Handicappers' Blog

Head of handicapping at the British Horseracing Authority, Phil Smith casts his eye back to the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom, rating the winners of the Oaks, the Derby and the Coronation Cup.

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It will be interesting what figures the International Handicappers come up with for their Longines World Rankings list due to be published on Thursday. It will include all performances at 120+ so far this year.

Almost certain to be included is Highland Reel (123 in 2016). He had disappointed in Dubai but back on a sound surface he led all the way in the Coronation Cup at Epsom’s Investec Derby meeting.

I have suggested 121 to my colleagues based on Elbereth reproducing her 107 rating achieved when coming second in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket in April. Highland Reel gave her the 3lbs fillies allowance and beat her by just over 6 lengths which I have called 11lbs.

The effect is to have Frontiersman improving to 117 and Hawkbill running below his best. He appeared not to get home in what Highland Reel ensured was a true test.

Also on Friday, you couldn’t help but be taken with the victory of Enable in the Oaks. Very few Classics have winning distances of 5 lengths (to second) and 6 lengths (to third) and producing a record time for the race.

I have Horseplay replicating her figure of 100 from winning the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket. Enable was just about 15 lengths clear of Horseplay which I have called 22lbs.

Enable, thus, becomes 122 in Britain which historically is high for an Oaks winner immediately after the race. Last year Minding was 120. However, Enable beat Alluringly by over 9 lengths more at Epsom than she did at Chester.

Some people may feel that Alluringly ran worse when finishing third in a Group 1 than she did when finishing second in a Listed race. I am not one of them. My International colleagues vary by as much as 3lbs in their assessment of the filly so it is by no means certain that she will be allocated 122 on Thursday.

You couldn’t fail to be impressed with the way Wings of Eagles and his jockey won the Derby despite interference and hanging across the track. Going in to the race there were 13 of the 18 strong field rated between 109 and 113 suggesting a moderate bunch. As a result, it is difficult to get the winner any higher than 119 using Douglas Macarthur on 111.

If that is agreed over the next few days then Wings of Eagles will not be included in the Longines list for this month. However, I have no doubt that he will subsequently show that he is a 120+ performer on a flat, galloping track.

I have Cliffs of Moher and Cracksman on 117 and I have similar hopes for them but don’t believe they have achieved that level yet.


Handicappers' Blog
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