THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Paintball is going up 11lb to 139 as a result of his Imperial Cup winPICTURE: Getty Images
Paintball on target but misses out on bonus bid
SATURDAY saw the tradition precursor to Cheltenham in Sandown’s Imperial Cup card, although the big-race winner, Paintball, could not be aimed at the sizeable bonus for completing an Imperial Cup/Cheltenham Festival double after bruising a foot.
Our NH handicappers give their views, while Phil Smith answers back at one of the most common criticisms our team receives. There was some quality action on the all-weather too, on which Stewart Copeland gives his take.
PAINTBALL HITS THE TARGET
The Paddy Power Imperial Cup looked like being a close race early in the home straight but eventually two horses came away from the others, writes Dave Dickinson.
Given that the next five home were covered by less than two lengths and that all had solid recent handicap form, finding a marker horse wasn’t much of a problem.
The winner Paintball is going up 11lb to 139 as a result of Saturday’s win. The well-backed Master Of Arts and Ted Spread appeared to have been laid out for this but Charlie Longsdon’s master plan was the one that worked, Paintball having had a wind operation during his absence from the track.
Second home was Nampour, whose most recent run had been difficult to assess at the time - he was well beaten by the French import Balgarry at Newbury but finished fourteen lengths and more in front of the rest. I raised him just 4lb for that run at the time but have now revisited the Newbury race and raised it a further 5lb, taking Balgarry up to 145.
WOOD BURNS THEM OFF
The final of the EBF National Hunt Novice Hurdlers Series was held at Sandown on Saturday and the Grade 3 handicap was every bit as competitive as ever, with no fewer than fifteen of the eighteen-strong field having finished in the first three last time out, writes Chris Nash.
The pace wasn’t as helter-skelter as can sometimes be the case and it was noticeable that horses ridden handily did best. The first four were in a line over two out, having all raced in mid-division or closer, and Ambion Wood drew clear from the last to win by an ever-increasing five lengths. He carried top weight from a mark off 132 and is clearly a useful prospect.
Carrigmorna King (ran off 122) finished second with a further seven lengths back to Aikideau (off 128) and Speed Master (off 126). All four were running in their first handicap so I had to rely on their novice form when levelling the race.
I settled on a 10lb rise for the winner - taking him to 142 - and a 5lb rise for the runner-up, whilst the ratings of the third and fourth remain unchanged.
We are often told by trainers that they and their owners can't understand why horses go up so much for winning but are hardly ever dropped very much when they lose, writes Phil Smith.
Often there are very good integrity reasons why we might be reluctant to drop horses quickly, but a look at my handicap winners this week seems to show that this belief is yet another misunderstanding and false perception of what really happens.
Seven of my handicap winners this week had benefitted from some serious drops on their previous runs.
Sound Accord ran off 135 at Fontwell and finished sixth. He was dropped a total of 29lb over his next five runs and reaped the benefit with a thirteen-length success at Huntingdon on Sunday off a markof 106.
Harris Hawk ran off 99 in his first handicap chase and was dropped 8lb prior to going on to win relatively narrowly in a competitive finish at Newcastle next time.
Wednesday’s Fontwell winner Current Climate ran off 95 at Folkestone in November. He was dropped 7lb for that, went up 2lb for finishing second and was then dropped 2lb in each of his next two races. In total a drop of 9lb in four runs in which he picked up prize money in three of them.
Mr Woods ran off 117 when pulling up at Ayr in March last year. He was having only his fifth run since when taking advantage of a mark of 86 (total of 31lb) at Carlisle last Thursday, and he then went on to defy a 7lb penalty at Ayr two days later. He’s now going back to 110.
Merigo was second in the Scottish National last April off 142, beaten less than a length. Following four substandard efforts he won off a mark of 129 when regaining his form at Ayr on Friday, and now his owner tells me a 7lb rise for that success looks harsh!! Hobb's Dream had dropped 18lb in four runs prior to winning at Wincanton off 88, and Dover’s Hill was 8lb lower than two runs earlier when he returned to form with a bang at Sandown at the weekend.
Horses DO come down quickly when their lack of form warrants it and hopefully our work gives them an equal chance with those horses whose ratings have been left or havegone up. At the same time horses can still win when we put them up quite large amounts, as demonstrated by Hunt Ball, who has gone up another 3lb this week after the form of his Kempton win was franked by the runner-up’s subsequent success.As a result he has gone up 76lb for his six wins.
By all means criticise us but please from a position of knowledge and understanding not from old chestnuts peddled out without statistical back up and out of prejudice and ignorance.
Meydan may have staged Super Saturday at the weekend but there was some excellent fare on the Flat much closer to home, with Wolverhampton staging its most valuable card of the year on the same day, writes Stewart Copeland.
The opening race was the New William Hill iPhone App Lady Wulfruna Stakes, a listed contest for older horses over 7f.
Itproduced something of a surprise winner in the shape of Libys Dream, a four-year-old filly trained by Tom Dascombe. She’s been in good form throughout the winter, successful in two handicaps in that period, improving her rating from 66 to 81. This win represented a further marked improvement, however, and she’s been credited with a rating of 95.
Always well positioned just off the pace, she led inside the last to hold off the challenge of Belgian Bill by a head, with the consistent Clockmaker a further length and a half back in third.
Based on our race standards, we’d expect such a winner to be in the 95-100 bracket, but given the pace of the race seemed to favour those who raced prominently, I’ve erred more on the cautious side of that scale. It also means that Clockmaker has run to his mark of 96, a reliable guide to the level of the race as well.
Later on in the afternoon there was a good quality 6f handicap, and the finish was dominated by a couple of progressive four-year-old geldings, with Alben Star edging out Whaileyy by a short head.
The former is quickly making up for lost time having missed the whole of 2011 through injury, and his win in the Class 2 William Hill App-Download Today! represented his best form to date.
Successful off 92, he improved his rating to 98, and in the more than capable hands of Richard Fahey it’ll be no surprise if he steps up again down the line, looking the sort to make his presence felt in top class handicaps back on turf.
This blog appears courtesy of britishhorseracing.com