Native River, Buveur D'Air and Altior top main categories in jumps rankings
Ireland thrashed Britain by 17 to 11 in Cheltenham's Prestbury Cup, but honours were rather more evenly distributed when the end-of-season ratings were announced at the BHA's High Holborn headquarters on Tuesday.
While Ireland had the top-rated performer in six of the ten divisions of the Anglo-Irish Classifications, the same horse accounted for two of them and British-trained horses led in all three of the main categories: Gold Cup winner Native River (rated 176) topping the 3m plus chasing division, dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air (166) leading the way among the 2m hurdlers, and Champion Chase winner Altior (175) heading the 2m chasers.
Ireland had the top staying hurdler in former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen (169), who topped the overall hurdles ratings, and was strong in the novice divisions, notably with RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy (165), who was clear top among those racing at the 3m plus, the Racing Post Arkle winner Footpad (166), and Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner Samcro (160 over 2m3f plus, 158 at shorter distances).
However, Britain arguably had another champion in impressive Aintree juvenile winner We Have A Dream (156), although there is no separate category for his group.
BHA head of handicapping Phil Smith, presiding over his 19th and last classifications, expressed his regret he could not rate Native River higher.
He said: "The Gold Cup was a race to savour, and although I did think before the race that Native River had every chance, I didn't expect it to pan out quite as it did. His 176 puts him in a similar bracket to Don Cossack, and I think that's fair enough. He doesn't have the brilliance of Might Bite [Gold Cup runner-up and 172] but when it comes to a fight he's a great horse to have in your corner.
"He's way behind the likes of Denman, Kauto Star and Long Run, but competition is the key to better figures and a horse like Presenting Percy could push him higher next year."
3-mile-plus chaser Native River 176
2 ½-mile chaser Waiting Patiently 170
2-mile chaser Altior 175
3-mile-plus novice chaser Presenting Percy 165
2 ½-mile novice chaser Al Boum Photo 159
2-mile novice chaser Footpad 166
2-mile hurdler Buveur D'Air 166
2-mile 3f+ hurdler Faugheen 169
2-mile novice hurdler Samcro 158
2-mile 3f+ novice hurdler Samcro 160
Lack of quality competition also held down Buveur D'Air, who has been rated 3lb lower than last year.
David Dickinson, within whose remit the champion hurdler falls, said: "The problem with the two-mile hurdlers is that we don't have very many of them and trying to find Buveur D'Air a stern test before Cheltenham is difficult. With the best will in the world, those he beat on the way were second division these days, so his rating is from the Champion Hurdle, where he didn't win with the authority of the previous year."
Buveur D'Air is the joint lowest champion two-miler since the classifications began in 2000, and there is a worry that the division which has already suffered from the Melbourne Cup and Dubai Carnival factors could be further weakened by the £1m on offer now in both the Ebor and Cesarewitch.
The absence of Waiting Patiently (170) from Cheltenham and Aintree was a cause for regret, although he still managed to top the intermediate distance over fences, but the biggest disappointment perhaps from a handicapping point of view was Samcro's fall three out when stepping out of novice company at Punchestown in April.
"We would have learned an awful lot more at Punchestown, and unfortunately Melon fell at the same hurdle. As things stand Samcro is our top novice anyway, but 160 could prove on the low side."
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