THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Mince (yellow cap) passed her sternest test to date with flying coloursPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Mince bubbling up nicely
Saturday's meeting at Ascot saw the highly progressive three-year-old filly Mince, one of the rising stars of the domestic sprint scene, take her first step in to Group company, writes Stewart Copeland. It proved her sternest test to date but one she passed with flying colours.
The six-furlong Group 3 John Guest Bengough Stakes attracted a decent field, though her closest rival on the ratings, and in the betting ring, was the Godolphin-trained five-year-old gelding Soul, impressive winner of the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury run on similarly soft conditions back in July.
As it turned out those two dominated proceedings virtually throughout and fought out a terrific finish, with Mince eventually asserting close home, narrowly prevailing by a head. In chalking up her fourth straight win, Mince showed great fighting qualities to get the better of her battle-hardened rival, which augurs well for stiffer challenges, which no doubt wait ahead.
In terms of ratings though, I don't feel she needed to improve on her current rating of 113, achieved when an emphatic winner of a Listed race at York on her previous start. Both the standards we calculate for the race, and the form of the placed horses, suggest a figure of 109 for Mince, which is the view I've taken for now. Indeed when examining her overall form, one could easily argue she won despite the soft ground not being ideal, and a return to quicker conditions like she had at York may promise even better to come.
Connections are currently considering supplementing for the Group 2 QIPCO British Champions Sprint at Ascot a week on Saturday, and in a wide-open sprint division this year she'd go there with every chance. Even if she doesn't take up that challenge, she remains in training next year, which is great news.
MOLLY MALONE PROVES SO PRETTY
The Noel Murless Stakes, a Listed race for three-year-olds over a mile-and-three-quarters at Ascot, was won in good style this year by Biographer, a progressive colt who looks one to follow, writes Stephen Hindle.
With eight of the nine runners covered by around six lengths, it's difficult to take a positive view of the form, particularly with three of those rated in the 80s. However, a largely steady tempo didn't help and there's reason to believe Biographer will end up a fair bit higher than the 101 I now have him on, once he gets into a race which places more of an emphasis on stamina. His form figures now read a rather aesthetic 212121.
Over at Longchamp, the focus of course was on the Arc de Triomphe, but I was responsible for a couple of races over longer distances.
Molly Malone wheeled her proverbial wheelbarrow through the mud to a two-and-a-half length victory in the Prix du Cadran, the French version of the Gold Cup. In doing so she had the Ascot version's winner, Colour Vision, three lengths adrift in third, but given the underfoot conditions I was reluctant to take the view that Colour Vision had run to his best.
Runner-up High Jinx proved the key for me, as I didn't want to rate him higher than Times Up, who beat him in both the Lonsdale and Doncaster Cups and is currently rated 114. I didn't want to put either of those races up so went 113 for High Jinx, which also gave me a figure of 113 for Molly Malone after the fillies' allowance was taken into account.
Britain was also represented in the Prix Chaudenay over a mile-and-seven furlongs. The 104-rated Shantaram looked to have much better prospects of making a serious impact in this than the 84-rated Mysterious Man. However in the end, neither colt could trouble the judge behind Canticum, whom I and my international colleagues have running to 114, which is based on the fifth Pale Mimosa. It may be a little high but makes enough sense for now.
There was some British success in staying company over at Saint-Cloud though, with Quiz Mistress getting home by a short head in the Listed Scaramouche Stakes over a mile-and-three-quarters. Taking into account the form of her rivals, her rating goes up to 100. She was previously rated 94.
DROP IN GRADE PROVES A SKILFUL CHOICE
The Betfred Challenge Cup Handicap at Ascot on Saturday is one of the richest handicaps of the Flat season and it attracted a classy field, headed by Bannock, who came into the race rated 107, writes Mark Olley.
Recent Ayr Gold Cup winner Captain Ramius would have been top-weight, but he was able to run under a 6lbs penalty meaning that he raced from a mark of 106 and not his Gold Cup winning rating of 109.
In the race, Skilful was able to dictate and get first run on Ascot specialist Don't Call Me and the ultra-consistent Arnold Lane. As a handicapper, Arnold Lane is a great horse to have in these competitive handicaps because he nearly always runs his race. He has posted performance ratings between 96 and 99 on his last five starts, which have mainly been in big field, competitive handicaps and so I based the race around him.
This means that I have Don't Call Me running to a career high figure of 105 in second. David Nicholls' gelding has won twice here at Ascot, as well as finishing third in the Royal Hunt Cup and the Lady Jockeys Diamond H'cap, from just a handful of runs and clearly loves the Berkshire air.
John Gosden's Skilful dropped back into handicap grade here, after a couple of excellent runs in Listed company. His victory from a rating of 105 marks him down as a smart performer and his new figure of 111 is well up to that of many Listed/Group 3 winners.
Over at Redcar the Listed Guisborough Stakes attracted a strong field and was won in convincing fashion by Eton Forever. Roger Varian's gelding was ridden clear from Firebeam (108) who has finished second in Listed and Group 3 company this term. I called the two-and-a-quarter length winning margin a standard 5lbs and this moves Eton Forever to a career high figure of 113.
This compares very favourably with recent winners and makes him the highest rated winner of this event. Chilworth Lad was 112 last year, while Harrison George in 2010 and Appalachian Trail in 2007 were both rated 110.
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