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Thread: The thoughts of the handicappers.

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    The thoughts of the handicappers.

    The BHA handicappers' blog on the RP site:

    The period between Royal Ascot and the Newmarket July meeting always has a bit of an ‘after the Lord Mayor's show' feeling to it and as far as the handicappers were concerned last week was largely a case of quantity rather than quality.

    The Coral Challenge Handicap over 1m at Sandown was the classiest and most competitive event I dealt with during the week and it provided a first handicap success for the Andrew Balding-trained Highland Knight off an official mark of 89. While it would be easy to draw the conclusion that he had the run of the race, only time will prove that and I have raised him to a new mark of 96 (+7lb) for his success. Once again the race didn't pan out for runner-up Start Right who, from a wide draw and a slow start, appeared to give the winner too much rope.

    He goes up 3lb to a new mark of 102 for this effort but gives the impression that thereis a big handicap in him when everything drops in his favour - maybe the Totesport Mile at Glorious Goodwood on July 29, the weights for which are released this week.

    Also on the card at Sandown, Roger Varian's filly Nahrain made a successful progression from handicap to Listed company with victory in the Coral Distaff. I have raised her to a new mark of 105 and it will be interesting to see where Roger goes with her. I think most would agree that, with the possible exception of Coronation Stakes winner Immortal Verse, the three-year-old fillies at a mile do not appear a vintage bunch this year and, while she has further improvement to make to challenge for top honours, she's going the right way.

    The Queen may still be dwelling on the relative disappointments of Carlton House's Derby challenges, but her three-year-old filly Set To Music followed up her 0-70 Classified Stakes success at Doncaster with a comfortable victory off 75 at Nottingham on Saturday night.

    I sometimes think that jockeys don't believe we watch the races we are due to re-handicap as this was a classic case of Jamie Spencer easing Set To Music down having grabbed the race by the scruff when kicking clear over a furlong out. The official winning distance was four and a half lengths but Jamie was at least five lengths clear and still going away when he eased. I have taken the view that she would have wonby five and a half to six lengths had Set To Music been ridden out and have raised her 10lb to a new mark of 85.

    BALDING AT THE DOUBLE

    Chris Nashon a good day for the trainer...

    The most prestigious sprint race during the last week was the Group 3 Coral Charge Sprint on the Eclipse card at Sandown and it was won by the Andrew Balding-trained Night Carnation.

    As ever on the 5f course at Sandown the field raced up the far rail and a low draw looked preferable - in this field of ten runners the first three home came out of stalls two, three and one. The second (Beyond Desire) and third (Humidor) came into the race with the lowest official ratings of 92 and 93 respectively so their prominent finishes must cast an element of doubt over the form. Despite that I feel the winner is a sprinter of some quality and, in taking this by one and three-quarters of a length going away, I have her running to a figure of 108+.

    This is the same figure she achieved when winning a course-and-distance handicap off a mark of 99 this season and her revised rating will be 109. This means Beyond Desire records a figure of 103 and Humidor records 104 - I intend to move both to an official rating in line with what they ran to in this race but I do have in the back of my mind that both may have been a touch flattered. Interestingly the historical level of this race over the last five years has the winner running to an average of 108.

    The most memorable sprint race of the week for many people would have been the 4.10 at Yarmouth on Thursday, won by the ever popular 14-year-old The Tatling. He won his first race in July 1999 - a two-year-old maiden also at Yarmouth. Amazingly enough he went from winning a claimer in July 2002 to winning the Group 3 King George Stakes at Goodwood in July 2003 and the Group 2 Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2004.

    He also managed to finish second three years running in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at York - getting within a head of taking the prize in the 2005 race. Plying his trade at a far lower level nowadays, he lined up at Yarmouth in a handicap running off a mark of 60 but still managed to produce his customary late burst to take the prize by a length and thereby record his 17th career victory. His revised rating will be 65 and with his enthusiasm intact I would hope (and expect) that he remains competitive from that mark.

    This blog appears courtesy of britishhorseracing.com
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Blog update:

    Dream Ahead looks best British sprinter in years.

    This week we concentrate on the biggest story of the week, with not one but two articles on Dream Ahead, before we up in trip to assess the milers, writes blog editor Martin Greenwood.

    Stewart Copeland on a very special day . . .

    For a horse unbeaten at the trip, including two Group 1 wins, Dream Ahead still seemed to have his doubters over the merit of those successes leading up to this year’s 6f Group 1 Darley July Cup, but he silenced them in fine style on Saturday.

    Combine that with Hayley Turner’s first, and well-deserved, success at Group 1level, and it was certainly a day to remember for those fortunate enough like myself to be at Newmarket’s July course.

    His impressive win proved beyond doubt that Dream Ahead could well prove to the best British sprinter we’ve seen for a good few years, and I’m already looking forward to seeing him run in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and the Haydock Sprint Cup, all being well.

    Like the Golden Jubilee, this year’s renewal of the July Cup didn’t quite boast the strong international challenge we’ve become accustomed to, but it still represented the pick of this year’s European 6f sprint form, with the notable exception of the Golden Jubilee winner, Society Rock.

    Looking at the race beforehand the obvious pace looked likely to come from Libranno, drawn one, and it was no surprise when the field tacked over to the stands' side early on.

    Always well placed just behind the pace, Dream Ahead travelled noticeably strongly throughout, and from 2f out it looked a case of when, not if, he would make his decisive move to win. Briefly short of room behind the hanging Bated Breath a furlong out, he was soon steered around him and powered to the front, winning readily by a half a length from the aforementioned rival.

    Looking at the race as a whole it’s fair to say that those drawn high were clearly at a disadvantage, but there’s enough solid form amongst those drawn low to say that this renewal of the July Cup was well up to scratch. I eventually took the view that Dream Ahead ran to a mark of 120 on the bare form, but given the impressive nature of his success I’ve no hesitation in leaving him at his current rating of 126.

    Of the rest, the progressive Bated Breath, back on his favoured sound surface, improved his rating from 113 to 118, whereas in third, a further length and a half back, Hitchens returned a career-best effort of 114. In fourth was the pace-setting Libranno who I have running to 111, reflecting the fact he would probably have finished a touch closer but for being short of room when Bated Breath hung towards the rail. He remains unchanged on 112.

    One further horse who definitely merits a mention though is Delegator. Drawn worst of all in stall 17, he ran a cracking race to finish on the heels of the placed horses given his position away from the pace, and a far from trouble-free passage as well. Currently rated 112 after his win in the Duke of York, I have him running to 111 here, and it’ll be surprising if he doesn’t improve on those figures in the months ahead. It’s worth remembering he was rated as high as 121 as a three-year-old and he, more than most, may give Dream Ahead most to think about on the European sprint scene.

    Can I have a second opinion?

    Matthew Tester, 2-y-o Handicapper, also shares his thoughts . . .

    I was thrilled to see Dream Ahead win the Darley July Cup insuch exciting style. He is clearly still the top-class sprinter that we saw last year. His record over six furlongs now reads: four starts, four wins, three of them in Group 1s. David Simcock had his star in great shape and I am looking forward toseeing what else they will achieve this year.

    You may recall that we came in for some flack with the 2yo assessments when we rated Dream Ahead’s nine-length win in the Middle Park Stakes the equal of Frankel’s ten-length win in the Royal Lodge. It is great news that both of them have gone on to Group One success this year. Dream Ahead’s Middle Park form got a big boost when the runner up, Strong Suit, landed Royal Ascot’s Jersey Stakes. Frankel’s form also looks red hot with the Royal Lodge third coming on to win the Irish Derby this year.

    The fact is that they were both brilliant 2yos and they are both brilliant 3yos and that is a joy for all of us.

    I was grateful, though, for the many kind words and encouragement that have come my way since Dream Ahead flashed home on Saturday. The handicapper is always there to be shot at and any support we get is very much appreciated. Thank you.

    Grand Prix . . .

    Deputy Head of handicapping Dominic Gardiner-Hill assesses the best milers…

    Last week saw some top quality action over a mile and it kicked off with the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly on Sunday. In truth it proved a somewhat unsatisfactory affair with no early pace, to the extent that the final two furlongs of the race were run in under 22 seconds and provided a result which could be interpreted in a number of different ways.

    Given the sedate pace, I have taken the view that Richard Hannon’s pacemaking Strong Suit has reproduced his Jersey Stakes form of 116 in finishing a head and a nose 3rd to Mutual Trust (117), with fast finishing runner-up Zoffany also at 116, 4lb below his St James’s Palace form.

    This interpretation means that fifth-placed Venomous has improved 2lb on his previous level in posting a figure of 113 and is one of the main reasons why I have not gone higher at this stage. I don’t believe either Zoffany or Glorious Sight (fourth) have run their race given the way things panned out but, as always, only time will tell if that is the case.

    The first meaningful clash of the generations amongst the miling fillies took place in the Falmouth Stakes atNewmarket on Friday and honours went firmly to the older generation who filled the first three places, although in fairness it was hardly the 3yos ‘1st eleven” that turned up for the race.

    In a muddling affair pacewise, it paid to race prominently and winner Timepiece (114), third First City (110) and fourth Joviality (109) were always thereabouts and appear to all have posted lifetime bests in the race. French filly Sahpresa (111) did best of the foreign challengers in finishing runner-up, a good effort given that she was held up in rear and had to make up a lot of ground quickly to deliver her challenge.

    From a personal point of view, however, the most pleasing result of the week was the return to winning ways of Dick Turpin in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday.

    After two disappointing efforts in the Lockinge and the Prix d’Ispahan, I have him running to 121 in beating the improving Fanunalter (116) ¾ length, with Andrew Balding’s Side Glance not getting the run of the race and running 4lb off his current mark at 111.

    Despite retaining his current rating of 124, the very top mile prizes are likely to elude him with the likes of Canford Cliffs (127), Frankel (130) and Goldikova (124) around - but he is a top quality performer on his day and he certainly won’t be out of place if he joins the 'Sussex Showdown' at Glorious Goodwood – and if by some fluke of nature the ground came up soft on the day, he might just surprise a few!
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    ............and another:


    This week we turn our attentions to the NH scene and comment on the biggest jump meeting of the summer, writes blog editor Martin Greenwood. For fans of the Flat we offer news on two very progressive types, one a stayer and one a sprinter.

    Raising the roof at Market Rasen

    Dave Dickinson and John de Moraville report on a big summer jumping fixture...

    The Totescoop6 Summer Hurdle opened a rather damp Saturday card at a packed Market Rasen. Four of the first six home had won at least their last two races but the victory went to Viva Colonia who had proved difficult to win with of late.

    Switched from the far rail on landing after the last, he quickened well between horses to beat Kylenoe Fairy, Street Entertainer and Rajnagan, who had all run lifetime bests on their most recent starts.

    The sweating and first time visored Caravel, ran well and has been used as the benchmark on this season's best effort of 120. Viva Colonia goes up 10 to 130 with the trio behind also going up in the ratings.

    Rajnagan won at Stratford theprevious Sunday, with the penalty gained just sneaking him into the race but coming a day too late for him to be re-handicapped for Saturday's race.

    It may be that the rain rather than the handicapper caught up with him as he tooktime to pick up on the slower ground. That Stratford contest was run on a faster ground and he was most impressive.

    Kylenoe Fairy battled on well for a horse that has gone up over two stone in the handicap since the start of May and may well have been better suited by another couple of furlongs.

    Street Entertainer finished third showing that his win in a four year old hurdle at the Punchestown Festival was no fluke and he continues to progress.

    First-time blinkers galvanised Qulinton into producing the performance of his career in the Totesport.com Summer Plate later in the afternoon.

    Expertly primed by trainer David Pipe, the French-bred seven-year-old turned the midsummer chasing highlight into a procession. Qulinton, who could be named the winner before the field turned for home, scooted away under promising claimer Conor O'Farrell by 19 lengths, earning a rise of 13lb to a new mark of 148.

    Pipe had admitted concern beforehand about the rain-softened ground but the 15-2 chance made light of the conditions in stark contrast to some in-form and strongly-fancied summer-jumping rivals.

    The fast-going specialists had to contend not only with the changed conditions but a fierce early gallop that contributed to only half the 14-strong line-up (Kangaroo Court and the unbeaten Ostland were both withdrawn) completing the course.

    While there was no stopping the much-improved Qulinton powering home in glorious isolation, it took the gelding1.3 seconds longer than Nez Rouge (125) needed to hack up in the comparatively humble novices handicap chase over the same course and distance an hour later.

    Despite the latter event falling apart with the favourite pulling up and only three, divided by the small matter of 47 lengths, getting round, this was an eye-catching performance from Nigel Twiston-Davies's Nez Rouge, who, on his chasing debut aftera 695-day absence, never came off the bridle.


    COCO'S NO CLOWN

    Stephen Hindle on a massive improver...

    The two-mile handicapat Newbury on Saturday was won in near effortless fashion by Keys, yet his 16-lb rise in the weights pales in comparison to Wild Coco's 23-lb rise following her victory in the Aphrodite Stakes at Newmarket earlier in the afternoon.

    I'm relieved to say Wild Coco bypassed handicap company, making a successful Listed debut on only her third career start with a half-length victory over the 109-rated Meeznah, who finished second in last year's Oaks.

    The first two pulled ten lengths clear of the third, 95-rated Opera Gal, with a further length and three-quarters back to the 93-rated Imperial Pippin in fourth.

    The second, third and fourth all appear to have run to their marks, which equates to a new rating of 113 for Wild Coco, winning jockey Eddie Ahern having put up 2 lbs overweight.

    A 23-lb rise is quite a jump but there was certainly no fluke about it. Indeed, Sir Henry Cecil's three-year-old was sent off 4-5 and she never looked in much danger, travelling well and always doing enough late on despite tending to hang to her left. I credited her with an extra 1 lb.

    Wild Coco is clearly well up to tackling Group races on this evidence, particularly when kept to filly and mares company.

    She holds an entry in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, along with the likes of stablemate Midday, a multiple Group 1 winner, one of which came in that race last year. That would be a somewhat different proposition to this race, but with time on her side, there's no doubting Wild Coco is a star in the making.

    REAL GONE KID

    Stewart Copeland explains his decisions behind an improving sprinter...

    With the dust barely settled on Dream Ahead's thrilling success in the Darley July Cup, another contender threw his hat into the ring at Newbury on Saturday for top sprint honours this season.

    Deacon Blues, successful in this year's Wokingham at Royal Ascot, the same day his stable-companion Society Rock grabbed the bulk of the headlines when winning theGroup 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes, took the transition from handicaps to pattern company in his stride at the Berkshire track.

    Sent off 5-2 favourite in a competitive 10-runner field, which included last year's Haydock Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup winner Markab, Deacon Blues travelled powerfully throughout just off the pace before showing a smart turn of foot to burst clear inside the last, winning comfortably by two and three quarter lengths, with the 107-rated Jimmy Styles a further length and a quarter back in third.

    Rated 107 after winning the Wokingham off 98, his performance in winning the Group 3 Shadwell Hackwood Stakes represents another major step forward in my view, and I've credited him with a rating of 117.

    This is above the average I'd normally expect for the race - and makes him the highest rated winner of it since it obtained Group status in 2006 - but such was the impressive nature of his win, I see no reason not to take a positive view of the form for now.

    As for Markab this was a much more encouraging performance than his first two starts this year, though I haverevised his rating from 118 to 116 to slot him behind Deacon Blues in the pecking order of the top sprinters.


    The British 6f sprint scene has certainly begun to take shape these past few weeks with Dream Ahead currentlyleading the pack at 126, followed by Society Rock and Bated Breath, both at 118. Deacon Blues then comes next at 117, and even though Dream Ahead will be a tough nut to crack, he's well worth a shot at Group 1 company on the form we saw at the weekend.

    This blog appears courtesy of the British Horseracing Authority
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Deacon Blues certainly impressed visually, looked a different class to his opponents.
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Dubawi Gold returns to early-season form
    CELEBRATION TIME

    Graeme Smith reveals the figures behind the big mile race...

    "The Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood didn't prove quite as informative a contest with last year's winner of both this race and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Poet's Voice, bombing out as favourite, but it marked the return to form of the 2,000 Guineas runner-up in no uncertain terms.

    Dubawi Gold earned a rating of 117 for his second-placed efforts in both the 2,000 and Irish 2,000 Guineas in the spring and looked at least as good as that figure when cutting Set The Trend down in the final furlong at Goodwood - briefly short of room approaching the distance and making up the best part of three lengths on his rival oncein the clear without Richard Hughes having to get overly serious, even eased a shade near the line.

    The Celebration Mile proved a relatively easy race to rate, with Dubawi Gold's performance coming out at 115+ (handily a good fit on historical standards), and it will come as no surprise if he improves on his rating this autumn, with a return to Group 1 company for the the Prix du Moulin and/or QEII looking an obvious path for him to take.

    The five-year-old Set The Trend has proved an excellent advertisement for the Andrew Balding stable and improved his rating further on his second try at Group 2 level, travelling strongly before being ridden approaching the last furlong and hanging on to finish a place better thanon his first try at this level in Germany last month. He's been raised 2lbs to 113, 1lb ahead of the consistent Beacon Lodge, who finished half a length behind.

    The pace-setting Emerald Commander has run below his best in defeat on his last two outings but I've left his rating unchanged at 113, reflecting the fact he'd finished ahead of Set The Trend in Germany prior to that rival levelling their record here.

    Premio Loco's creditable third in the Lockinge in May - which earned him a performance figure of 117 - is becoming ever more distant and I trimmed his rating back by a further 1lb to 114, while Poet's Voice has now failed to match the 122 he achieved in the QEII in four subsequent starts and has been pulled back to 119.

    BULLET FOR YOU

    Chris Nash on the best of the sprinters...

    The highlights of the last racing week in the sprinting ranks were a couple of Listed races run on Saturday. Undoubtedly the best performance was put up by Tangerine Trees in winning the 5f Beverley Bullet Stakes. He had a 7lb penalty in this race as he had won the Group 3 Palace House Stakes this year and in managing to beat two consistent horses he produced a terrific weight-carrying effort. He gave 12lb and a neck beating to Duchess Dora (rated 102) and he gave 7lb and a half-length beating to Dinkum Diamond (rated 106).

    Both of these arrived on the back of decent runs so there is no reason to think that they haven't run their races and using either as a guide for the race gets Tangerine Trees returning a figure of 115. Further solidity for the form is provided by Captain Dunne who got 7lb from the winner and was beaten a length and a half into fourth - he is rated 108 and was beaten only three lengths in the Group 1 Nunthorpe last time out. I am fully conscious the 115 figure for the winner is a massive career best (he was rated 107 pre-race) and that it elevates him to a lofty perch among the sprinters.

    There is also a fair chance he had the run of the race making all against the stands' rail which can be a big advantage at Beverley when there is cut in the ground. However, the form dictates that he deserves this mark until he proves otherwise. It also suggests he could run very well in the Group 1 Prix De L'Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc weekend should connections head there.

    The other Listed contest was the 6f Hopeful Stakes at Newmarket. This produced a result which was harder to enthuse about.

    The winner was Swiss Dream and to my eyes massive credit should go to his jockey Nicky Mackay who made all. He set only modest fractions early, pressed on from halfway and managed to hold off the closers late on. She arrived here with a rating of 96 and obviously benefited from the 5lb weight allowance she received from the colts and geldings. The level for the race is provided by Son Of The Cat (second) and Royal Rock (third).

    They were a length and a quarter (or 3lb) behind the winner and separated by only a nose. They had pre-race ratings of 99 and 100 respectively and with decent recent efforts to their names it is hard to draw any conclusion other than that they have run their races again. This gets Swiss Dream running to a mark of 98 which does equate to a career best.

    Son Of The Cat is pushed up 1lb to 100 to tie him in with Royal Rock who is left on the same mark. The disappointment of this race was Monsieur Chevalier who arrived with a rating of 115 based on his second to Society Rock in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot. He has now twice failed to reproduce that effort."


    Lovely ride by Hughes on Dubawi Gold, at times he is magic on a horse
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Dream Haydock win was the best of the century
    Chris Nash dealt with the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday. As it featured most of of the highest rated sprinters in Europe he felt it would go some way to establish a pecking order in this division. The race didn't disappoint him as the top three BHA rated horses fought out a cracking finish.

    After a photo finish and stewards' inquiry the July Cup winner, Dream Ahead (pre-race 124) prevailed by a nose from Bated Breath (118)with Hoof It (119) a head away in third. These three were one and a quarter lengths ahead of Genki (111). The winner wandered around in front and Chris believed he could have won by further if he had kept a straight course.

    Chris writes: "I settled on a figure of 120+ for Dream Ahead the same as his performance to win the July Cup. As he has yet to run higher than that so far this year I trimmed his BHA rating to 122 even though he has won two Group 1s this season. It just shows that we sometimes drop winners despite what you might read elsewhere.

    "Bated Breath slightly bettered his July Cup effort as he was beaten a comfortable half length at Newmarket and in running to 119 here his official rating is moved up 1lb to 119. I have Hoof It running to 119 and his jockey's assertion that he was the best horse will be tested in time. Genki has put up theperformance of his career in running to 116 and that will be his revised rating.

    "Historical examination of the race since 2000 seems to confirm that we saw the best renewal of the race this century. The previous best winning performance was put up by Nuclear Debate in 2001 running to 119. The race has produced an average figure for the winner of 116 in that time and 113 across the first four. This year's race those figures were 120 and 116 making it the best this century."

    A BIG HANDICAP WINNER WHO LAST RAN IN A CONDITIONS RACE

    Phil Smith's most interesting race this week was the Ladbrokes Mobile Handicap for three-year-olds over 12 furlongs at Ascot. The winner by a short head at 16-1 was Barbican and the first six were covered by less than a third of a second.

    He writes: "We are often accused by trainers of hammering horses that run in conditions races and despite our protestations they generally attract small fields. The case of Barbican might perhaps persuade some of those sceptics to give conditions races a chance.

    "He won a handicap inearly April off 79 and was put up to 88. He then ran in the Sandown Classic Trial where he finished fourth and was put up to 96. A clever entry by his trainer meant he could still run off 88 when he finished second at Newmarket the following Sunday confirming his 96.

    "He then ran in a Listed race finishing a close up fifth with the likes of Laajooj (108) and Namibian (112) just ahead of him. However I left him on 96. After a couple of months off, he ran in a conditions race at Newmarket on a Friday night and I only put him up 4lbs for winning it from a horse rated 98. Three of the beaten horses were dropped a total of 13lbs in that race.

    "The experience ofrunning in quality conditions races seems to have served Barbican well as he was a gutsy winner on Saturday. Perhaps his success might encourage trainers to support conditions races more. Barbican won £97,000 on Saturday. Well done Alan Bailey for having the courage to campaign him this way."

    WORLD HERITAGE

    Dave Dickinson believes that Stratford's Saturday card opened with an unusually strong novice hurdle for early September.

    He writes: "Tatispout was the one with the form in the book, rated 130, after winning a Bangor handicap in April.

    "She was sent off favourite and appeared to run her race but was outclassed by the hurdling newcomer World Heritage, who had been the paper favourite in the morning. He was less popular by post time but any misgivings proved incorrect as he took well to the obstacles under the championjockey.

    "He was rated 108 on the level at the end of a three-year-old career which saw him contesting Listed and Group races in France. He is still an entire and is rated 95 on the Flat but I believe his future is well worth keeping an eye on as he achieved a performance in the 130s at Stratford."
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    I'd find it easier to believe that Dream Ahead ran below form, rather than Genki suddenly found 5lb from somewhere.

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    Marvel stars on weekend of top staying action
    ST LEGER week, both in Britain and Ireland, signalled plenty of high-quality action in the staying division, writes Stephen Hindle.

    The British version of the Leger went to Masked Marvel, who justified his connections' long-held belief that he was the ideal type for the race with a three-length success over Brown Panther.

    The first two have both proven very progressive at three despite somewhat different paths to the Leger.

    Masked Marvel began his campaign in a couple of Derby trials, finishing fifth in a Group 3 at Sandown before the first real signs of his being a potential future star became evident with a win in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.

    He then went on to finish a respectable eighth in the Derby before continuing his progression when upped in trip, tasting success in a 1m5f Group 3 at Newmarket, where he beat Leger fifth Census, then his finest hour to date in the Leger, where he came from off the frantic gallop to run out a convincing winner.

    I eventually settled on a figure of122 for the winner, which makes him 1lb higher than the favourite, Sea Moon, who, although only third, suffered an interrupted passage and never seemed able to get into full stride.

    Brown Panther started the season in an all-weather handicap off a mark of just 73, which he failed to take advantage of at the first time of asking. He made no mistake returned to turf, however, and quickly ran up a hat-trick in handicaps, culminating in an impressive victory at Royal Ascot.

    He was a respectable fifth in the German Derby on his Group-race debut but, like Masked Marvel, he has really shone when upped in trip on his last two starts, finishing second to Census in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury before reversing the form at Doncaster. He goes to 118 after this.

    Immediately after watching the race I felt Sea Moon was a shade disappointing, but having viewed it again I think he's worth another chance to show what he can do, so he stays on 121.

    Fourth-placed Seville raced closer to the strong pace than the first three so deserves some credit even if his 116 performance figure is a little below his best, and there's a chance the trip was a shade too far as well.

    Fifth-home Census didn't seem in quite the same form as when winning the Geoffrey Freer, running to 113. He'll stay 117 for at least another run.

    Blue Bunting, who was next home, didn't seem on a going day even before the trip became an issue and is better judged on her previous form when winning multiple Group 1s.

    The otherthree simply weren't good enough, though Buthelezi probably went too fast for his own good in any case, leading even the Godolphin pacemaker, while Genius Beast has lost his form but will probably benefit from a return to shorter.

    The Curragh hosts the Irish version of the St Leger, which in contrast to the British version is open to older horses. It was a couple of British ones which fought out the finish, the judge in the end unable to split Jukebox Jury and Duncan.

    Jukebox Jury is quietly having a terrific season, successful now on three of his four starts.

    The race proved an easy one to rate as I put Jukebox Jury to 116 following his win in the Kergorlay and I had Duncan running to 116 when winning the Yorkshire Cup.

    Red Cadeaux also ran well and made it a British one-two-three in third,just a length behind the dead-heaters. He goes to a career-high 114.

    Hot favourite Fame And Glory disappointed for the second start running and didn't have the excuse of a steady pace this time. It's hard to knock the form of his Gold Cup win but he'll have a bit to prove next time.

    It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Irish during the week as Saddler's Rock made a mark on the staying division withan authoritative win in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup.

    Opinion Poll sets a pretty good standard in Group-race staying contests, yet he found the weight-for-age concession of 14lbs too much and eventually found Saddler's Rock four lengths too good.

    I didn't want to raise Motrice in third, so settled on 115 for the winner and left Opinion Poll 116 as he has plenty of solid form. The winner is clearly a strong stayer, the first to be ridden here, and presumably connections will look at aiming him at the Gold Cup next season.

    There was also staying action amongst the fillies and mares on Town Moor in the shape of the Park Hill Stakes, and it was nice to see Meeznah return to form with a bang. Given the space she put between herself and her rivals, I decided to bump her up 1lb to 114 after she proved three and a half lengths too good for the 110-rated Set To Music.

    JUVENILES COMING OF AGE

    Leger week saw some excellent two-year-old performances, writes Matthew Tester.

    Particularly pleasing was Lyric of Light's narrow win over Fallen For You in the May Hill Stakes. I have rated them 111 and 110 respectively and the fact that they pulled clear of two Group winners bodes well for their chances in the championship races to come. The Fillies' Mile is one option (as long as it does not come too soon), the Marcel Boussac in France is another and these looked like proper Group 1 candidates.

    Trumpet Major ran to 110 in winning the Champagne Stakes, a solid figure. Winners of the race have gone on to Group 1 success later but not in the Guineas and Richard Hannon surely has stronger candidates in mind.

    One of them might be Bronterre who impressed in winning Goodwood's Stardom Stakes by five lengths. He beat Justineo whose recent form includes fourth in the Gimcrack. Bronterre gets a 109 rating for now and I hope to see him in the Dewhurst running to a higher figure.

    Still top of the domestic ratings is his stable-mate Harbour Watch at 115. My best guess is that he will run in the Middle Park Stakes and I will be hoping for a 120+ performance from him there.

    Top filly continues to be another Hannon horse, Best Terms. Her Lowther win is looking stronger and stronger and I have upped her to 115.

    Runner up Fire Lily ran really well in the Moyglare next time whilst Caledonia Lady in fourth ran a fine race in the Flying Childers last week. She was the only improver in the first four with the other three all running exactly to their pre-race marks - Requinto winning it with a 110 performance.

    There is one horse from Doncaster who made a big impression which is not yet reflected in his rating. Ektihaam earned a mark of 97 for his win in the conditions race that Frankel won last year. I cannot rate him higher yet on what he has beaten but my feeling is that he deserves his chance in the big end of season races, and that he will prove to be a 110+ horse in time.

    It is all bubbling up nicely towards the championship races in the next few weeks. We have only five Group 1 two-year-old races all year and Newmarket will host four of them, on September 24th for the fillies and October 8th for the colts. That will leave Doncaster's Racing Post Trophy on October 22nd to complete the quintet.

    THE FACTS BEHIND THE CRITICISM

    I would like to reassure Kevin Prendergast and Ted Walsh that, following the victory of Nocturnal Affair in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster on Saturday, I will be congratulating my sprint handicappers on another fantastic finish - not instructing them to put all Irish raiders in 10lb higher than they are back home, writes Phil Smith.

    This is because we look at the big picture of success rates in our races and do not make knee jerk over-reactions to individual contests. At present the success rate of Irish runners in Flat handicaps in Britain in 2011 is 11.2 per cent, a figure I think you'll agree sits pretty close to the 11.8 per cent strike rate of British runners in Irish Flat handicaps during the period
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Give Me Five


    This week the sprinters take centre stage, writes blog editor Martin Greenwood.

    Chris Nash on the top speedsters...

    There were two Group 3 5f races run last week and both were won by horses with realistic claims in the higher grade sprints still to be run this year.

    In France last Sunday Prohibit produced a fantastic weight carrying performance in the Petit Couvert Stakes. He was saddled with a 7lb penalty having won the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot earlier this year but still managed to prevail by a head from the French trained Mar Adentro.

    The runner-up arrived here with a French rating of 106 but this would appear to be a career best effort. The British trained Hamish McGonagall was a further 1½ lengths back in third.

    He ran a blinder when 2nd in the Nunthorpe last time out to earn a rating of 115. Getting 7lbs from the winner here and being beaten by the equivalent of 5lbs there is no chance that he has repeated his York effort - it is possible that he reserves his best for that track.

    I settled on Prohibit running to his pre-race rating of 116 with Mar Adentro performing to 108 and Hamish McGonagall recording just 104. This race was run over the same course and distance as the Prix De L'Abbaye will be on Arc day and Prohibit should go there with a leading chance.

    At Newbury on Saturday The Dubai International World Trophy Stakes saw Deacon Blues continue his ascent towards the top of the sprinting tree. This was his first run at 5f but he showed that he does not lack for pace.

    Always travelling best he came upsides the leaders on the bridle 1f out and was only given a couple of flicks with the whip to win going away. In giving 3lbs and a 1¾ length beating (the equivalent of 5lbs) to the rock solid Dinkum Diamond (pre-race 106) who finished third the winner recorded a figure of 114+.

    He arrived here with a rating of 120 following his seven length romp in an Irish Group 3 last time out and that mark will remain unchanged. He is untested above this Group 3 level but his recent performances suggest that he will be well worth his place at the top level.

    In 2nd place was Masamah who carried a 5lb penalty as he had won the Group 2 King George Stakes at Goodwood earlier this year. Rated 112 following that win he has produced a career best here by being beaten by a length giving the winner 2lbs. His revised rating will be 113.

    Deacon Blues reportedly heads to Ascot for the 6f sprint race on Champions Day which along with the aforementioned L'Abbaye will almost certainly decide which horse is crowned the leading sprinter of the season. In what is a very well contested division this year the principals include DreamAhead (122), Deacon Blues (120), Hoof It (119), Bated Breath (119), the French trained Moonlight Cloud (118) and Society Rock (117).

    MEDAL WINNERS

    Stewart Copeland on his trip o'er the border...

    The popularity of the six-furlong William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, Europe's richest sprint handicap, shows no sign of waning with an incredible 193 sprinters being declared for the race last week.

    There was reportedly even a suggestion that the course could stage a further consolation race given the number of horses who failed to make the cut for the Bronze Cup. Quite what that would be called is open to debate, the ‘narrowly missed out on a medal' handicap is unlikely to be in the frame though!

    With plenty of rain leading up to the meeting, conditions were on the soft side by the time the Bronze Cup was run on the Friday. The result of that race provided a one-two for the Richard Fahey stable, with the four-year-old filly Coolminx narrowly edging out the well-backed Jeannie Galloway by a short head, both coming home first on their respective sides of the track.

    Coolminx is a proven mudlark and posted her best effort since her juvenile days, recording a rating of 89 in winning off 83.

    Overnight, further rain hit the Ayrshire track - which I experienced first-hand as my brolly saved me from a soaking after dining out in the town centre that evening - so it was no surprise to arrive at the track on Saturday morning to find conditions had softened further, the going now officially soft down the straight.

    First up was the Silver Cup and it provided a notable double for the seven-year-old gelding Cheveton, who was successful in last year's Bronze Cup. Having taken time to find his form this season, he took advantage of a drop in the weights to land this off 87, beating Marvellous Value a shade comfortably by half a length, with the veteran Advanced - winner of theAyr Gold Cup in 2007 - a further length and a quarter back in third.

    I've revised Cheveton's rating back up to 93, though when you consider he's been as high as 97 he may show better form still this autumn now he's back in topform. Whether he gets chance to complete the hat-trick in the Gold Cup next year remains to be seen, particularly when you consider the bottom weight in this year's renewal just sneaked in off 97.

    As for the Ayr Gold Cup, this year's renewal looked high on quality with the weights headed by the three-year-old Majestic Myles, running off a mark of 111. The race certainly looked wide open beforehand with the sponsors going 14-1 the field in the morning, which was certainly pleasing from a handicapping viewpoint for the team.

    On course, however, there was considerable support for Eton Rifles, recently transferred to the David Elsworth yard, and for much of the race it looked an inspired gamble.

    However the bookies were rescued by the Kevin Ryan-trained Our Jonathan, who came with a storming late run on the far side to land his trainer his second Ayr Gold Cup, the aforementioned Advanced being his first. It also provided back-to-back successes for his owner, Dr Marwan Koukash, who won with Redford last year.

    Our Jonathan, who was rated 111 as a juvenile after winning a six-furlong Group 2 in France, rather lost his way at three years but has rediscovered his form with a vengeance this year, and in my view his success on Saturday represented a career best effort to date.

    Competing off 105, he came home two lengths clear of Eton Rifles, with Son of The Cat in third and Colonel Mak in fourth, a further one and a half lengths and neck back respectively.

    All three of those rivals boasted strong recent handicap/Listed form coming into the race so there's every reason to take a positive view of the race. Therefore I've taken the decision that Our Jonathan has posted a rating of 114, with Eton Rifles improving from 102 to 106 as well. This means that the third and fourth, rated 100 and 99 respectively going into the race, have run bang up to form.

    All told an impressive performance from the winner, and surely another crack back in pattern company beckons, though before that connections are reportedly keen on running in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup Handicap over seven furlongs at Ascot at the start of October.

    Our Jonathan will incur a 6lb penalty for that contest, taking his rating to 111 and meaning he'll be 3lbs ‘well-in' based on his effort at Ayr. Given Redford completed the ‘double' last year his owner will no doubt hope that lightning, for once, doesstrike twice in the same place!

    AYR APPARENT

    Greg Pearson on a close finish...

    Without question the most competitive handicap I assessed this week was Thursday's Kilkerran Cup over 1m2f on the first day of Ayr's September carnival. The first five horses home were covered by little more than half a length (0.65L) and certainly rates as a most satisfying result for the Handicapping panel.

    In what surely must have proved a ‘minefield' for in-running players the eventual winner Scrapper Smith never looked like landing the prize, until sprouting wings in the dying stridesto claim Las Verglas Star who had bravely repelled all challengers in the straight after chasing the speed throughout.

    Seattle Drive (4th) emerged from the ruck with a barnstorming run and victory had seemed imminent, his supporters would still be coming to terms with just how on earth did he not manage to run into a place!

    This was the David Elsworth trained colt's first attempt at a journey beyond 1m and whilst he didn't see out the trip as strongly as some of his combatants on this occasion, one suspects if he settles a little better in future it will undoubtedly assist his cause.

    The revised handicap mark for Scrapper Smith is 87 (a 2lb increase from 85) and this takes the Alistair Whillans-trained gelding to a new career high mark.

    Las Verglas Star, beaten a short head and Mirrored (3rd) a further head away have both been raised 1lb to 88 & 87 respectively. Seattle Drive and Northside Prince (5th) have both run to their handicap marks and accordingly they remain unchanged - all other unplaced runners with the exception of Hot Rod Mamma had their ratings lowered to varying degrees, the most being Zenella (10th) who was dropped 6lb to 81.

    The reason for not dropping Hot Rod Mamma was because she clipped heels rounding the home turn and blundered badly - this incident effectively ended her chances.
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    "All told an impressive performance from the winner, and surely another crack back in pattern company beckons, though before that connections are reportedly keen on running in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup Handicap over seven furlongs at Ascot at the start of October.

    Our Jonathan will incur a 6lb penalty for that contest, taking his rating to 111 and meaning he'll be 3lbs ‘well-in' based on his effort at Ayr. Given Redford completed the ‘double' last year his owner will no doubt hope that lightning, for once, does strike twice in the same place!"




    Mmmmm- interesting.
    "Do not think the moment was imagined, do not think of strategies like this." Leonard Cohen

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    It's a headscratcher
    This week events at Newmarket take centre stage, writes blog editor Martin Greenwood.

    2-y-o assessor Matt Tester on his big races . . .

    My championship races kicked off this week and they gave me pleasure and a headache in equal measure. The two Group 1s were the Fillies Mile, won by Lyric Of Light, and the Cheveley Park, won by Lightening Pearl. I had each of those winners pencilled in at 111 before their race and have each of them running right up to their best in winning. But there were also disappointments.

    Fallen For You had been only a neck behind Lyric Of Light last time at Doncaster but she raced here rather keenly and faded into fifth. I had hoped for a stirring rematch. Instead it was Mick Channon's Royal Ascot winner Samitar who pushed the winner all the way to the line; and she had been adrift of both of them in that Doncaster race.

    Biggest headache is going to be Best Terms who did not show any of the verve and speed that she had given us in York's Lowther Stakes. That day she gave weight and a beating to a strong field which included the 2nd and 3rd in the Cheveley Park - the vastly improved Sunday Times and the Princess Margaret winner Angels Will Fall.

    Best Terms earned her 115 rating that day. Eight of the horses she beat have run again and seven of them have actually boosted the form. In particular she gave an eight pounds beating to Fire Lily who was then given only a five pounds beating by Maybe in Ireland. And Maybe is many people's idea of the champion filly. I think that I must stick with a 115 for Best Terms and just accept that she did not show anything like the same form at Newmarket. It will be interesting to see if my international colleagues see it the same way when we are putting together the International Classifications at the end of the year. Maybe is 116 in Ireland in the belief that Fire Lily had improved between the two races.

    The other big 2yo winner was Daddy Long Legs who led an Aidan O'Brien 1-2-3 in the Royal Lodge. We think that the winner is worth around the 112 mark for now, a good figure but understandably nothing like last year's winner Frankel at 126.

    PRINCE AMONG MEN

    Graeme Smith on an outsider's success . . .

    "A wolf in sheep's clothing" was how commentator Richard Hoiles described the progressive three-year-old Pipedreamer's decisive success in the Cambridgeshire in 2007, whilst Formal Decree and Tazeez also won on their way to pattern company either side of him, but the unexposed horses barely got a look in this time around as the more established handicappers fought the finish out.

    It was something of a rough race as the entire field crowded against the stand rail, with the market leaders Man of Action and Questioning amongst the worst sufferers, and the first nine were covered by less than four lengths at the line.

    It proved a very straightforward race to assess. Both the fourth-placed Nanton and sixth-placed Circumvent were 1lb well in with the weights having been published some weeks ago, and a line through the latter suggested a 7lb rise for the winner Prince of Johanne. Going back through his form that 7lb rise for Prince of Johanne proved a perfect fit the way his fifth at Glorious Goodwood two starts back has worked out, in line with how the first three home Arlequin, Modun and Our Joe Mac have each progressed since then. The odd one out from that contest is the fourth-placed Jutland incidentally, who looks potentially very treated now but simply hasn't gone on, underlining the fact once more as he finished well down the Cambridgeshire field.

    There was a blanket finish for the places, a length and three quarters behind Prince of Johanne, and Stevie Thunder, Proponent and Nanton have all been reassessed 3lb higher than the marks they ran off, with Markazzi up 1lb a further length behind them.

    . . . YOUR TIME IS UP

    Stephen Hindle finishes off our triumvirate of Newmarket reports . . .

    Hidden amongst the plethora of high-quality Newmarket action was a pretty good staying performance, with Times Up making quite an impression on his maiden voyage over two miles in the Listed Jockey Club Rose Bowl. His margin of victory at the line wasn't all that impressive, the distance between himself and runner-up Chiberta King only one and a half lengths, but the smoothness with which he travelled through the race and with which he put that distance between himself and the second certainly was.

    The form looks solid. Chiberta King has appeared to return to his best of 108, whilst third-placed Nehaam went in 105 and was receiving 3 lbs from the first two. The time was also plenty respectable and Times Up looks thoroughly deserving of his new mark of 111. He'll merit plenty of respect in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot back up in class if that is indeed where we see him next.

    Over in Germany, Fox Hunt booked his place in the Melbourne Cup with a gritty success in the Deutsches St Leger, which was a thrilling race to watch on YouTube, if only for the commentary, regardless of whether or not you speak German!

    Fox Hunt has looked a rock-solid 110 in recent starts, not least when sixth off that mark in the Ebor, and it would appear he's run to his mark again in battling to a three-quarter length success over Fair Boss.
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Bliss as Kasbah finally lands Group 1
    This week the Arc weekend gets rightful exposure, writes blog editor Martin Greenwood. Phil Smith will also be reporting from Longchamp on his Head of Handicapping blog. We also visit Ascot's big meeting.

    Stephen Hindle on a verteran still doing the business...

    The big staying event at Longchamp is of course the Prix du Cadran and it was the veteran Kasbah Bliss, at least two years older than any of his rivals, who prevailed by a length and a quarter from the German-trained Tres Rock Danon.

    Kasbah Bliss is probably better known for his exploits over hurdles - he started odds on for the 2009 World Hurdle when last seen over timber - but he's since shown himself to be a high-class performer on the Flat. He won a Group 3, also at Longchamp, later in 2009and earlier this year he tasted success in a Listed contest at Saint-Cloud.

    His credentials going into the Cadran were there for all to see following placed efforts in both the 2009 and 2010 renewals, which followed a fourth inthe race way back in 2008, and he quickened up nicely off the steady pace to surge to the front. Given the lack of a decent pace and the bunch finish behind the winner, the form, somewhat surprisingly, looks pretty solid.

    Brigantin, who was a short neck behind Tres Rock Danon in a dead-heat for third, has plenty of 113 performances on his record and crediting him with another one looked the best way to go about rating the race. That makes Kasbah Bliss 116, which is still a shade below his very best, with Tres Rock Danon improving a little on his previous best by posting 114. Ley Hunter, the other dead-heater for third, has run to a similar figure to when winning the Gladiateur on his previous start, so the level looks about right.

    Several horses have at least matched Kasbah Bliss's effort in staying events across Europe this season, but few have bettered it on the figures. Not bad for a nine-year-old.

    ROCK ‘N' ROLL

    Stew Copeland delves into the best of the sprint action...

    Even though the Group 1 Qatar Prix de L'Abbaye de Longchamp took centre stage on the European sprint stage this weekend, there were still some decent sprinters in action on these shores, with the Group 3 six-furlong John Guest Bengough Stakes at Ascot being the pick of the action.

    It saw a second success in the race for the seven-year-old gelding Royal Rock, who was victorious in the 2009 renewal.

    The race itself was a somewhat muddling affair, with a fairly modest pace early on and it rather became a dash to the line from 2f out. However, Royal Rock emerges with plenty of credit, delivered late on to deny the Irish challenger Rose Bonheur by three quarters of a length, in the process probably reproducing a similar level of form to his previous win in the race. That represents a rating of 108, which is slightly below the average for the race, but given how the race panned out I feel the right approach to take for now.

    As for the Prix de L'Abbaye - the ratings are still to be finalised at the world rankings meeting in Paris today - it saw the British-trained six-year-old gelding Tangerine Trees lead from start to finish to notchhis first Group One success. He's shown remarkable improvement over the past twelve months and his performance last time in winning the 5f listed Beverley Bullet strongly suggested he had a much better chance than his odds implied.

    My colleague Chris Nash, who normally deals with the 5f horses, had him running to 115 at Beverley and there's every likelihood he's reproduced that level of performance here. Plenty of credit must also go to Secret Asset who finished a short neck behind in second, clearly putting up the performance of his career having been rated 100 going into the race.

    If there was one hard-luck story it was last year's Nunthorpe winner Sole Power, who finished to great affect a nose further behind in third having suffered a troubled passage from 2f out, resulting in being forced to switch wider than ideal to deliver his challenge. His current rating of 117 in Ireland strongly suggests that he was unlucky not to add another Group One success to his tally.

    THE CHAMPIONSHIP

    Matt Tester on a very interesting week to come for the juveniles...

    This weekend sees "Future Champions Day" at Newmarket with four group races for the juveniles including the Middle Park and the Dewhurst.

    I am disappointed that Harbour Watch met with a slight setback and will miss the races. The same thing happened to Canford Cliffs also from the Hannon stable. Each horse had three runs, looked at one point like they might be our champion 2yo but neither had the chance to prove it. I hope that the parallels continue with a cracking future for Harbour Watch.

    In the meantime there is still a vacancy. Dabirsim was exciting in his Longchamp win on Sunday but will definitely not have improved on his 119 for the Morny. We have not previously had a champion below 120 so the chance is still there.

    The candidates entered for this weekend are chiefly Power (117 so far), Daddy Long Legs (113 for winning the Royal Lodge), Bronterre (109+ for his Goodwood win on easy ground) and David Livingstone (115 in Ireland). They are all in the Dewhurst. In the Middle Park add to the mix Bapak Chinta (an unbeaten 109+ but absent since Royal Ascot) and Caspar Netscher (114) and there is plenty of chance that we will see a 120+ performance.

    Last year the joint champions won these two races - Frankel and Dream Ahead. In the last ten years two other Middle Park winners have been champions and three other Dewhurst winners. All to play for.

    PEACE MAN

    Greg Pearson on an upwardly mobile youngster...

    Promising 3yo Quest For Peace won the Grade 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes over 12furlongs at Royal Ascot on Saturday. The five year average rating achieved by the winner of this contest = 114, with the highest in recent years being Ask (2007 = 119) and the lowest Sixties Icon (2008 = 109+).

    Interestingly the Sir Michael Stoute trained Ask embarked on the same campaign we are likely to see connections of the first two place getters choose this year with a trip to the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine later this month. Ask ran second in the aforementioned race beaten a short half head by Cloudy Knight's, in the process running to an identical rating (119) to that he recorded when winning the Cumberland Lodge and with the winner hitting a mark of 120 on that occasion it's easy to envisage the level of performance required by either Quest For Peace or Arctic Cosmos to be successful.

    Pre-race Quest For Peace was rated 108, with his peak performance winning a listed contest at Roscommon when trained by Aidan O'Brien in July. I have raised his rating 6lb's from 108 to 114 after the Colt defeated 2010 St. Leger winner Artic Cosmos by 2L, with a further 4.5L back to the admirable veteran Nanton in 3rd. The first half of this race was falsely run and when the pace quickened passing the 1200m, some of the runners that aren't overly endowed with tactical speed were left poorly positioned. It would be churlish to suggest Quest For Peacewill be out of his depth in Group 1 company given his rapidly progressive profile, and undoubtedly more genuinely run contests will see him rate higher in future.

    Arctic Cosmos returning from a 385 day absence after having suffered a serious leg injury last year, went into the race rated 120 and that remains unchanged despite the fact he only recorded a performance figure of 111 in finishing 2nd. His return to the track would have delighted trainer John Gosden and it's reasonable to expect the colt to tighten up significantly (in terms of fitness) - one suspects the primary objective for the campaign was not necessarily to win the Cumberland Lodge Stakes, but to ensure he came through the run unscathed and was open to improvement for richer pickings. If he is able to return to the level of his St. Leger win that type of figure will ensure he remains a force to be reckoned with in anything he contests.

    Nanton was one of the horses I referred to earlier, that would have appreciated a more end to end gallop and he has been determined to record a performance figure of 104 in finishing 3rd which is marginally below his official rating of 105 (obtained when finishing 4th in the Cambridgeshire lastweek).

    THE PLAYER

    Mark Olley on the best of the 7f action...

    The Totescoop6 Challenge Cup H'cap at Ascot on Saturday is one of the richest h'caps of the Flat season and usually attracts a massive field with the last three runnings producing line-ups of 28, 28 and 29 runners.

    However, with the Champions Day fixture looming large, Ascot decided to save some ground for that meeting and narrow the straight course meaning that we only had a field of 16 this year. This ensured that competition for places was at a premium and the cut-off point meant that no horse rated less than 95 made the race, compared to 89in 2008, 88 in 2009 and 92 in 2010.

    Pastoral Player has been running with great credit in big field h'caps this summer, notably went an excellent fifth in the Ayr Gold Cup, on ground softer than ideal, last month. He was due to be raised from a mark of 101 to 103 for that effort, but as this was an early closing race he was 2lbs "well-in" and duly gained a most deserved success.

    I based the race around the second, recent course and distance winner Smarty Sock, and had him running to the same 102 figure that he achieved when winning a month ago. This means that Hughie Morrison's gelding moves to a career high figure of 107 and I would expect him to hold his own if stepped into Group company next season.

    Redcar hosted the Listed Guisborough Stakes on Saturday and despite there being significantly fewer runners than in recent years the quality looked up to standard.

    Majestic Myles was just beaten in a Listed event at York in August and I have him reproducing that form of 111 in another narrow defeat. This means that Chilworth Lad achieved a figure of 112, a raise of 4lbs from his recent Listed Newbury win.

    This compares favourably with recent winners - Harrison George 110 in 2010, Musaalem 106 in 2009, Il Warrd 108 in 2008 and Appalachian Trail 110 in 2006.
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Frankel hits heights on brilliant Champions Day
    The richest day in British racing history brought together the finest horses in Europe and a large and enthusiastic crowd, and it proved very much a day for the stars to shine, writes blog editor Graeme Smith. There were returning heroes and Classic waltzes, but above all the day belonged to Frankel, billed as the centrepiece and very much rising to the challenge. Our team of handicappers bring you their thoughts on it all.


    FRANKEL-SENSE

    Having spent most of Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Monday taking texts, emails and phone calls asking me "what's HE going to then?" I've felt a bit of a "party pooper" replying that the mighty Frankel will be staying on his pre-race rating of 135 despite his demolition of the QE II field, writes Dominic Gardener-Hill.

    I have become a huge admirer of the horse, he's certainly the best miler I've seen, and would love to get him up to the sort of figures people feel would do him justice but cold, hard handicapping facts make that less than easy.

    The key to the QEII for me lies in the performance of fourth-placed Dubawi Gold. Beaten six lengths by Frankel in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket he has never been better than 117 in my eyes in his eight starts prior to Saturday's race and I see no obvious reason why he should have bettered that figure in going down by seven and three quarter lengths at Ascot.

    Building up from Richard Hannon's colt suggests that third-placed Immortal Verse has run to 115 (6lb below her Jacques le Marois performance but with an interrupted preparation and on ground that was probably faster than ideal) and runner-up Excelebration has performed to 125. He is currently rated 126 on the back of his six-length romp in the Hungerford at Newbury (7f) but this may prove the more reliable form although he retains his 126 for the time being.

    Interestingly a four-length defeat by Frankel in the QEII mirrors exactly result of the Greenham atNewbury when Marco Botti's colt once again finished second, whilst he narrowed the gap to two and a quarter lengths when third to him in the St James's Palace when Frankel was not at his best.

    This evidence, plus the increased margin of only one and three quarter lengths over Dubawi Gold suggests that maybe, just maybe, Frankel has not "progressed away" from his rivals as much as many think. In running to 133+ in winning Saturday's race, I believe Frankel did little or no more than when beating Canford Cliffs in the Sussex.

    The suggestion that Dubawi Gold should set the level of Saturday's race is given further credence by the performances of Poet's Voice (6th -went into the race 114, ran to 115) and Side Glance (7th - went in 115, ran to 115), whilst pacemaker Bullet Train has mathematically run to 109 in finishing last of the eight runners despite going into the race rated only 106!

    There can be little doubt however, that Frankel is currently the best racehorse on the planet. His rating of 135 still sees him 5lb clear of nearest challenger Black Caviar who will have little opportunity to better her figure before the end of the year, which should ensure Frankel takes his place at the top of the heap.

    For those who believe I am undercooking Frankel's rating let me assure you there is still hope that he might end the year on a higher mark. When the World Rankings Committee meets in Hong Kong in December to discuss the year's performances, it might well be decided that 135 is indeed on the mean side and that he is deserving of a higher figure - I certainly would not object if that was the view of the Committee!

    In the meantime let's forget talk of figures and bask in the glory of the performances of one of the finest thoroughbreds to have graced our sport in recent years....AND he stays in training as a four year old!!

    C'EST MAGNIFIQUE!!!

    The inaugural Qipco British Champions day delivered in no uncertain terms - sadly much of the publicity from Cirrus Des Aigles' thrilling victory over So You Think in the Group 1 Champion Stakes centred around the whip furore, and detracted from what was simply a wonderful performance by the French-trained gelding, writes Greg Pearson.

    It will not rate as the best individual performance recorded in recent years - that honour lies with New Approach after his six-length annihilation of Twice Over in 2008 saw him record a rating of 130. Excluding New Approach, the highest level of performance achieved by a winner this century was Kalanisi who earned a rating of 126 for beating Montjeu in 2000.

    The quality of field assembled for the 2011 edition was there for all to see, seven individual Group 1 winners who had amassed a total of twenty-four wins at the highest level. I assessed the race around So You Think recording a performance figure of 126 in finishing second beaten three-quarters of a length, which dictates the winner Cirrus des Aigles recorded a career best performance of 128.

    No one would begrudge the tough French gelding his maiden Group 1 victory at the eighth attempt, given his agonisingly narrow defeats at the hands of Sarafina (Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud) and Goldikova (Prix Ispahan) during his 2011 campaign.

    A brilliant tactical ride from Christophe Soumillon saw himbreak positively from barrier one and he was a man on mission. He seemingly had one objective in the early stages - that was get off the fence and be in a position to choose his path, rather than be dictated to and rely on luck in running.

    It is hard to say whether finding the back of So You Think on settling was part of the plan, or a bi-product of being assertive and making your own luck. But as they say the rest is history, with the cards falling kindly in running for Soumillon thereafter, and once he'd eased Twice Over out of the way turning into the home straight...glory beckoned.

    Snow Fairy finished third beaten one and a quarter lengths, but in so doing still managed to record a career best performance of 122 and accordingly this will be her revised handicap mark. I personally don't subscribe to the theory she was unlucky, in fact whilst I would concede the clear run didn't come when she needed it most early in the straight I'd be hard pressed to say she should have finished second let alone won the race!

    Other notable performances amongst the beaten brigade were Green Destiny in sixth, who achieved a personal best rating of 119, whilst Wigmore Hall in ninth was desperately out of luck in the straight and managed to run into a traffic jam just when commencing to make good ground - this incident effectively ended his chances and the run can be marked up significantly.

    Of So You Think's last nine race starts he has recorded seven consecutive performance figures of 126 over a distance over 1m2f, admirably consistent if not fulfilling the ‘superstar reputation' he earned in Australia. The other two starts you may ask? Yes, they were both in excess of 1m2f - he recorded a performance of 122 in finishing fourth in the 2011 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp over 1m4f and also recorded a performance of 122 when third in the 2010 Melbourne Cup over 2m.

    I would be just as happy to see connections drop him back to 1m rather than step him up to 1m4f again, but they don't need me dictating the program for their horses....there's always ‘rent-a-quote' John McCririck for that!

    GROUP 1 WINNERS SHOW THEIR CLASS

    There's no doubt the concept of British Champions Day worked brilliantly and the increased strength and depth of both the Champions Fillies' and Mares' Stakes (formerly the Pride Stakes) and the Champions Long Distance Cup (previously the Jockey Club Cup) provided an excellent backdrop to a couple of stellar Group 1s, writes Graeme Smith.

    The former race, still a Group 2 contest, saw a career-best performance from the dual Oaks winner Dancing Rain. It's fair to say that neither of the progressive pair of Ferdoos and Vita Nova showed anything like their form but Dancing Rain produced a very smart performance nevertheless as she made all in a fast time, extending her advantage over Bible Belt to two lengths by the line.

    A new rating of 117 represents a 1lb rise for Dancing Rain, though she still figures below the Yorkshire Oaks-winner Blue Bunting (118), who beat Crystal Capella, Banimpire and Brushing by further on the Knavesmire than Dancing Rain did here.

    The afternoon got off to a flyer when the Gold Cup winner, Fame And Glory, got back to winning ways in the Group 3 stayers' event. Whilst the five-year-old earned the plaudits on Racing UK for some fast mid-racesections, a time comparison with Cirrus des Aigles' course record later on the card explains how the pace he set got nowhere near to stretching the field properly.

    Many will suggest that a defeat of his main rival, Opinion Poll, represents a return to Fame And Glory's best, but for me the proximity of several others in the finish rather holds the form down.

    I've rated Fame And Glory'sperformance at 111 (his published rating in Ireland is 120) and Opinion Poll's effort at 109 (rated 116), using the third-placed Colour Vision as a guide to the race, with that one running to the 109 I'd raised him to following his gallant third in the previous week's Cesarewitch. I've raised Nehaam from 105 to 109 for finishing fourth, a level that keeps him rated behind the below-par Times Up (111), who'd beaten him convincingly at Newmarket last time.

    DEACON LEAVES RIVALS WITH THE BLUES

    The inaugural running of the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Sprint - formerly the Diadem - may have been missing the three main protagonists from Haydock, namely Dream Ahead, Hoof It and Bated Breath, but it still looked a strong renewal with a fascinating clash between the market leaders Deacon Blues and Moonlight Cloud on the cards, writes Stewart Copeland.

    As it turned out it was very much the former's day, and he cemented his position near the top of the sprinting tree with an impressive success. Always travelling smoothly just off the pace set by Hooray, he quickened in decisive fashion over a furlong out and was never in danger thereafter, holding off the French challenger Wizz Kid by a length and a half, withLibranno a further neck behind in third. Thelatter two ran right up their best in my view, rated 110 and 112, respectively.

    Rated 120 going into the race, based primarily on his wide-margin success in the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint at the Curragh in August, I have Deacon Blues running to 117+ in winning on Saturday. However, given the authoritative manner of victory, I'm happy to leave his rating unchanged.

    Unfortunately for Moonlight Cloud it was a case of what might have been, still going well when getting stuck behind the weakening Hooray, and simply finding herself with too much to do by the time she got in the clear. She was rated 118 after her win the Group 1 Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, and it was a shame she didn't get the chance to show what she could do.

    As for the sprinting division as a whole, this year it has produced some cracking races in the big sprints, and it's been a keenly fought contest for top honours. At present, that's headed by Dream Ahead for his successes in the Darley July Cup and Betfred Sprint, though with the likes of Deacon Blues and Hoof It staying in training, next year promises plenty as well.
    Ah! but a man's reach should exceed his grasp......

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Phillips View Post
    The key to the QEII for me lies in the performance of fourth-placed Dubawi Gold. Beaten six lengths by Frankel in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket he has never been better than 117 in my eyes in his eight starts prior to Saturday's race and I see no obvious reason why he should have bettered that figure in going down by seven and three quarter lengths at Ascot.
    Rather dangerous imo framing the ratings of the whole crop of this year's milers around one horse.

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    I was about to write a much longer version of the same point but you beat me to it. Fact is, based on the official handicapper's methodology and his prior ratings, the performances of 5 of Frankel's 7 rivals suggest that he didn't need to run better than 135 (if that) to win. Obviously there are more sophisticated ways of handicapping the race than that, but it seems strange that they would make such a big deal about Dubawi Gold alone.

    Also, if someone on here attempted to suggest that the similar beating of Excelebration in the Greenham provided any evidence of Frankel's supposed "lack of improvement" they'd be laughed off the board. I'm amazed to see that suggestion by an official handicapper.

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    I tend not to make points in more than 140 characters these days, no matter what medium I use #brainwashed

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    As a general reader, I found the whole article matched my own impressions about each race closely enough, and I agree with them that the day as a whole was a success.

    They don't try to say Frankel hasn't improved, only that he hasn't "progressed away from his rivals" as much as some people imagine, which I think is fair enough. He settles better now, but that improvement is being used to gain the same result as before while expending less effort, rather than to blitz his opposition by even more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey View Post
    They don't try to say Frankel hasn't improved, only that he hasn't "progressed away from his rivals" as much as some people imagine, which I think is fair enough.
    His use of the vague, undefined phrase "as much as many think" is unfortunate, since anyone can choose to agree with him without having to actually confirm precisely what they mean. By his own numbers, Frankel has improved a bare minimum of 5lbs versus his golden marker of Dubawi Gold, which is hardly nothing, but then I'm not aware of exactly what the "many" think.

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    Try emailing him, Gareth, if you like - I wouldn't, myself

    It's Dominic Gardener-Hill who wrote the Frankel piece (at least) & they invite questions via blogs@britishhorseracing.com
    Just one Ireland, come by peacefully & kept that way by natural feeling.

  21. #20
    SlimChance
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    Right so Gormanstown Cuckoo has just won with a stone in hand in the 4.05 Aintree under his a mark of 119.

    Racing Post Spotlight:
    Gormanstown Cuckoo: Improved this summer, including when opening his account in good style in 3m maiden hurdle at Bellewstown (good to firm) and creditable fourth in handicap debut next time (soft; tongue tied first time); of serious interest off his British mark.

    His British mark is 3lbs higher than his Irish mark of 116. Are we looking at a winter where Irish hurdlers will again dominate British handicap hurdles?

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