Handicappers' Blog (7 May)

    The head handicappers at the BHA review the pick of the recent action from Newmarket's QIPCO Guineas meeting while also assessing a classy sprinter at Ascot.
WHERE EAGLES SOAR

The first-day highlight of QIPCO Guineas weekend brought a flagship performance from winter-favourite Gleneagles, and our long-standing 1m Handicapper Dominic Gardiner-Hill puts his achievement into context. Gleneagles' wasn't the only performance of the week that had connections purring ahead of a Royal Ascot Group 1 too - read on…

Big improver of the race was the Mick Channon-trained Bossy Guest. Having his first run beyond 7f he looked to relish the step up to 1m and belied his 50/1 odds with a career best by far, his rating rising by 13lb from 101 to the mark of 114 that I believe he performed to.

Fifth-placed Celestial Path ran right up to his mark of 110, whilst Free Handicap winner Home of The Brave looks to have made marginal improvement on that effort in sixth and go up from 106 to 107.

The horses mentioned earlier as being either the equal or superior of Gleneagles in their Guineas victories went on to prove themselves outstanding performers through their three-year-old campaign; I have little doubt that Gleneagles will do the same and am confident that his end of season rating will be in excess of the 122 he currently sits on - he has certainly laid down a marker for the rest of the season.

I haven't as yet had a detailed look at Sunday's QIPCO 1000 Guineas as it falls into the next racing week. Initial impressions are that it may not be the easiest contest to level with any degree of confidence but a figure somewhere in the mid-teens looks a minimum for the winner Legatissimo.

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING

The early bragging rights for the new Flat season are certainly with Coolmore after the QIPCO Guineas weekend at Newmarket saw them land both the colts' and the fillies' classics, with Gleneagles getting the ball rolling with a convincing success in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.

From a ratings perspective the race stacks up quite nicely with five of the next seven home behind the O'Brien colt running to within 3lb of their pre-race ratings at worst. Having discussed the race with Garry O'Gorman, of The Turf Club, I have settled on a figure of 122 for Gleneagles, a rise of 6lb from his two-year-old figure of 116, suggesting his performance is well up to the standard of recent Guineas winners. Only Frankel (130 in 2011) and Dawn Approach (123 in 2013) have registered better winning figures in the previous ten years, whilst his performance is considered the equal of Sea The Stars (2009) and Makfi (2010) when they landed the contest. He also compares favourably with an average winning performance of 121.5 over the previous ten runnings.

Runner-up Territories has improved from his pre-race 114 to 117, whilst Ivawood produced a performance of 115 to fill third - he will retain his two-year-old figure of 117 for the time being.

LIMATO EXCELS AGAIN

This season a conscious effort has been made to improve the pattern opportunities for three-year-old sprinters in the first half of the season, with the highlight being the introduction of the 6f Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, writes Stewart Copeland.

Part of that programme has also seen the upgrading of the 6f Merriebelle Stable Pavilion Stakes at Ascot from listed to Group 3 status. In recent years the average winner of the race has been in the region of 105 but this year's 12-strong renewal attracted no less than eight contenders who had already achieved that level of form. A really encouraging response to the decision to upgrade the race, and hopefully this bodes well for the Commonwealth Cup too.

The main talking point of the race was the eagerly-anticipated return of the Henry Candy-trained unbeaten gelding Limato, twice a listed winner at two and having his first crack at Group company. He didn't disappoint.

The field spilt into two groups, both racing up the centre, with Limato racing in the smaller far group. Travelling strongly throughout, he took command with an impressive turn of foot over a furlong out and never looked in danger thereafter. Chasing him home was the filly Tendu, who came out best of the near side group, a length and a half behind.

In assessing the race, for now the form has a fairly straightforward look to it. Limato went in to the race rated 115, with Tendu on 107. Factoring in the 3lb sex allowance she received she got at least a 7lb beating from Limato, but given the impressive nature of his success I will maintain their current gap of 8lb. To give further solidity to the form, a further length and a half back in third was the colt Adaay, who replicated the pick of his juvenile form at 106.

Apparently connections are considering another run for Limato before having a crack at the Commonwealth Cup. Wherever that is, it's something to really look forward to in a season that promises plenty more for him.

LIKE A DREAM

This year's renewal of the Group 3 Pearl Bloodstock Palace House Stakes didn't look to be a vintage one beforehand and it remains to be seen if it can prove a platform for sprint success at a higher level, as has often been the case, writes Adam Barnes.

However, we did ultimately see quite a taking winner in the shape of Robert Cowell's Goldream, who improved another chunk on his progressive 2014 handicap form to score in both nice style and a decent time.

Race standards point to a winning figure in the region of 113-115, and Goldream's rating now stands at 113 (up from 104). That level fits well with the runner-up Justice Day, who looks to have returned to his best and now sits on 108, though the likes of Stepper Point and Watchable failed to match their best form, with the drop to the minimum trip here not looking to suit the latter.

Goldream will reportedly have the chance to take the next step up the sprinting ladder in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock later this month.

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