THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Not much racing in the last seven days due to the weather conditionsPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Feeling the chill
THERE hasn't been an awful lot of racing in the last seven days, with the loss of the big weekend jumps cards proving a real disappointment, but while we're a bit light on flagship horses in this week'sblog our team have picked out several noteworthy performances that might have escaped the attentions of many.
ON THE UP
Despite the limited racing programme last week a couple of middle distance novice hurdlers created enough of an impression to suggest that they could progress on to better things as the season continues, writes Chris Nash.
At Ffos Las on Sunday Benheir sluiced up on his hurdles debut. He had won the last of his three bumper runs back in November and had subsequently changed hands.
Although the opposition here was limited he created a good impression on his debut for Rebecca Curtis when coasting home by 22 lengths. He doesn't qualify for an official rating just yet but the runner-up King's Sunset does and he will enter the handicap ranks with a rating of 105. This would suggest that Benheir turned in a performance worthy of a rating of at least 127 and by any reckoning that represents a decent debut. It will be interesting to see if this initial promise is confirmed next time out.
The second horse worth a mention is Tap Night, who won a 2m4f novice hurdle at Newcastle on Wednesday by an easy 12 lengths. He had previously won a novice handicap race from a mark of 110 and lined up here with an official rating of 125. His stiffest competition looked likely to come from An Capall Mor (pre-race 115), to whom Tap Night had to concede 7lb, but he ran a poor race in the testing conditions.
Although this casts a bit of a shadow over the form, the eventual runner-up Falcun arrived with some consistent form and a pre-race rating of 110. In giving him 7lb and a 12-length beating it is reasonable to assume that Tap Night ran to a figure of 129+ and factoring in the ease of the victory his revised rating will be 132. This was only his fifth hurdles run and his form has a progressive look to it which, in conjunction with a rating of 132, suggests that he could more than hold his own upped in class.
The most progressive horse I dealt with in a curtailed week was undoubtedly the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Storm Survivor, writes Graeme Smith. The six-year-old son of Milan has proved a revelation since switched to handicaps and raised in trip and despite being turned over at odds on at Fakenham earlier in January, he resumed winning ways in decisive fashion in a conditional jockeys' event at Plumpton.
Again partnered by Maurice Linehan, Storm Survivor relished the combination of a further step up to 3m1f and the application of a visor, going much further on the bridle than any of his rivals and, after taking a while to get going once shaken up at the second last, powering away from the final flight to account for The Red Laird by an ever-increasing seven lengths.
The runner-up had been off the track since February last year but his profile is generally progressive and I raised his mark 4lb to 105 following this defeat of several others with recent handicap form to their names. The knock-on from that was a 14lb rise for Storm Survivor to 124, having decided he was value for an extra five lengths over the bare winning margin.
Even though the English cricket team aren't enjoying much success in the Middle East, to say the least, the same can't be said of the British raiders at Meydan this winter, with both sprints last Friday being won by horses trained from these shores, writes Stewart Copeland.
The Group 3 6f Al Shindagha Sprint run on the Tapeta surface was won by the admirable Hitchens, putting up his best performance since an excellent third to Dream Ahead in last summer's Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
Always well positioned just behind the pace, he hit the front inside the last and dug deep to hold off the rallying Krypton Factor, narrowly prevailing by a short-head.
Rated 113 in the World Rankings at the end of 2011, Hitchens showed himself here to be as good as ever and remains on that mark. His next port of call looks likely to be the Group 3 6f Mahab Al Shimaal, run on March 10 as part of Super Saturday at this year's festival.
The preceding turf sprint handicap over 5f produced an exciting finish, the first four home all trained in Britain, with Monsieur Joe prevailing by a neck from Inxile, with Bohemian Melody and Iver Bridge Lad filling the framebehind them.
Formerly trained by Walter Swinburn, the Monsieur Joe was having only his second start for Robert Cowell and recorded his best performance since some excellent efforts at Meydan last winter.
He landed this handicap off a mark of 100, and probably ran to a rating of 103, though a case could be made for it to be slightly higher.
His stable companion Prohibit won a similar contest at Meydan this time last year, en route to being successful in last year's Group 1 King's Stand at Royal Ascot, and no doubt connections will be hoping there's better to come from Monsieur Joe as well.
This blog appears courtesy of britishhorseracing.com