Handicappers' blog

The head handicappers at the BHA have analysed the pick of the action from Future Champions Weekend at Newmarket, headlined by Pinatubo’s victory in the Dewhurst Stakes.

  • Wednesday 16 October
  • Blog
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DEWHURST SUCCESS ROUNDS OFF PERFECT CAMPAIGN FOR PINATUBO

It would have been a big ask for PINATUBO to repeat his National Stakes fireworks in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes, four weeks deeper into the autumn and under very different conditions, but the superstar two-year-old nevertheless signed off his first season with a perfect six wins from six, writes Graeme Smith

It looked at one stage as though it might not happen for Pinatubo as an improved Arizona took the fight to him but the Godolphin colt looks a juvenile who has it all and the further he went the stronger he became, with the two-length margin by the time the line came being a decisive one.

Soft conditions were an unknown for most of the field and some plainly didn’t fire. In a truly-run race the final time points towards a figure of 117 - using the Autumn Stakes as a guide - but other factors give some leeway and I’ve penciled Pinatubo’s performance in at 121 for the time being. That’s bang on the ten-year average for Dewhurst winners, though the five-year average would be a bit higher still. Pinatubo remains rated 128 on his blistering success over Armory and Arizona in the National Stakes, where his margin over the latter was more than seven lengths greater than on Saturday.

He goes into winter quarters as a strong favourite for the 2000 Guineas on the back of possibly the best two-year-old career of the last twenty-five years. If he emerges as the same force it’s hard to see how he’ll be beaten back on the Rowley Mile in May, but that’s by no means guaranteed judged on the past record of the outstanding juvenile champions.

Arizona had rather flatlined since looking a potential star himself when scraping home over what appeared a barely adequate 6f in the Coventry in June, but this was much more like it ridden positively on his second try at 7f. He’s clearly the best of the Ballydoyle juveniles on racecourse performance so far (improved from 108 to 117 on my figures in the Dewhurst) and is very much the type to thrive physically and fill his sizeable frame from two to three years.

Historical standards and his beating of Wichita et al suggest the Dewhurst could be worth more than currently rated but I’m mindful that Arizona’s path to this performance hasn’t been altogether smooth. I also got the impression that Wichita (who ran to 111) possibly wasn’t quite the same horse on this softer ground as he’d been a fortnight earlier when winning a Group 3 over the same course and distance. I still have confidence in that 114 performance and he’s another who should do well over the winter.

Pinatubo may be the flagbearer in Godolphin’s two-year-old team but there’s an array of talent spread around several of the operation’s trainers and both Victor Ludorum (covered later in this piece) and Military March hammered the point home last week.

MILITARY MARCH - probably alongside Arizona - is about as physically imposing as any horse that has set foot on the Rowley Mile this autumn. He proved he has the engine to match his bodywork when getting the better of a nip-and-tuck duel with Charlie Appleby’s Al Suhail, the pair some seven lengths clear of the remaining six runners in the Dubai Autumn Stakes.

Military March had only a third of the racecourse experience the runner-up brought to the race, having won his sole previous start back in the summer, so this battling 113 performance augurs well for his prospects of emulating both his sire and dam by providing top-level success for his ownership group over middle-distances in the future. In the meantime, he’d be a very realistic contender if taking up his entry in the Vertem Futurity Trophy on Saturday week.

Incidentally, the first three from the Autumn Stakes in 2018 went on the win the French Guineas, Newmarket Guineas and St James’s Palace respectively. The time of this year’s renewal judged against the nursery would have endorsed a view 1 lb higher than I took but the presence of the consistent maiden Ropey Guest in third rather tempered that.

The 1m2f Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes was the third pattern race for two-year-olds on Saturday’s card. It’s never an easy contest to level with the entire field stepping up so markedly in trip, and this year a pace that took time to gather momentum made time analysis that bit harder. Recent renewals at listed level have thrown up the top-level winners Wings of Eagles, Kew Gardens and Coronet, so this upgraded Group 3 contest is well worth keeping an eye on. For now, I have the strong-staying MAX VEGA improving to a mark of 107 for his three-length defeat of Miss Yoda (99), having been guided largely by race standards, but we’ll get a firmer idea as the form is tested.

The emphasis of Friday’s Newmarket card was on fillies and QUADRILATERAL bolstered her growing reputation with a hard-fought success in the Bet365 Fillies’ Mile. This looks a race to view positively with the efforts of a couple of previously unbeaten fillies being supported by some strong form lines courtesy of the Moyglare winner Love, Flame of Tara scorer Cayenne Pepper and Boomer, whose Prestige success is looking stronger by the week.

Quadrilateral (113 from 103) strengthened her position as ante-post favourite for the 1000 Guineas but I don’t think it’s a done deal that she’ll confirm superiority over runner-up Powerful Breeze over the same Rowley Mile next spring. While acknowledging inexperience could have been a factor with both fillies having just their third race, Powerful Breeze looked the speedier of the pair by some way as she quickened into what looked like a winning advantage. Quadrilateral had been at work for quite some time before making meaningful inroads from the Dip, and in a race that finished in negative closing sectionals it was almost certainly stamina that won the day this time.

While there was undoubted depth to the Fillies’ Mile, a finish rather more condensed than is often the case leaves Quadrilateral no higher than the median of recent winning figures on 113 – the same level as Iridessa and Laurens from the last two years and 2 b shy of the 115 currently published in Ireland for the Cheveley Park winner, Millisle.

The Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes was weakened by the below-par showings of Final Song and Stylistique and a blanket finish among the first four suggests the race is some way short of the level the best fillies set. Nevertheless, ROSE OF KILDARE is an admirable filly and she defied a 3lb-penalty for her win in the Firth of Clyde at Ayr, breaking through the 100 barrier on her twelfth career start and emerging with a rating of 103.

Longchamp staged its traditional Group 1 races for two-year-olds on Arc day and ALBIGNA reaffirmed the strength in depth among Jessica Harrington’s fillies as she ran out a decisive two and a half length winner of a well-run Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac. This was much more like the performance she’d promised when winning the Airlie Stakes over what appeared an inadequate 6f back in June, having reportedly been in season when only sixth in the Moyglare in between. Longer trips next year should be well up her street. Albigna is now published at 114 in Ireland, and while all these figures will be finalised at a European level at the end of the year, that’s exactly where I’d currently have her. Incidentally, the runner-up Marieta did plenty on the sectionals under a positive ride and could well have an even smarter performance in her.

The Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere proved anything but well run, with on-course sectionals showing the field reached the last 2f 5.2 seconds – or 26 lengths – slower than the fillies’ race. A sprint and well-bunched finish ensued and Godolphin’s Andre Fabre-trained VICTOR LUDORUMdid well to run down some more prominently ridden rivals without needing maximum pressure. I built an extra length into my assessment and have him around 113 at the minute, but I’m confident there’s a better performance in him when the situation allows.

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