THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Dominic Gardiner-Hill feels Frankel fully deserves his new mark of 138PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Fabulous Frankel earns career-best figure
IT'S quite a responsibility assessing a performance that might be the best seen on a racetrack anywhere in the world for 25 years, confesses Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
The internationalisation of racing has led to all the major racing nations (bar South America for the moment) being represented on the World Rankings Committee, so you have to be pretty damn sure you have seen something very special before making such a bold decision.
After hours of thought and several viewings of Saturday's JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury I'm as confident as I can be that Frankel fully deserves his new mark of 138 - a rating that places himabove such modern greats as Peintre Celebre and Generous (137 in 1991 and 1997 respectively), Sea The Stars (136 in 2009) and a heap of horses on 135, including Harbinger (2010), Montjeu and Daylami (both 1999).
In fact, since 1985, only Dancing Brave's 141 in the Arc of 1986 betters his figure and it has been openly stated that the level of the World Thoroughbred Rankings (or International Classifications as they were previously known) have dropped a few pounds since those days.
My rationale is clear. Last year Frankel beat Excelebration three times, twice by four lengths (in the Greenham and in the QEII) and yet on Saturday he had extended that superiority to five lengths. In last year's 2,000 Guineas Frankel beat Dubawi Gold by six lengths and in the QEII Richard Hannon's colt was a respectful seven and three-quarter lengths behind in fourth - on Saturday he was beaten a total of nine lengths into third.
A beating of either of those on their own could have left the Lockinge form open to question, but the fact is that there was three and three quarter lengths between Excelebration and Dubawi Gold at Ascot and four lengths between them at Newbury - suggesting they hadreplicated their form to the pound. Both were race fit and yet Frankel extended his advantage over them - to my mind that suggests this was his best ever performance and that has to be reflected in his rating. Hence 138!
The Wworld Rankings Committee has been criticised in the past for possibly overreacting to "one off" performances. There is no danger of that in the case of Frankel - his career record is now ten from ten, he has posted four 130+ performances to date (with the promise of more to come) and has won his Group 1 races by six lengths, three-quarters of a length, five lengths, four lengths and now five lengths.
The truth is that we don't really know how good this fellow is (and the same goes for Australian superstar Black Caviar) and it may well be that only the lack of world class opposition will stop him from breaking the 140 barrier - as such I feel we should take advantage of a fully justifiable form line that allows us to give him as much credit as possible.
One last aspect of Saturday's race that I feel is worth a mention. The plaudits rightly went the way of Messers Cecil and Queally, but spare a thought and applaud the part Ian Mongan played aboard pacemaker Bullet Train. Little went right last season in his efforts to help his illustrious stable companion, but he got it spot on at Newbury and Frankel got the lead he was seeking for much of last season - I believe this was a vital factor in Frankel putting up the performance he did. Conversely, quite what part Coolmore's pacemaker Windsor Palace was supposed to play in the contest I'm still trying to work out.
THE GRAND OLD DUKE OF YORK
Last week's Group 2 6f Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire was billed as the battle of North Yorkshire, with the front two in the market, Hoof It and Mayson, expected to battle out the finish, enthuses Stewart Copeland.
However, it was their unconsidered fellow ‘Tyke' Tiddliwinks, trained by Kevin Ryan, who triumphed for the White Rose County instead. Third in last year's renewal when running to a mark of 108, he showed himself to be better than ever with a head defeat of The Cheka, with a somewhat unlucky-in-running Society Rock a neck further back in third.
In recent times the average winning rating for the Duke Of York has been around 112, and I had to consider whether Tiddliwinks was at least worthy of such a rating. On balance I feel he is for now, which means I took the view also that The Cheka had put up a marginally best career effort. Unexposed at sprint trips, he seems to have relished the drop back to six furlongs this season, and he's been credited with a mark of 111.
As for Society Rock, he ran a highly creditable first race of the year, recording a mark of 110. I'm happy to leave him at 117, and he'll head for his favourite stomping ground of Ascot in an attempt to repeat his Golden Jubilee success at the Royal meeting. However, looking ahead to that race, on this evidence they'll all be fighting for second place if a peak form Black Caviar turns up. The brilliant mare is currently rated 132, which puts into stark perspective the gulf between her and the pick of the home contingent.
Going back to the two favourites, a line can be put through Mayson's disappointing run, having got upset at the stalls; he was reported to be never travelling. He remains on 110, and having been such a progressive sort this year, hopefully he'll put this quickly behind him. Hoof It also remains on his current rating of 118, though he only ran to 101 in finishing fifth. It was a somewhat sluggish start to his season, from some way out he was clearly struggling togo the pace and never looking like landing a blow. He was subsequently reported to be coughing though, and it's far too soon to be writing him off.
YORKSHIRE CUP A GIFT FOR CADEAUX
Red Cadeaux gained reward for many excellent placed efforts when winning the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup, states Stephen Hindle.
It was his first win for almost a year but he'd run some cracking races in between, notably when touched off in the Melbourne Cup in November.
Ed Dunlop's six-year-old is tremendously consistent, to the point where I have him running to within a couple of pounds of his rating on his last five starts, but this was arguably his best effort yet.
I toyed with the idea of leaving him on 115, particularly as the second, Glen's Diamond, raisesquestions as to how good the form is having entered the race with a rating of 106.
In the end, however, I felt 116 was a more appropriate mark. It ties in with last year's renewal, as 116 is the mark Duncan ended up on, while itmeans Red Cadeaux is now rated 1lb higher than the third, Harris Tweed. Glen's Diamond goes up to 113.
In raising Red Cadeaux to 116 I felt it pertinent to raise Colour Vision, who defeated Red Cadeaux at Kempton earlier in May,to 117. A typical stepping stone from here would be the Gold Cup at Ascot but, unlike Colour Vision, Red Cadeaux is not entered in that contest. His current entries are in mile and a half races, namely the Coronation Cup at Epsom and Hardwicke Stakesat Royal Ascot.
DON'T WRITE OFF HIGHLY RATED HURDLERS IN HANDICAPS
With the Anglo-Irish Classifications now published the time seems right to mention the admirable but these days not quite top class Celestial Halo, comments Dave Dickinson.
His mark of 161 makes him the joint ninth best two mile hurdler, a typical twilight horse. Not quite up to competing with the very top horses, his best days behind him and seemingly only in training just to make up the numbers in the Championship races. And handicaps? Well those were totally out of the question surely, he wasjust going to be too high to be competitive, wasn't he?
Prior to the 2011-12 season he had won his only handicap over jumps at Wincanton off a mark of 165 but that came just months after his finest hour, failing in a photo in the 2009 Champion Hurdle. Two years on, he began his campaign in that same Wincanton race off a mark of 160 and won it, albeit Grandouet fell and his two remaining rivals ran from out of the handicap. Two from two in handicaps became three from three onNew Year's Eve when he carried top weight to a thrilling success at Newbury. He finishes the season on just a one pound higher mark than for his two successes.
Of the top ten two mile hurdlers in this year's Classifications, Paul Nicholls trains four. All of his four won handicaps during the season; of the other six only the Donald McCain trained Overturn managed a victory in one. Now remind me again, why is Mr Nicholls champion trainer?