THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Pearl Secret (5): impressed the handicapper when winning at SandownPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Improved Jolly Roger is a handicapper's nightmare
With a pedigree that smacks more of Ballet or Opera, being by Oratorio out of a Sadler's Wells mare, Jolly Roger had not hitherto looked particularly well named, writes David Dickinson.
However, having 'burgled' no less than six handicap hurdles in a stunning 33-day spell, suddenly the name seems highly appropriate.
A promising juvenile for another yard, he was looking typical of the sort of horse from that sphere who does not train on past that juvenile season.
The performance figure of 125 he had achieved as a juvenile came when the age group was allowed 15lb weight for age and the race involved had subsequently been dropped 5lb as well.
So after his first four lacklustre performances for the Tony Carroll yard his mark had slipped to just 94.
And novice chasing was out as last November, he had taken advantage of a four-year-old weight for age allowance of 11lb when winning over fences at Ludlow. That proved his only chase completion in a trio of attempts.
So, not an obvious Hunt Ball clone waiting in the wings ready to strut his stuff.
Returning from a six week absence at Uttoxeter on May 13, the market suggested a return to better form was anticipated.
Crucially the clever connections had chosen a conditional jockeys' handicap which Jolly Roger duly won but consequently escaped a penalty for his follow-up success over the same course and distance six days later.
Clearly conditional jockeys and apprentice handicaps are run on days that clerks of courses and race planning see fit but from a handicap perspective one run on a Sunday is a long way short of ideal, giving such any winner 13 days to run unpenalised in an open handicap.
With a new mark of 105, connections found another conditional jockeys' handicap, this time at Cartmel on Wednesday, June 6, which the horse won most impressively.
Knowing the horse was facing a sharp rise in his rating, they made last week pay.
Again he had no penalty at Newton Abbot on Monday but he carried one successfully at Hereford on Thursday and a double penalty at Aintree the following evening.
So after six on the bounce the horse's confidence must be sky high (unlike that of the assessor who feels like a bit of a dunce).
It is to be hoped that he remains competitive off his new mark of 133 because his could easily become the jumping story of the summer.
CRACKENTORP AND COWARD DOUBLE UP
Crackentorp continued his love affair with York, the Queen Mother's Cup and, for that matter, Jacqueline Coward by taking this lady riders' amateur handicap by three-quarters of a length from Hong Kong Island, writes Stephen Hindle.
Having also won the race in 2011, Crackentorp took this from a career-high mark of 93 and is clearly better than ever at the age of seven. He also finished third in 2010, while his last three wins on the Flat have come on the Knavesmire.
There was no significant trouble in running and the form looks fairly straightforward. I rated the race around the third, Veiled Applause, who is having a very good season and turned in another solid performance.
Having looked at his win at Ripon and his performance here, I felt Veiled Applause was probably on about the right mark.
Veiled Applause finished three lengths behind the winner, so I raised Crackentorp by 5lb to 98, a standard use of pounds per length.
Hong Kong Island may have made things a bit more interesting if he'd kept straight, drifting both ways.
However, it's rather subjective to say he could have finished closer and the winner, of course, scooped up the majority of the prize money, so I stuck to the norm and called the three-quarters of a length 2lb, putting up Hong Kong Island by 3lb to 84.
REMEMBER WHAT MARGOT DID?
In 2011 the Listed Scurry Stakes was won by Margot Did, who went on to taste Group 1 glory in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that history will repeat itself after the 2012 renewal was won by Pearl Secret at Sandown on Saturday, writes Chris Nash.
Pearl Secret was maintaining his 100 per cent record after four starts and his form has a very progressive look to it.
Following a two-year-old maiden victory he was allocated a mark of 85. His 2012 return saw him win a Class 3 handicap off that mark of 85 by a comfortable four and a half lengths after which he was rated 101.
He then stepped up to Class 2 company when winning a conditions race last time out over the Nunthorpe course and distance. Again his performance was impressive and again his mark was revised upwards - this time to 108.
Last weekend saw him successfully step up to Listed company although the bare form of his victory suggests that no further improvement was needed to win it.
The race was run at only a modest pace with Free Zone, who finished runner-up, taking them along.
In coming from held-up to lead late the performance of Pearl Secret was unspectacular but he did win under hands and heels and it could easily be argued that the race was not run to suit.
I have him running to a figure of 105+ in winning by a neck with the runner-up returning a career best of 104. His official rating will remain at 108.
This is currently some way below what would normally be required to win the Nunthorpe - Margot Did recorded a figure of 114 last year and the last 5 winners have averaged out at 116.
However, Pearl Secret remains progressive and his run style makes it easy to conclude that a strongly run race will show him in a better light.
He holds no engagements at Royal Ascot but is still currently amongst the entries for the July Cup, although connections suggest that the Nunthorpe could well be his main target.
MUD NOT ALWAYS SO GLORIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO REASSESSMENT
There are times when handicapping can be largely mathematical but wet weather and testing ground have a tendency to make things a lot more difficult and the 7f handicap at York on Friday proved a case in point, writes Graeme Smith.
There was a length between Sam Nombulist and Esprit De Midas at the head of the 20-strong field - a distance we'd call 2lb at this trip - but the remainder finished at long intervals behind, with seven lengths back to the third and fourth and a further eight lengths back to the rest.
Most of the field had made their way to the stand side in the straight but it soon became obvious that the middle of the track was the place to be, with the first, second, fourth and fifth all taking that route, whilst the third and eighth weren't far wide of those horses, so that was an immediate explanation for the poor runs of the majority.
The trouble was that both Green Howard (had won handicaps on his last three starts) and Dubai Hills in third and fourth had run sufficiently well last time to suggest they are on competitive marks and shouldn't be dropped at this stage, yet rises of 16lb and 14lb for the first two to give that pair 'the correct' pull wasn't an option either given neither had looked particularly unexposed (they were sent off at odds of 25-1 and 20-1).
In the end I decided this wasn't trustworthy form and the distances involved pretty much went out the window.
I was happy to say Sam Nombulist and Esprit De Midas posted career-best efforts but rather toned down the extent of them.
Given a standard penalty for a handicap winner on the Flat is 6lb, I felt I ought to go above that level with Sam Nombulist (up 7lb to 85) yet, at that same time, stay below it with Esprit De Midas (up 5lb to 94 on turf), who's been beaten in handicaps on his last three starts.
This is obviously a make-shift measure until I get more evidence on the first two, but it's a level I feel I can justify to connections of both the first two and the remainder of the field.
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