Handicappers' Blog (9 October)

  • Friday 09 October
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A GOLDEN SEASON

Last Sunday, Golden Horn became the 17th three-year-old winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe from the last 22 renewals of the race with an authoritative performance, ably assisted by a ride which showed all of his jockey’s big race experience, writes Phil Smith.

At our meeting on Monday the International Handicappers agreed a performance figure of 128 for Golden Horn, just a little shy of his 130 achieved in the Eclipse back in July over 2f shorter.

To some readers that might be difficult to comprehend but you need to be aware that at Sandown, Golden Horn as a three-year-old was receiving 11lb weight for age whereas at Longchamp he was receiving only 7lb and going further.

The weight for age scale is predicated on the normal physical improvement expected of the average three-year-old as it reaches maturity. The scale is more generous the further the distance of the race. Of course horses do not all mature at the same rate so there are occasions when some relatively backward horses find it difficult to compete with their elders early in the season despite having a hefty allowance. In contrast for some three-year-olds the weight for age scale is a very handy advantage later in the year. So what of Golden Horn?

To have recorded a 130 performance he would have needed to have improved physically by 6lb between the Eclipse and the Arc assuming he is equally effective at 1m4f as he is at 1m2f. He has improved, but only by 4lb during that time.

In the Derby his performance figure was 126 and had the Derby included four-year-olds he would have been receiving 15lb weight for age. The fact that he was able to perform to 128 in Paris with only 7lb weight for age suggests that he has improved 10lb between June and October, 2lb more than expected.

It can be seen that Golden Horn has clearly improved in that time frame, but at some points faster than what is expected and at some points slightly slower, exactly what happens to most horses.

Moving on to Treve, much has been written about the effect of the ground on her performance and some have been critical of her jockey. There is almost certainly an element of truth in those assessments but in my view there were two other factors that I have not seen mentioned.

The first is that her pacemaker did not go fast enough. The overall time of the race was disappointing compared with other times over the two days and compared with previous Arcs. For example it was over a second slower than Treve’s victory last year.

Neither Golden Horn, Flintshire or New Bay were in any way inconvenienced by the pace that was set and they all still had plenty of energy left for the last three furlongs of the race, when Jarnet was hoping that they would be stopping a little and susceptible to Treve’s finishing burst.

I am reluctant to be over critical of Gregory Benoist on Shahah as in most big races the jockeys on the pacemakers go off at a ridiculous speed. Perhaps connections should have persuaded Ian Mongan out of retirement. In my opinion his pace making on Bullet Train for Frankel was by some considerable distance the most effective by any jockey I have seen in my 45 years of race watching.

There is a further reason why perhaps Treve faced an impossible task. In the last 20 years, eight three-year-olds who won the Arc came back to defend their titles and none managed to improve or even equal their rating. Even Treve who became the first horse to win the race in successive years since Alleged found her rating declining from 130 to 126.

Year

Three-year-old winner

Three-year-old rating

Four-year-old rating

1996

Helissio

134

126

1998

Sagamix

126

120

1999

Montjeu

135

130

2004

Bago

127

124

2005

Hurricane Run

130

126

2010

Workforce

128

125

2011

Danedream

128

124

2013

Treve

130

126

Three of the above won the King George at Ascot as four-year-olds but none were able to replicate their performance in the Arc as a three-year-old.

Given the ground, given the way the race was run, given Dettori’s brilliance, given Golden Horn’s continued development, ability to take a position and stay 12 furlongs strongly and given the weight for age scale, Treve faced a near impossible task.


LIVING THE DREAM

The featured sprint on the Arc card was the Group 1 Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp run over 5f, writes Chris Nash.

The British-trained Goldream took the spoils and in the process secured his third win from just five outings this season, two of which have been Group 1 victories. He won the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot and arrived in France with a rating of 113. On Sunday he came from a mid-division position to lead late and beat the French-trained Rangali by a neck. There was a further one and three-quarter lengths back to Muthmir in third and he was three-quarters of a length ahead of Pearl Secret

As often with Group race sprint form finding a level wasn’t easy. Rangali arrived rated 108 in France, though he had twice recorded significantly higher figures than that in 2014 – running to 115 when winning a Group 2 and 112 when second in that renewal of the Abbaye. Muthmir arrived rated 115, having defied a penalty in the Group 2 King George at Goodwood, and that form’s stood up well.

The key thing for me was that Goldream and Muthmir had met three times in 2015 and on all three occasions Goldream had come out on top so it was only right that he left this race rated the better horse.

Given that the Goodwood form had some solidity I was going to leave Muthmir on 115 and so I was looking at a minimum of 116 for Goldream. Having him performing to 116 on Sunday meant that Rangali replicated his career-best 115, which seemed a reasonable enough conclusion. That means that Muthmir ran only to 110 and it’s possible that racing closer to the early pace than either of the first two might have slightly limited his finishing effort.
Pearl Secret records a figure of 108 but that is likely to be the bare minimum of his achievement in this race as a wide draw (he was dropped in last) surely left him at a disadvantage.

The good ground in France on Sunday meant that Mecca’s Angel didn’t take her chance. She has a rating of 120 and would have received a fillies’ allowance of 3lbs from all the other runners. The figures suggested that she would have had an outstanding chance of adding to her victory in the Nunthorpe and cementing her place as the highest rated 5f horse in Europe this season.


UNBELIEVABLE

The British-trained Limato was sent off a short-priced favourite in his bid to record a first Group 1 success in the Qatar Prix de la Forêt, but it was another three-year-old colt that came out on top, writes Michael Harris.

The Andre Fabre-trained Make Believe, last seen toiling behind Gleneagles on quick ground in the St James’s Palace Stakes, had beaten New Bay in the French 2000 Guineas back in May and had been freshened up since his below par run at Ascot in which he refused to settle under Olivier Peslier.

Travelling comfortably on the heels of the leaders, he got a nice split on the inside and asserted readily, eventually going on to score by one and a quarter lengths. The first three-year- old winner of this race since Dream Ahead in 2011 (126), I have Make Believe running to 121 which is the best 7f performance in Europe this season and 1lb lower than the figure Olympic Glory achieved (122) when winning this race twelve months ago.

Toormore (third) has been a model of consistency this year and I am happy that he has confirmed his pre-race rating of 115 and as such I have Limato running to 118, not quite matching his win at Doncaster (119).

In winning the Park Stakes, Limato dispelled any previous stamina concerns and judged on his run at Longchamp it may be that we will not see him drop back to tackle 6f again. After a slow start, Limato did not travel with the ease we’ve been accustomed to seeing and he found himself four lengths detached at the back of the field alongside G Force.

He did eventually consent to improve his position and showed the turn of foot we have seen throughout his career but it was all too late. His late surge was eye-catching but nothing should be taken away from the winner who looked to have something left in the tank with Olivier Peslier easing down in the last fifty yards after looking confident throughout.

 


 

Handicappers' Blog (9 October)
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