THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Frankel: rated 140 after Queen Anne victory at Royal AscotPICTURE: Getty Images
Frankel-ly a Demolition at Royal Ascot
Somewhere around 2.33pm last Tuesday somebody asked me the question how I felt having seen Frankel's demolition of the Queen Anne field - "bloody relieved" was my immediate and totally honest answer, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
Having rather put my neck on the line in raising his rating from 136 to 138 for his reappearance success in the Lockinge, it was a very satisfying sight to see the world's best thoroughbred put up such a stunning performance - without doubt one of the most visually impressive efforts I, or anyone else at Ascot, have had the privilege of witnessing. But what to do with his rating now?
There is always a degree of subjectivity involved with an eleven length winner and it is clear that old adversary Excelebration (125) did not run anywhere near his mark in finishing second, so I had to delve further back into the field to find some sort of benchmark for the level.
Third placed Side Glance was 115 in the World Thoroughbred Rankings last year, so a return to that level was a possible starting point but he had been a little below par in three previous runs this year so it was no guarantee. Fourth placed Indomito came from Germany with an official mark of 108 but on closer inspection I don't think that mark does justice to his seasonal debut at Dusseldorf in April when he ran the best miler in Germany, Alianthus, to half a length in receipt of only 4lb - in retrospect that looks more like a performance of 112.
Feeding that 112 into the Queen Anne, my figures for the race are Frankel 140, Excelebration 115, Side Glance 114 and Indomito 112 - which sits comfortably with me and recognises the incontrovertible fact that this was Frankel's best effort to date. But is he, as some are suggesting, the best ever?
My answer to that question is yes he MAY be the best ever but I don't believe his performance in the Queen Anne is the performance on which to make such a huge call!
If the below par Excelebration is stripped out of last Tuesday result he has basically done what everyone would have expected him to do to horses who are no better than Group Two and Three performers - he went into the race with 25lb in hand of Side Glance and beat him 11.25 lengths, he had 30lb in hand of Indomito and beat him 12.25 lengths and he was rated 34lb superior to fifth place Windsor Place who was 15.25 lengths behind.
Despite the glorious style of his victory, I am far from comfortable in saying he is the best ever in beating those horses - especially when one considers the fantastic quality of the 1986 Arc field (chock full of multiple Group One and Classic winners) which Dancing Brave beat to earn his figure of 141.
Elsewhere at the Royal meeting the St James's Palace confirmed the view that we are still searching for a superstar miler amongst the three year old colts. Most Improved posted a figure of 116 in taking the race; it was, however, a good effort from stall 15 in a bigger than average field of 16 runners and he should continue to progress.
Things are little clearer amongst the fillies at a mile and Fallen For You nailed her colours to the mast when landing the Coronation on Friday - a performance I have pitched at 117, with runner-up Starscope at 110 and third placed Irish History at 106.
Disappointment of the race was once again wide margin 1,000 Guineas winner Homecoming Queen who never looked like reproducing her Newmarket effort and looks the prime candidate at the present moment for the "Most Difficult Horse of the Year to Assess" prize at the WTR Conference in Hong Kong at the end of the year!!
CAVIAR PILOTED THROUGH CLOUDY WATERS... JUST
‘The race that stops a nation' is often used to describe the Melbourne Cup, but on Saturday it was Black Caviar's jockey who almost stole that headline for himself, writes Stewart Copeland.
I won't dwell on it too much, as she did win to be fair, but the thought of seeing the wonderful mare almost being caught in such circumstances caused the heart to miss a beat, or two. All's well that end well... just.
Ironic in a way, given most of the focus beforehand was by ‘how far' she would win, or whether she could match the imperious performance put up by Frankel earlier in the week.
In fairness that was always going to be a massive ask, considering she'd flown halfway round the world, her body clock was stuck in her winter, and she was racing on a track which would have been alien to her.
All that considered it was a great job by all concerned with her to keep her amazing unbeaten record going, and if it hadn't been for her being eased close home, she'd have run out a cosy winner. Black Caviar's connections deserve great credit for taking up the challenge and her win was a fitting tribute to her and them.
In terms of ratings Black Caviar is currently rated 132, but she came nowhere near that on Saturday, and ran about a stone below her best, returning a rating of 117+.
It's difficult to take a more positive view for now, the field rather finished in a heap and it's possible even that view is a touch on the high side.
From a time perspective, the overall time is slower than the following Wokingham, and the sectionals suggest that was run at a much stronger pace to past halfway. That probably explains why there was still plenty in with a chance two furlongs out, though the sectional Black Caviar put up between 2f-1f out was the only sub 11 seconds per furlong in the race. That surge of speed won her the race.
Furthermore, putting the race in to a historical context based on the standards we keep for previous runnings, that suggests a similar level of performance for Black Caviar as well, which means the race is probably no more than an average renewal.
On a further historical point, she became the first of the fairer sex to win the race in its current Group One guise, and the first to win since Posada in 1988, when it was the Group 3 Cork and Orrery. I should remember that, given I backed the latter in 1988.
In summary it was a privilege for all horseracing fans to see Black Caviar compete in Britain. Indeed she creates that much attention for racing, all of it positive, even my local newsagent excitedly asked me about her on Saturday morning, which left me in no doubt the impact she has had as horseracing wouldn't be our usual topic of discussion!
Let's hope she gets over the injury which came to light after the race and we're lucky enough to see this wonderful mare race again back in her native Australia.
GODOLPHIN GOLD CUP ONE TWO A TRIUMPH FOR VISION OVER OPINION
As the handicapper responsible for races over staying trips, Royal Ascot provides me with an interesting variety of races to assess. They are nicely spread too. I have the Ascot Stakes on the Tuesday, the Gold Cup on the Thursday, the Queen's Vase on the Friday and the final race the entire meeting, Saturday's Queen Alexandra Stakes, writes Stephen Hindle.
The highlight of those races, of course, is the Group 1 Gold Cup, and this year it was easily the closest of my races at Royal Ascot (it would have been nice if the Ascot Stakes, the only handicap of my group, had been so close!).
Favourite was last year's winner, Fame And Glory, but a repeat success was not to be, Aidan O'Brien's six-year-old beating only two home in seventh with Jamie Spencer later reporting that the horse was unsuited by the slow early pace.
Despite the odds-on favourite running well below par, the race was actually very easy to rate with the 117-rated Colour Vision beating the 116-rated Opinion Poll by half a length.
I had Saddler's Rock running to 115 on his previous two starts, so with only a further neck back to him in third the race pretty much handicapped itself.
Given the steady pace, I stretched out the distances a little, calling the length from Saddler's Rock to Gulf of Naples 2 lb, rather than one, which makes Gulf of Naples 113. That bit of creativity allowed me to have Askar Tau, three lengths behind Gulf of Naples in fifth, running to 110, a mark he has never exceeded but did run up to when filling the same spot in last year's Gold Cup.
While everything fits nicely into place and I'm happy with the level of the race at this stage, there is scope for going slightly higher. Colour Vision beat Red Cadeaux by one and a half lengths (also eased a touch) in the Sagaro Stakes at Kempton, and Red Cadeaux has since shown himself a consistent 116 performer, therefore Colour Vision could be as high as 119 through Red Cadeaux.
It seemed sensible, however, to have Opinion Poll and Askar Tau running to the figures they achieved when filling the same positions in last year's Gold Cup, so that is the option I went for.
The other Pattern race over a long distance at the meeting is the Queen's Vase, a Group 3 event which was won this year by The Queen's Estimate, who showed much improved form stepping up in trip on what was just her third career start.
A half-sister to the 1999 Gold Cup winner Enzeli, Estimate is clearly a stayer worth following after beating Athens by five lengths. I based the rating on the third, Ed de Gas, whose best previous best form could be about 100, and took the winner to 105 as a result.
While Estimate is still unexposed and this race is hard to assess, I doubt Camelot has too much to worry about at the moment as far as the St Leger goes.
My other two races at Royal Ascot were won by the same horse, Simenon becoming the first to do the double in the Ascot Stakes and Queen Alexandra since Baddam in 2006.
Baddam was second in a hunter chase last month but I suspect Simenon will be aiming at slightly higher-class events in the near future! He was an impressive winner of both races, scoring by six lengths in the Ascot Stakes and seven in the Queen Alexandra, but the Ascot Stakes performance was probably slightly better as he was giving weight to the vast majority of his rivals.
Being an Irish-trained gelding, I will not publish a new rating myself, but I have suggested to my Irish counterparts a new mark of 106, which is a rise of 11 lb.
TWO-YEAR-OLDS RATINGS EARLIER THAN USUAL BUT WITH A WARNING OF VOLATILITY
We have published the 2yo ratings already, five weeks earlier than we have ever done before, writes Matthew Tester.
Everyone needs to be aware that these ratings are still tremendously fluid. There will be some big collateral changes as the form evolves. Previously we have only published once those early upheavals have settled down. Therefore people will be unused to such big adjustments as they may see this year.
This has been the toughest start to a season that I have ever known for getting a handle on the 2yo form.
There are quite a few horses for whom there is simply not yet enough evidence on which to base a rating at all. I will be trying to get them on file as soon as I can. However, patience will be needed until the form starts to knit itself together. I hope connections do not get too frustrated as we go through that necessary process.
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