THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Society Rock: ran to a mark of 117 in Saturday's Sprint Cup at HaydockPICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Sprint Cup hero Society Rock gets Group 1 encore
The latest leg of the Champions Sprint Series was the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup run at Haydock on Saturday, writes Chris Nash.
The market was headed by two horses that had shown quality form in Group-race sprints this year, Ortensia and Bated Breath.
Unfortunately, neither seemed to show their true colours in this race, so the "pecking order" in the sprinting department is once again left open to debate.
Ortensia was reported to have suffered an overreach during the race and was eased late on and beat only one home. Bated Breath was reported to have slipped leaving the stalls but was soon travelling powerfully just in behind the leaders.
However, he could find no extra close home and finished third, beaten two lengths. On his favoured quick ground, this effort has to be rated as below his best.
The race went to Society Rock, who arrived here with a rating of 117 derived from his previous Group 1 victory in the 2011 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. He had shown only reasonable form in his three runs this season but excuses could have been made for each of them.
On Saturday he left the stalls satisfactorily, raced mid-division and produced a decent finishing effort to win by three-quarters of a length.
I assessed this run as a return to his best so had him running to 117. His official rating will naturally remain the same.
Second place went to the Irish-trained Gordon Lord Byron, who produced a career best when winning a Listed race over 7f at York's Ebor meeting (running to 113) and bettered that here by returning a figure of 115. He is only a four-year-old (young enough to develop as a sprinter) and his form has a nicely progressive look.
Bated Breath arrived rated 118 but ran a figure of 112 in this race so there seems little justification to suggest that he is definitely a better horse than Society Rock. For that reason his official rating will be trimmed to 117.
The next three home (Dandy Boy, Genki and Wizz Kid) all arrived with higher official ratings (113, 107 and 110 ) than the figures that I have them running to (110, 106 and 103) so there is some justification for thinking that I haven't taken an inflated view of this form.
There remain just two important pieces of the sprinting jigsaw to fall into place - the Prix De L'Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc weekend and the Qipco Sprint at Ascot on Champions Day.
It would be nice to think that these races might clear the somewhat muddied waters in the sprinting division and provide us with a definitive leader of the group.
DANDINO BOUNCES BACK TO FORM
Personally, I enjoy both Flat and jump racing, but occasionally people like to debate which one is better than the other, writes Stephen Hindle.
Those who prefer the jumps often cite the fact that the same faces can be seen year after year at the top level, whereas Flat racers are all too often "packed off" to stud before they can become household names. The Flat racers who stay around year after year tend to operate at a lower level. One of my favourites is the ten-year old Kames Park, who finished second in a claimer at Wolverhampton on Saturday night on his 107th career start.
I like Kames Park because he is one of those quirky customers with his own ideas about the game, but he is likeable, particularly from a handicapping perspective, because he almost always gives his running.
Not only will he run close to form with almost every run, he will do it in the same manner, starting slowly before making a strong-looking challenge and then somehow managing to run on and shirk the issue at the same time!
In comparison, Dandino has had a paltry 20 races in his career, but I think it's fair to say the five-year-old is something of a stalwart when it comes to Flat horses at the top level.
In the Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton, he registered his seventh career win, in the process ending the longest losing run of his career, having been beaten on his previous eight starts.
Initially in the care of James Given, Dandino shot up the ratings in 2010, beginning life in handicaps on 77 before ending up on 113 after finishing second in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
He also had a strong campaign in 2011, winning his first two starts including the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.
Since being switched to James Fanshawe's yard for this year's campaign, he ran respectably when placed on his first three outings and, after a below par run on soft ground, he again finished second at Goodwood, the third time he has filled the runner-up spot in as many appearances at the track.
However, I think it's fair to say his latest run represented a season's best. It does on our figures, as I have him running to 111, which is his best performance figure of the season.
There's a case for saying he has returned to his best given the second, Sagramor, who was beaten by a length and a quarter, is rated 112, and also that the third, Modun, half a length further away, is on 110.
My enthusiasm for putting Dandino back to 113 was tempered by the fourth, Mijhaar, rated 104 going in but beaten less than three lengths. Furthermore, by raising Dandino above 111 would be to say he is a better horse than Quest For Peace, who beat him on his previous outing and has won again since.
T he time is nothing special either and the race only really unfolded in the final three furlongs, so all in all I felt I wanted to take a slightly more conservative view than I could have.
As already mentioned, I plumped for 111 for Dandino, leaving Sagramor on 112 as we have him running to that figure when also second on both his previous two outings, his effort in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes behind Carlton House looking particularly solid.
I also have Modun running slightly below his rating but I am leaving him alone too, as he has a couple of solid-looking pieces of form from earlier in the season, including his third in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes recently.
Mijhaar goes up 2lb to 106, a career-high mark, but he was having only his eighth race and just his second at a mile and a half.
MONTERG CONTINUES ON THE RISE
The highlight of Stratford's well-attended Saturday card was the valuable Walls and Ceilings International Handicap Hurdle, writes David Dickinson.
The focus of betting attention was the handicap debutant Monte Cavallo, owned by Lynda Ramsden. AP McCoy's mount looked like justifying favouritism when jumping to the front three from home and was still in charge jumping the last. Within a few strides, however, McCoy was looking increasingly anxious and Smalib Monterg, from the in-form yard of Dr Richard Newland, found much the best turn of foot to win going away.
As the handicapper, to see five horses finish within three and a half lengths of each other at the business end is pleasing, but this was not the easiest race to re-rate.
The obvious horse to use as a benchmark would have been sixth-placed Laudatory, but his mark rose 15lb last time after a wide-margin win at the track. Such races are notoriously hard to assess in themselves. In the end, I opted to have the first five home on higher marks in future, while the next two home have been dropped.
The winner, Smalib Monterg, is clearly still on the upgrade and is unrecognisable from the horse that connections claimed when beaten in a Ludlow seller.
A breathing problem was reported that day and the tongue strap that the horse has worn in all but one of his subsequent starts seems to have transformed him.
Eight handicap runs since April have seen his mark rise from the initial 100 to a new high of 127 (up 7lb) after Saturday but those handicaps have now yielded three wins, two seconds, a third and two fourths. His progression may not yet be at an end.
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