Handicappers' Blog

The head handicappers from the British Horseracing Authority review the best of the action from the Newmarket July meeting which saw a brilliant performance from Limato to win the highlight.

  • Wednesday 13 July
  • Blog
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Alice Springs and Lumiere impress at Newmarket July meeting

Two high quality fillies lit up the mile division at Newmarket’s July meeting last week writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill. With luck they may meet at some point during the remainder of the season.  I am, of course, referring to Lumiere and Alice Springs.

The former proved herself a top-class 2yo last year with victory in the Cheveley Park and her rating of 116 saw her topped only by Minding (120) in the 2yo filly pecking order. A poor run in the 1000 Guineas led to various comments about whether she had been overrated, had not trained on or perhaps did not get the mile.

Her six lengths demolition of the field in Thursday’s Listed Plusvital Henry Cecil Stakes answered all those questions in no uncertain terms. From a ratings perspective, things slotted in neatly with runner-up Cymric appearing to reproduce his 109 gained when fourth in the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot on his previous start.

Kentuckyconnection (fourth: pre-race 108), Atlantic Sun (fifth: 102) and Mohab (sixth: 98) each ran to, or within a pound of, their current marks. This suggests that Lumiere reproduced her 116 figure and a step back into Group company is eagerly awaited.

If that was the appetiser, then Alice Springs provided the main course with success in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes on Friday. Again the race looks relatively simple to rate as Always Smile (third) looks to have reproduced her current mark of 110 and that fits pretty well with Irish Rookie (fourth: pre-race 106) improving a pound to 107 and Ashadihan (fifth: 106) running a pound off her Coronation form.

The general view at Royal Ascot was that Alice Springs was an unlucky loser of the Coronation and this result adds credence to that view. Not only does my race rating of 115 better my figure for Coronation winner Qemah (114), but a straight form line using Ashadihan also gives Aidan O’Brien’s filly the edge.

At Ascot Qemah beat her over 4 lengths, at Newmarket Alice Springs beat her by 4.75 lengths. This suggests that Alice Springs might have scored by around half to three quarters of a length with more luck.

Not to be outdone, the boys hit back with a fine performance from Mutakayyef in the Fred Cowley MBE Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday. With two wins from two runs since being gelded, this was the best performance of the 5yo’s career and I have raised his mark from 112 to 118.

This is based on third placed Gabrial returning to the sort off form he showed when third in both the Sussex Stakes and the QE II last year and Kodi Bear (sixth) running the same race as he did in the Queen Anne.

This implies that Dutch Connection (second: pre-race 115) and Custom Cut (fourth: 114) were a couple of pounds shy of their best with performances of 113 and 112. With Europe’s top older milers struggling to break the 120 barrier, Mutakayyef’s emergence is welcomed.

Limato all class in July Cup romp

This year’s 6f Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket, the largest field since Sakhee’s Secret win in 2007, also featured eighteen runners writes Stewart Copeland. As well as quantity there was also plenty of quality with no less than six of the challengers already successful at the top level.

The race had a wide-open look beforehand but, on course, there was sustained support for the Henry Candy trained four-year-old gelding Limato. That confidence in the market, which eventually sent him off favourite, was not misplaced.

Limato went in to the race as the highest rated in the field on 119 based largely on his impressive success in the 7f Group 2 Park Stakes at Doncaster last year. Having contested the Lockinge over 8f on his reappearance, Limato was dropping back to 6f for the first time since he chased home last year’s top European sprinter, Muhaarar, in the inaugural Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Travelling well within himself off what was a decent pace from the word go, it always looked a case of when, not if, he would stamp his authority on the race. Quickening to the front over a furlong out, Limato soon went clear in tremendous style though he gave his supporters a moment of worry when hanging right across the track.

Thankfully that made no difference to the result apart from the fact a case could be made he would have won by further than two lengths but for his wanderings.

Having already shown a level of form good enough to win an average July Cup, it was a case of deciding whether Limato improved further still to win how he did. In beating a field of such depth and quality I have taken the view that he has.

Both the historical and pre-race form standards line up on a rating of 121 and the impressive nature of his success fully merits crediting him with that level of performance. Allocating him that rating puts him on a par with Lethal Force in 2013, and you have to go back to Oasis Dream in 2003 to find a higher rated performance in the race.

Chasing him home in second was the five-year-old gelding Suedois, who has shown gradual improvement this year since joining David O’Meara. He stepped up again to post a career best effort of 115. Rated 113 when a narrow fifth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee where, arguably, he was on the wrong side of a pace bias that day he franked that view in improving further still.

A head behind in third was the progressive 3yo filly Quiet Reflection, winner of this year’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Limato aside, she arguably travelled as well as anything but could not match the winner’s decisive burst.

She was also encountering the quickest surface she has faced to date. Currently rated 115, she posted a figure of 112 on the day. She still emerges with plenty of credit though and, given her effectiveness with give in the ground, it was no surprise to hear she will be targeted at some of the big sprint prizes in the autumn.

Completing the frame in fourth was Profitable, much improved at 5f this year and winner of the Group 1 King’s Stand last time out when he ran to 117. Whilst he showed himself effective at this trip, his best form clearly remains at the minimum and I have him running to 112 here.  It was no surprise to hear that the 5f Nunthorpe at York was next on his agenda.

Quite where Limato goes next depends largely on him getting the fast ground he favours. However, his versatility over 6f/7f – connections are still confident he’ll get a mile given the right circumstances – gives him plenty of options and wherever he turns up he is an exciting horse to look forward to.

How good were the Newmarket two year olds?

Newmarket’s July Festival provided the second concentration of major tests for the two-year-old form following on from Royal Ascot, writes Graeme Smith.

In the first major race of the week, the Arqana July Stakes, Mehmas put his reputation as the leading British-trained juvenile on the line and it emerged intact following a half-length defeat of the staying-on Intelligence Cross.

Mehmas saw off a new wave of competition from the Coventry with Silver Line stepping up in trip from the Norfolk, Ardad doing the same having won the Windsor Castle and a host of promising maiden winners.

With both the clock and race standards pointing to a repeat of Mehmas’s 110 performance from Royal Ascot I took the view a reproduction of that form was good enough, nor did he seem to have much in reserve.

Incidentally, Caravaggio’s effort in beating Mehmas at Ascot remains the current benchmark for European juvenile colts. The placed horses here, Intelligence Cross and Broken Stones, both seem at an earlier stage in their development than the winner so there is still hope for them to progress further.

In other footnotes, Silver Line became the latest to endorse the Norfolk form and that winner, Prince of Lir, has now been raised to an assessment of 108. Ardad clearly was not himself having failed to settle at the longer trip; but several others from the Windsor Castle have also let that form down and I have reined it back 2lb to 104.

Mehmas might have passed his latest test but he lost his status as the leading British juvenile following the 7f bet365 Superlative Stakes later in the week. This was one of those cases where a couple of debut winners leap-frogged some more established types.

Boynton and War Decree drew upwards of five lengths clear of a pair who had finished in the frame in the Chesham.

A speed figure of 103 does not quite substantiate the level to the extent the speed figure did in the July Stakes; but that is probably down to the time it took for the pace to get going.

Both historical standards and a direct line through the Chesham form lead to a new assessment of 113 for Boynton. War Decree gets 110 via my workings but his figure at this stage is in the hands of my Irish counterpart.

Boynton and War Decree are both hugely imposing colts and have already come a long way in just two starts apiece. The 99-rated Mr Scaramanga remains with potential too. He was doing his best work late when fourth in the Chesham and here reversed the placings with Cunco; and that without getting a clear run here.

Whilst the US-trained Lady Aurelia had blown the Queen Mary field apart at Royal Ascot I am still waiting for a European filly to announce herself as top-class. The first five home in the Albany were covered by little more than two lengths.

The Duchess of Cambridge proved a similar story as Aidan O’Brien’s Roly Poly raised her game to see off Magical Fire by half a length. A winning performance of 103 ranks above only those of Arabian Queen (2014) and Please Sing (2008) since 1991.

It is obviously still early days for these fillies. The level of competition promises to get tougher with a handful of potentially smart maiden winners from the last week including Dabyah and Easy Victory.
Also, Frankel’s daughter Fair Eva has had her impressive Haydock success franked several times over as she waits for her next assignment.

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