Handicappers' blog

The head handicappers at the BHA have analysed the pick of the action from the Qatar Goodwood Festival, including the historic wins of Stradivarius and Battaash.

  • Thursday 08 August
  • Blog
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ARC ON THE CARDS FOR STRADIVARIUS?

Stradivarius wrote himself into the record books with another stellar performance on the opening day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Matthew Tester envisages what else he may achieve in 2019…

Stradivarius became a record breaker. He is the first horse in history to win three Qatar Goodwood Cups in a row. He was taken on again by Dee Ex Bee and Cross Counter - who had chased him home in the Gold Cup at Ascot - and he beat them again. 

For doing so, and for the style of the win, his rating has now gone up to 121 (from 120), with Dee Ex Bee also going up 1lb (to 119) and Cross Counter remaining on his pre-race figure of 118. 

Presumably Stradivarius will again go for York’s Lonsdale Cup. Presumably he will win again and will pick up the £1m bonus once more. In some ways with dominant horses, as in the case of Frankel, we are just hoping that nothing goes wrong.

For me the most exciting race of Frankel’s career after he had won the Guineas was in York’s Juddmonte International. He was tackling a new trip and the possibility that he might be beaten felt real. 

Frankel is the only horse I have ever seen that I could imagine winning both the July Cup and Ascot’s King George. He seemed to have the outstanding speed for 6f and the stamina for 12f.

Stradivarius has won over as far as two and a half miles, but could he win over a mile at Group 1 level? Ardross won two Gold Cups and then took a crack at the Arc and went down by just a head. It was glory in defeat.

Stradivarius was only a short head behind Crystal Ocean in their Leger - the pair half-a-length behind the winner Capri - and Crystal Ocean is the highest rated 12f horse in the world currently. 

The Champion Stayers race at Ascot on British Champions Day must be tempting for Stradivarius’ connections. But Stradivarius shows an excellent turn of foot to win his staying races and he might be able to produce his best in a truly-run Arc. 

I hope that they roll the dice.

My fingers are also crossed for the Lillie Langtry winner Enbihaar. She is a big filly with a great stride and she is getting better and better. Her five-length win at Goodwood was impressive and has earned her a 113-handicap rating. 

She would get a fillies’ allowance of 3lb if she takes on the colts, making her very close to the big boys in races around 14f. The thought that she may not have finished improving makes her a very exciting prospect for the autumn. 

HOT TOO GOOD FOR SUSSEX RIVALS

In what turned out to be the final start of a truncated but stellar career, Too Darn Hot landed the Qatar Sussex Stakes on Wednesday, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill

He turned the tables on his St James’s Palace Stakes conqueror Circus Maximus with a little more in hand than the final margin of half-a-length suggests. Having posted a BHA figure of 121 when returning to winning ways over 7f in a Group 1 in France earlier in July, I have John Gosden’s colt running to a figure of 120 in the Sussex, with Circus Maximus improving a pound on his Royal Ascot success to 118.

I do have some concerns regarding the proximity of I Can Fly in third and Happy Power in fourth (both rated 110 pre-race) but the former has been rated higher previously and the latter had a progressive profile before blowing out in the Jersey at Royal Ascot on ground that might have been a tad too quick for him. 

I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt in the short term but I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing the level of the Sussex down 1lb if they fail to reproduce this form between now and the end of the year.

Too Darn Hot wins the Sussex Stakes
The now retired Too Darn Hot (pink) ran to 120 in the Sussex Stakes

Disappointments of the race were Lord Glitters (fifth, pre-race 117), Phoenix Of Spain (sixth, 120) and Zabeel Prince (seventh, 117) who all failed to show their best. They all have solid form from earlier in the season, however, and retain their previous ratings.

Rated 126 when Champion Juvenile last season, Too Darn Hot’s current rating of 121 makes him the leading 3yo miler In Europe as things stand.

KING GEORGE STAKES HAT-TRICK FOR BATTAASH

The Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes over 5f saw a little bit of history made when Battaash became the first horse to win the race three times, writes Chris Nash.

Battaash’s pre-race rating of 123 put him upwards of 13lb clear of his eight rivals and that was reflected in an SP of 1/4. He duly won and probably with a shade more comfort than the official margin of three-quarters-of-a-length suggests. 

In second place was Houtzen who was formerly trained in Australia but was having her first run for Martyn Meade – she arrived here rated 108. A further two-and-a half lengths back in third was Ornate who had been in good form recently but at a lower level than this and had a pre-race rating of 102.

Battaash had dazzled in his two previous victories in this race, recording a figure of 122 in 2017 and 125 last year, the latter remaining a career best. He was slightly less imposing this time but still recorded a comprehensive victory. 

I have allocated him a figure of 118+ for this performance and his official rating will remain unchanged at 123.

Houtzen received 6lb from the winner - Battaash carried a 3lb penalty and she also received a 3lb fillies’ allowance. The three-quarters of a length that she was beaten equates to 3lb at this distance, so in all Houtzen comes out 9lb inferior to Battaash on the day, giving her a figure of 109.

We have had her running to that mark in Australia previously but never any higher. Ornate has run to a figure of 103 which is a recent best, though he was rated as high as 110 in 2017.

Following his previous two wins in this race Battaash has headed to York to run in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes, and both times he has finished fourth whilst running a fair way below his best.

Connections indicated that he will almost certainly take the same path again. Charlie Hills’s gelding will line up as the highest rated in the race and if he can finally replicate his Goodwood form at York he’ll take all the beating.

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