Handicappers' Blog (5 August)

The head Handicappers at the BHA review the pick of the action from the Qatar Goodwood Festival where star miler Solow took the Sussex Stakes, Muthmir won the King George Stakes and top 2yo Shalaa won his second successive Group 2 in the Richmond Stakes.

  • Wednesday 05 August
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A slight rebrand brought with it much increased prize money and there was plenty of depth amongst the pattern races at Goodwood as well as the handicaps.

Europe’s leading miler got the job done in the midweek highlight that is the Sussex Stakes, and Muthmir staked his claim for top honours in a very competitive Group 2 dash, giving weight all round as he did.

NOT QUITE A SOLOW

Whilst it was disappointing that the best three-year-old miler in Europe, Gleneagles, couldn’t take his place in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday, the best older miler, SOLOW, continued his impressive winning streak with his eighth straight success and his 11th in his last 12 starts, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.

He appears to be a horse that does no more than necessary and, as in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, he was more workmanlike than spectacular in the way he triumphed. With a pre-race rating of 124, based on his success in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan, he went in to the Goodwood race with 3lb and more in hand of his rivals but, in my book, only needed to run to 119+ to win.

Arod has been one of the finds of the miling division this year and he once again set out to dictate from the front. I have him performing right up to his pre-race mark of 118 and using any of the fourth to eighth placed finishers as a guide to the level could have him improving on that, but the “problem” horse of the race and the one that suggests a conservative figure is the third-placed Gabrial.

The winner of the Lincoln Handicap off 100 back in late March, Richard Fahey’s six-year-old looks well exposed and amongst his six winless efforts subsequently are three defeats off 106 in handicap company; he touched the giddy heights of 111 a couple of years ago but it is hard to think (certainly in the short term) this was anything other than a lifetime best. He didn’t just beat one or two higher rated rivals, he beat five of them rated 116, 119, 121, 116 and 112. As such I will give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being and have raised him to the 113 I believe he ran to.

For the second race in a row Night Of Thunder was below his best and was beaten almost exactly the same distance by Solow as he had been in the Queen Anne. I have dropped him from his pre-race mark of 121 to the 119 I believe he ran in winning the Lockinge at Newbury on his reappearance. With subsequent performances of 112 and 109 he now has a little to prove at the highest level.


MUTHMIR RISES TO THE OCCASION

Plenty of the usual suspects from the sprinting division lined up in the Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes at Goodwood, with a trebling of the prize money compared to last year certainly no disincentive to do so, and the form has a very solid look to it, writes Adam Barnes.
 
In defying a 4lb penalty to see off Take Cover – winner of this last year - and the Prix de l’Abbaye winner Move In Time, MUTHMIR put up a very smart performance and his rating rises from 112 to 116. Take Cover (111) returns to a figure close to his peak, with Move In Time, who slightly conceded first run to the first two after switching and challenging more towards the centre of the track, running a few pounds below his pre-race 113 rating, but remaining on that figure.

While true that a low draw and/or finishing off towards the far side was no bad thing – at least in part courtesy of Justineo from stall two setting a strong pace – it remains the case that the ‘right’ sort of horses came to the fore and the form should prove sound.

Muthmir, as with plenty of his rivals here, is likely to be seen in the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York next, and he’ll hold strong form claims on the back of this.

As with the King George, the finish of a typically competitive Qatar Stewards’ Cup mostly involved horses drawn low/racing on the far side – third-placed Rivellino was the only one of the first eight to race near side – but once again the winner looked a most worthy one.

MAGICAL MEMORY was the sole three-year-old in this year’s line-up and was 3lb ‘well in’ under his penalty for a commanding success at Newmarket three weeks previously, so clearly had plenty going for him beforehand. In defying a mark of 102, showing a taking turn of foot to seal matters and his rider able to take things slightly easy late on, he confirmed himself a sprinter to follow and it would be no surprise to see him tackle listed or even Group company sooner rather than later.

TOORMORE TOUGHS IT OUT

The two 7f pattern races at Goodwood also benefited from large increases in prize money and attracted strong fields as a result, writes Graeme Smith.

As things turned out The Group 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes proved only a shade above standard in terms of form on the day, with a gallop that wasn’t quite end-to-end, at a trip that’s probably a minimum for both, rather preventing the market leaders from asserting their true superiority.

Toormore made the most of his good position in front, but still came up some 4lb shy of his season’s best from the Lockinge. Dutch Connection looked inconvenienced even more by the speed test, appearing to get caught out when Toormore first kicked and doing his best work at the finish. He came up some 4lb shy of his 116 from the Prix Jean Prat and 1lb off his Jersey Stakes form.

Safety Check did quite well under his Group 2 penalty in third, looking well equipped for the test at hand but starting from a less advantageous position that many back in the field.

It was a similar case in the Group 3 l’Ormarins Queens Plate Oak Tree Stakes, with the first three in the market all failing to show their best. It wasn’t the easiest race to level with the French-trained AMY ERIA improving significantly however you view it, but various standards and a look at the relativities between third and fourth helped me arrive at a winning figure of 108, although that will need to be monitored.

Osaila ran well under her 3lb penalty in second, but she’s probably more of a miler and came up 3lb shy of her Sandringham-winning form at 110.

I also felt a bold ride on the also-penalised New Providence possibly left her short for the finish, and have her running 2lb off the 107 she’d produced when winning the Summer Stakes over 6f at York. That level meant the improving Montalcino achieved a figure of 104 as she stuck on from the back, and she’ll be identically matched with New Providence should the pair meet again on these terms.

SUPER SHALAA

Goodwood’s festival has three Group races for two-year-olds and the stand-out performance of the week came from SHALAA in the Qatar Richmond Stakes, writes Matthew Tester.

Shalaa had won the July Stakes so had to give every other runner 3lb as a penalty. He had made a huge impression at Newmarket with his high cruising speed. Every other horse had been off the bit for at least a furlong before his jockey even shook the reins at him. Here it looked exactly the same with Shalaa well in control all the way.

Two other horses ran in both races. Steady Pace had been beaten a length at Newmarket and Elronaq three lengths; and each of them were 3lb better off with the winner, but Shalaa beat them more easily – a 9lb better beating in each case.

My figure for Shalaa at this stage is 120. That makes it the best Richmond-winning performance of the last twenty-five – better than winners like Ivawood and Harbour Watch in recent years, better than Daggers Drawn, First Trump and Sri Pekan for older readers.

It already makes him better than our champion two-year-old of last year so this was quite some performance. I suspect that his best runs will come as a juvenile; and I hope that he will not always drift left late in his races. But it was a great performance and he is one to enjoy whilst his light shines so brightly.

The Qatar Molecomb Stakes winner was KACHY who I have rated 106. His was a smooth win but King Of Rooks in second is clearly not showing the form he had when so impressive in the National Stakes in May. Judging by the big swerve under pressure here, I suspect that something must be troubling him. I hope that they can get him back to his best soon.

The Qatar Vintage Stakes was not a vintage renewal. 

I was very surprised to see Palawan finish third as none of his previous form had been close to this level. I have moved him up from 90 to 105 in the ratings. But that still makes Galileo Gold only 107 for winning trainer Hugo Palmer and this is very much on the low side for the race. My strong impression was that Birchwood was coming with a winning run when he has badly hampered in the final furlong. He counts as a most unlucky loser in my book but the gods have been smiling recently on Hugo with his first classic winner, his wedding and now this improving Group 2 winner. 

Handicappers' Blog (5 August)
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