIGURES SOMETIMES LIE?
PAGE six of Saturday's Racing Post on Perth's Summer Champion Hurdle carried the sort of piece all handicappers dread. Cause Of Causes was the horse in question and the implication was that he was something of a blot on the handicap, writes David Dickinson.
Fortunately for me, I was relaxed about the situation as I had already checked it out earlier in the week after a query. Three words sum up the issue - weight for age. In the Galway hurdle Cause Of Causes ran off an official Irish mark of 131 but he received 19lb from the third horse in that race Captain Cee Bee, who ran off 145, the Irish weight for age at the time being 5lb.
However, the weight for age in Britain at the same point is just 1lb and I assessed the race in that way, treating Cause Of Causes as if he had run off an 18lb lower mark than Captain Cee Bee at Galway.
The majority of punters went down the Elliott/Mottershead route and the horse started 5-2 favourite but could finish only sixth. He did again encounter trouble in running and his mark in Britain will remain unchanged.
The race was won by Kian's Delight from Absinthe who brought into the Perth race, not form from Galway but from the major hurdle at Market Rasen in July. Kian's Delight goes up 6lb to 132 and I have raised the Market Rasen race in which the aforementioned finished second and fourth by two pounds collaterally through Absinthe.
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