THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
No stopping the action despite snow and frost
Another depleted week due to the snow, but there was quality action both over the Jumps and on all-weather at the weekend, and both Dave Dickinson and Stewart Copeland give their take on it. Also, Greg Pearson highlights a case that shows lofty rises in the weights don’t always mean the end of a winning spree.
Stormy Weather swooped late to win Saturday’s John Smith’s Scottish County Hurdle to follow up a recent handicap success at Newcastle, writes Dave Dickinson.
His record of 211 in 2m handicap hurdles over the last couple of months suggests that the mark he began his run on (113) was at the very least fair. But hang on a minute, isn’t this the same Stormy Weather who was over faced in small field conditions races before that?
As handicappers, one of the regular chestnuts is ‘we would love to run in a conditions race but if he runs well we will ruin his/her mark’. We cannot give anyone a guarantee that we will never move a horse’s mark for a conditions race run but we are aware that it can be dangerous to take such form at face value.
In the Fighting Fifth Stormy Weather finished fourth of the five runners, finishing ten lengths behind Celestial Halo, who himself had just won a handicap off 150. However, all that had happened was that the horses who should have finished ahead of him had done so and he had beaten the one rival he was entitled to. So I left hismark on 113. Brian Ellison and the connections had picked up about £5,500 for Stormy Weather’s fourth place.
A distant sixth to Grandouet in the Stanjames.com International at Cheltenham saw him pick up the best part of another £2,000 in prize money and his mark again remained unchanged.
So, he has had five runs since Fighting Fifth day and been in the money every time. Well done to the trainer and the owners for their enterprise. Whether Stormy Weather’s new mark of 126 (from Saturday’s race) will quite get them in the County Hurdle proper remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, maybe I will get a phone call telling me I have been too lenient!
The feature race of Saturday’s three all-weather Flat meetings was the 6f Class 2 Get Your Bet On At bluesq.com Handicap at Lingfield, writes Stewart Copeland.
The winner, Palace Moon, who got back on the comeback trail after a disappointing 2011 when a ready winner of a 7f minor event at Kempton on his previous start, bettered that form with an impressive success.
Travelling well just off the pace, he quickened in good style to lead inside the last, coming home a length clear of Novellen Lad, with Five Star Junior a head further back in third.
With the majority of his rivals coming into the race in good nick, the form has a very solid look to it.
Successful here off 98, Palace Moon’s rating has been revised to 103, though when you consider he was as high as 109 in 2010, there’s every chance of better to come.
This performance ranks second only to Oasis Dancer on the all-weather sprint scene this winter, and it’ll be an interesting clash if both turn up forthe listed Cleves Stakes over this course and distance in a fortnight.
FOREST IN BLOOM
Sometimes as a handicapper certain race results give you a great deal of pleasure and one of those was the win of Illustrious Forest at Wolverhampton last Monday, writes Greg Pearson.
The John Mackie-trained gelding was raised 15lb from 50 to 65 after he panelled the opposition by an eight-length margin at the Midlands track in December, meaning that while racing in the same grade here (Class 6/51-65 handicap) he had gone from the bottom of the handicap (1lb out of the weights on first the occasion) to the top.
I feel confident his connections would have been deeply aggrieved to have the horse’s rating increased by such a drastic amount after winning the paltry sum of £1704, but you would like to think they were buoyed by the subsequent success of runner-up Shirataki at Kempton two weeks later (he’d been raised 2lb from 54 to 56), whilst both McCool Bannanas and Honourable Knight also did their bit for theform.
The final margin of this week’s victory was only three quarters of a length, but that doesn’t fully demonstrate the gelding’s superiority over his rivals. Always prominent, Illustrious Forest applied pressure from halfway and had opened up a sizeable advantage turning for home. From there he tended to wander like a drunken sailor and this made it very difficult for him to sustain momentum, thus flattering the second Royal Alcor who closed on him late.
Illustrious Forest has now been raised a further 6lb from 65 to 71, with Royal Alcor up only 3lb from 61 to 64 – I believe the 3lb turnaround gives the runner-up a realistic chance of being able to avenge defeat should they meet again.
The winner is only lightly raced for a 4yo and certainly has a progressive profile (over staying trips) so it would be misguided to think the fact he has now been forced up in grade means that he won’t remain ultra-competitive on the all-weather circuit in coming weeks.
This blog appears courtesy of britishhorseracing.com