Handicappers' Blog (8 August)

  • Tuesday 19 August
  • Blog
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GOSDEN'S GOODWOOD

It's proving a golden summer for John Gosden and his battalion and Glorious Goodwood saw the second and third legs of a Clarehaven clean sweep of the British Group 1s of the last week or so. Whilst Kingman was undoubtedly the star of the show in asserting his superiority over Toronado in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes the slow gallop and subsequent bunched finish prevented the star milers from running close to their lofty pre-race marks. There's plenty to tell of the rest of the meeting though, and this week's bulletin covers it all.

NORMANDIE LANDINGS

As part of John Gosden's impressive recent haul Philippa Cooper's Normandie Stud enjoyed an important big-race double of its own on the last two days of Glorious Goodwood, with Sultanina's success in the Group 1 Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes making for a real red-letter day for the operation, writes Graeme Smith.

There was a substandard feel to the field beforehand with none of the six having won at the top level and only Venus de Milo having been placed, and Sultanina's 113-performance emerges as the joint-lowest from a winner (with Halfway To Heaven in 2008 and Favourable Terms in 2004) since Lailani ran to 112 in 2001, but this was another marked improvement on her fourth career start and there's no telling where she'll end up.

The race itself was rather difficult to get a handle on. Firstly, there was quite a spread of opinion from the International Handicappers on the runner-up Narniyn's level of ability for all she was rated 112 at home in France, and then Venus de Milo compounded matters by failing to run her race.

As I say historical standards rather went out of the window, but standards on pre-race ratings and recent form proved a help and suggested somewhere from 111 to 113. My choice of 113 ensured Sultanina emerged ahead of the 112 ratings the second and third have in the respective home jurisdictions.

Looking back through Sultanina's form this was quite a boost for her unbeaten stablemate Pomology, who inflicted her only defeat in the Lancashire Oaks. It's early days to be raising the level of that race on this run alone but that might well happen near to hand as the form got a further boost when the fifth and sixth fought out the listed Chalice Stakes at Newbury on Sunday (part of the next racing week).

Goodwood has proved a happy hunting ground over the years for Sultanina's owner. Sultanina's dam Soft Centre enjoyed her finest hour on the track when dead-heating in the listed Lupe Stakes in 2006 (a race her dam in turn won), and the operation had another lightly-raced and high-class prospect announce himself last week in the shape of Wannabe Yours, who took the Group 3 Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes.

Wannabe Yours overcame trouble in the penultimate furlong to run Hors de Combat down late, and whilst this was another race that proved tricky to assess it may well be that his new figure of 109 still isn't his limit either.

LOVE FEST

The 7f Group 2 Bet365 Lennox Stakes on Tuesday was a slowly-run affair and this played into the hands of Es Que Love who had been showing plenty of foot in 6f Group races this season, writes Mark Olley.

Toormore was top-rated on 115 pre-race and was strongly fancied to take this on this drop back to 7f. Richard Hannon's colt has been mixing it with the best in Group 1 races over 1m since landing the Craven back in April. He was never far from the pace, but drifted under pressure and could not repel Es Que Love close home.

We have Toormore running to 112 on his two previous starts, in the St James's Palace Stakes and the 2000 Guineas, and I see no reason why he didn't run close to that figure again, especially as that also fits with the historical standards we have for the runner-up.

That means I have Es Que Love running to 113, which is higher than Garswood (111) last year and Chachamaidee (112) in 2012, but some way below Finjaan (117) in 2009. This is a career high and despite having plenty of miles on the clock he seems on an upward curve since joining Clive Cox this year.

I have pulled back Toormore's rating from 115 to 113. He is clearly still smart, but a fair way from the 122 level he was as a juvenile. Toormore's stablemate Anjaal was a further half-length back in third and his 111 figure matches his Dewhurst form from last season.

The other 7f Group race run at Goodwood last week was the Group 3 L'Ormarins Queens Plate Oak Tree Stakes for fillies. In contrast to the Lennox this was run at a decent pace and that suited J Wonder who sat at the back of the field before finishing to some effect, and she won going away.

Brian Meehan's filly won the Fred Darling at Newbury in April and since then has run with credit in Group 1 company. She clearly appreciated this slight drop in class and this was a smart effort conceding 3lb to all her rivals.

When trying to come up with figures for a race it helps when more than one theory points to the same result and this was the case here. I have Indignant running to the 102 figure she also produced when winning a listed race at Salisbury and when finishing third in a Group 3 at York, and this also happens to be the historical standard that we have for the third horse in this race.

That means the progressive, and previously unbeaten, Muteela moves up 4lb to a new rating of 104 and J Wonder goes to 109 - I called the neck winning margin 2lb due to her superiority.

One other horse worth a mention from this race is Wee Jean who was continually faced with a wall of horses throughout the final two furlongs. Ryan Moore soon accepted his fate and Mick Channon's filly is clearly way better than this finishing position suggests.

CAVALRY STILL THE MAN

A bevy of high-quality action for me to assess this week with Phil Smith in Korea, where he was for work purposes I should point out, writes Stephen Hindle.

Before getting to my biggest race, it's worth mentioning the first contest of the BHA racing week that fell under my responsibilities, an 86-105 handicap at Ascot, which as it turned out threw up a fairly short-priced Ebor favourite and, six days later, a Goodwood handicap winner.

Pallasator, very lightly raced for a five-year-old, has always threatened to turn into a serious horse and it was some sight to see him go past Double Bluff, if only because he looked about twice his size!

The runner-up gave a healthy boost to the form by winning a very hot looking three-year-old handicap at Goodwood off top weight later in the week and Pallasator is now only a 3/1 chance for the Ebor at the time of writing with the majority of bookmakers. He is set to be 4lb well in under a penalty compared to his new mark, which is 111, a rating few run to in a handicap.

Another to mention before getting on to the main event is Snow Sky, who entered the reckoning for some big races after coming out best in something of a bunched finish for the Group 3 Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes at Goodwood. Although I've raised him by only 3lb to 111, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him step up on that figure as he still appears to be learning about the game.

To the Group 2 Artemis Goodwood Cup and it was nice to see Cavalryman register another success, not least because he was the highest rated on BHA figures. It was a good race for Godolphin too, with Ahzeemah completing a one-two for the organisation and trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Ahzeemah has never been higher than 113, so I didn't feel the need to raise Cavalryman from his pre-race 115 after his neck victory, albeit always doing enough to hold on.

Disappointment of the race was Estimate, who on a mark of 112 was entitled to be involved in the finish, her 3lb sex allowance making her joint best in on our ratings with Cavalryman. Connections blamed the ground and the track, but she has run well at Goodwood in the past and has plenty of form on going firmer than good, so perhaps this was just an off day.

Second favourite Brown Panther ran another solid race, if not quite to his best, in third. He went in rated 114 and I decided to lower him by 1lb so he is the same as Ahzeemah. I also had him running to that mark in France on his penultimate start.

The infamous Encke returned to action in the Group 3 Coutts Glorious Stakes, his first run since turning over Triple Crown seeking Camelot in the St Leger almost two years earlier. While I had him performing some way below his best, he was entitled to need the race and shaped as if most, if not all, of the ability is still there in finishing second to Pether's Moon, who gained a deserved first success of the season having been placed in Group and listed company on his previous four starts.

The proximity of the third and fourth holds the form down but for what it's worth I had Pether's Moon running to 108 and left his mark unchanged on 112, while I had Encke running to 104 and I moved him down by only 1lb to 119 as I feel he'll be better judged on what he does next time.

TAKE THAT

The feature 5f race at Glorious Goodwood was the Group 2 Betfred King George Stakes which was run on Friday, writes Chris Nash. It looked a competitive contest beforehand with only 5lb covering the seven top-rated horses and four of them filled the frame.

The race was won by Take Cover who's proving better than ever this year - following on a close eighth in the King's Stand with a York listed success and now this. He arrived rated 109 and in beating Extortionist (pre-race 113) by a neck he produced another career best figure.

Moviesta was a further short-head away in third. He had run to 113 when winning this contest in 2013 but slightly lesser efforts since saw him rated 111 this time around. A further length-and-a-half back in fourth was Stepper Point who had achieved his pre-race rating of 113 when finishing second in the King's Stand.

In terms of figures for the Goodwood race I settled on 113 for the winner with both the second and third at 112 and Stepper Point at 108. For official ratings Take Cover moves to 113 and I am happy to leave Extortionist rated the same for now as he shaped as though the Goodwood track may not have been ideal for him in doing all his best work late.

Moviesta will be rated 112 after this step in the right direction and I trimmed Stepper Point back to 112 as he's failed to repeat his King's Stand form in two subsequent starts. The next renewal of the Group race sprint rivalries will be in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York on 22 August.

The race formerly known as the Stewards' Cup was run on Saturday as the 32Red Cup and it produced a finish full of horses that could well go on to make their mark beyond handicap company. There was a flood of money for Muthmir before the start which gave the market a somewhat lopsided look but thankfully the race turned out to be more competitive than the betting suggested.

First past the post was Intrinsic, who remains unbeaten this season and confirmed himself a most progressive sprinter. He won his 2014 return off a mark of 80, followed up last time off 89 and lined up on Saturday off 95. I have him running a figure of 100+ and I am going to rate him 101 due to the fact that he hung when getting to the front without which his winning margin may well have been more than the length that it was at the line.

Second place was taken by Ninjago who ran off 103 and will be raised to 105. He has already been successful in listed company and ran a fine race in the 2013 Stewards' Cup when a close up fifth. His proximity shores up this form as does that of the third (Alben Star) who has now run terrific races in competitive handicaps on his last three starts. In finishing just a neck behind Ninjago he too will see his mark rise by 2lb (to 107).

Ruwaiyan probably ran a mighty race in fourth having come from a long way back. He is already proven over 7f and it is possible that he found this downhill 6f just a touch too sharp early on. The heavily-backed favourite Muthmir lost little in defeat in fifth. He ran under penalty here off a mark of 98 but his win at York on the previous weekend means that he will be rated 100 in the future. From what I saw in the York race I have no desire to alter that mark of 100 and he too remains a sprinter of great promise likely to be able to hold his own in higher company in the near future.

HANNON HOLDS THE ACES

In winning Goodwood's Qatar Bloodstock Richmond Stakes Ivawood made it three wins out of three and moves up to 118 in the BHA ratings. This puts him at the top of the tree ahead of the brilliant filly Tiggy Wiggy (trained by Richard Hannon and rated 117) and the colt Estidhkaar (also trained by Hannon and rated 113). You might begin to see a pattern.

Glorious Goodwood has three Group races for two-year-olds. The other winners were Highland Reel, trained by Aidan O'Brien and Cotai Glory for Charlie Hills. Highland Reel earned a 111+ for winning the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes and he could be a serious candidate for top honours at the end of the season. He still looks immature but he swept by his field in style. I suspect that we will see him next in Ireland's Futurity Stakes which might see a clash with Estidhkaar.

Cotai Glory, in winning the Bet365 Molecomb, paid a strong compliment to Limato who had beaten him at Newbury last time. Limato is now on 111 and Cotai Glory goes to 108. The other ones on the radar include the Royal Ascot winners Richard Pankhurst and The Wow Signal, each pencilled in at around the 110 mark. They might well step up to the mark but at the moment the Hannon juggernaut continues to sweep through the two-year-old season.

Handicappers' Blog (8 August)
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