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Richard Hughes: why is Cracksman rated superior to the awesome Enable?

Cracksman storms to Champion Stakes success, but what exactly did he beat at Ascot?
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Richard Hughes – Flat trainer, former champion jockey and Racing Post columnist – has taken issue with the decision to rate Champion Stakes winner Cracksman above stablemate Enable, this year's star three-year-old filly and sensational Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner. Here are his views . . .

I had my doubts about Cracksman’s claims to be favourite for the Qipco Champion Stakes, but he answered them in the best style imaginable.

I didn’t fancy him, yet he was brilliant on the day. It looked like the Cracksman who won the Prix Niel and the Cracksman who landed the Champion Stakes were two different horses. It was great to watch, and nice to see a Frankel improve with age.

Having said all that, I do think people are getting carried away with the hype about a clash between Cracksman and Enable next year, and I am very surprised to see him rated superior to the filly on both BHA and Racing Post Ratings.

What did Cracksman beat at Ascot? Ulysses wasn’t in the race, Barney Roy didn’t like the ground, and the runner-up Poet’s Word’s best win has come in Group 3 company.

I don’t want to take anything away from Cracksman, but he was beaten in what was widely considered to be the worst Derby in years whereas Enable has won five Group 1s this year, culminating in the Arc.

Enable, rated 2lb below Cracksman, powers to victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

If he had done, then surely John Gosden would have been keen for the horse to take his chance in the Arc.

Ultimately that was a very good trainer’s decision not to run at Chantilly. He dodged the Arc with Cracksman, won it with Enable, and got to lift the Champion Stakes with Cracksman.

It has been a joy to see Enable improve all year and watch what John does best. I can’t wait to see both of them next year.

Some of the other results on Champions Day were far less fathomable, which is always a problem when you run championship races at the end of the year on very soft ground.

People tend to forget that soft ground at York, Haydock and Ascot are three completely different surfaces.

I liken it to playing golf at St Andrews and Wentworth, where the ball reacts totally differently at each course on the soft-ground fairways.

Ascot’s sand-based track is totally different to the black soil at Haydock, and some horses – many of whom have excelled on fast ground all summer – were unable to cope with the conditions.

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Cracksman Enable
E.W. Terms