Handicappers' blog

The head handicappers at the BHA review the pick of the recent action from York's Ebor Festival, rating performances from the likes of Ghaiyyath, Love and Battaash.

  • Thursday 27 August
  • Blog
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International glory for world’s best Ghaiyyath

Ghaiyyath confirmed his current position as the highest-rated horse in the world with an impressive success in the Juddmonte International on Wednesday, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.

Having risen to that exulted position with a figure of 127 for his win in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown last month, the Charlie Appleby-trained colt exceeded that mark with a 130 performance on the Knavesmire.

Runner-up Magical (pre-race 122) has plenty of form against the best over the last couple of years and provides a solid guide to the worth of the form, as does Prince of Wales’s winner Lord North (pre-race 124), though the latter might have been a pound or two off his Royal Ascot form, possibly due to losing his right-fore shoe at some point during the contest.

A winner of nine of his twelve career starts, Ghaiyyath has put together an impressive string of performances over the past twelve months. The five victories in his last six starts (last year’s Arc being the blip) have been gained by an aggregate of over thirty lengths and all of them have been worth a rating of least 125 - in retrospect his successes at Baden-Baden last September and Meydan this February could both be considered 130 performances.

In terms of his performance at York, only seven-length winners Frankel (140 in 2012) and Sakhee (133 in 2001) are considered superior among winners of the Juddmonte this century.

Ghaiyyath wins the Juddmonte International at York
Ghaiyyath was simply too hot to handle for his York rivals

In other news, the unbeaten Palace Pier took himself to the top of the mile rankings with an impressive success in the Jacques le Marois at Deauville. Ground conditions don’t make it an easy race to level with confidence but there was no doubting Palace Pier’s superiority over Group 1 winners Alpine Star (second), Circus Maximus (third), Persian King (fourth) and Romanised (fifth).

I have raised him 6lb to a new mark of 126.

Love reigns supreme

There were two notable performances over 1m4f on the Knavesmire last week, writes Mark Olley.

In the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks Love duly converted the penalty kick that both the betting and ratings made her for the race.

While this victory lacked the wow factor of her Oaks success, she comprehensively outclassed some pretty decent fillies. As she is trained in Ireland her official rating will be published there, but I have a figure of 123 for this race which equals what Enable achieved when gaining the first of her two Yorkshire Oaks wins as a three-year-old in 2017.

Alpinista stayed on well to take a respectful second and this was a big step forward for this improving filly on the back of her Salisbury Listed win. Her rating moves to 113 (up 8lb) and there is likely more to come.

One Voice was a further two lengths back in third stepping up in trip. She had finished a close second in the Group 1 Nassau at Goodwood last month and her official rating, published in Ireland, is also 113.

Aidan O’Brien reportedly thinks Love is the best filly he has trained. While there is a certain degree of “he would say that wouldn’t he” about the statement, her two victories this term clearly mark her as special and hopefully we will find out how special in the Arc in six weeks’ time.

If stablemate (and Derby winner) Serpentine and Ghaiyyath both make the race it will surely be a true test and it has all the makings of season-defining race.

The second notable performance was that of Pyledriver in the Group 2 Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes. The William Muir-trained colt travelled strongly through the race and came clear under a hands and heels ride for an impressive win.

It was all the more meritorious as he conceded a 3lb penalty to all his seven rivals for his win in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. I called the winning margin of three and a half lengths 7lb and his rating moves up 9lb to 119.

To put that into historical context, the figure is 2lb higher than Logician achieved last year and below only 2017 winner Cracksman (122) among recent Voltigeur winners.

Pyledriver’s Derby run is easily forgiven as he was hampered early on and lost his place, and he looks the one to beat in the St Leger if staying the longer, and extended, 1m6f trip.

Pyledriver and Martin Dwyer in action
Pyledriver's performance bettered last year's winner, Logician

Highland Chief stayed on well for second, just in front of Irish runner Mogul. They finished the other way round when first and second in the Group 3 Gordan Stakes at Goodwood last time and both have official ratings of 109.

Battling Battaash

Battaash’s victory in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday might have lacked the wow factor of his wide-margin win in the same race twelve months ago, but it won’t have been any less satisfying to his connections, writes Adam Barnes.

In the same way that talented football teams occasionally need to prove that they can get the job done on a cold, rainy night in Stoke, Friday was a day on which Battaash needed to show that he could do it on a wet, windy afternoon on the Knavesmire.

In prevailing by a length from Que Amoro he didn’t need to be at his best in pure ratings terms, but when Charlie Hills said afterwards that he considered it to be “probably the best run of his career”, it wasn’t too hard to see where he was coming from.

This was a performance that adds to the growing body of evidence that the once enigmatic youngster has grown into a true professional, far more able to roll his sleeves up and deal with adversity when required.

The conditions on the day – namely the rain during the card – make it difficult to offer much meaningful comment on the time clocked by Battaash this year, but the Nunthorpe was certainly a truly-run race with no real excuses for the beaten horses.

It was runner-up Que Amoro who set the strong pace, and it wasn’t until well inside the final furlong that Battaash mastered her, gamely responding to pressure on ground that was probably softer than ideal, with the pair clear of the remainder.

This might not have been a vintage renewal of the Nunthorpe overall, partly due to the race having its smallest field since 2003, as well as up-and-comer Art Power clearly failing to give his running, but the form is likely still solid enough.

Historical race standards point to Battaash’s win being in the region of a 120-121 performance (the last ten winning performances in the race range from 116 to Battaash’s own 126 last year), and I have assessed him as running to 120 on the day, though he remains with a rating of 126.

Que Amoro may have arrived with a rating of only 104, but that fact shouldn’t be used to crab the form too much, she being a young, progressive sprinter with an excellent record at the track.

She’s now rated 113, 4lb higher than Moss Gill (up 1lb to 109) after comprehensively reversing previous York form with that rival.

Gimcrack glory for Minzaal

The golden summer for Hamdan Al-Maktoum’s blue and white silks continues at pace, and even by this year’s standards the Friday of York’s Ebor fixture was one to remember, writes Graeme Smith.

Battaash’s season-defining Nunthorpe follow-up was supported by not one but two Group 2 successes, including juvenile Minzaal who looked well on his way to the top level with a commanding success in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes.

The two-length margin over the once-raced Devilwala doesn’t tell the whole story as Minzaal stood out by some way with the ease with which he cut through the field prior to taking over. While he has some way go to emulate his owner’s 2014 winner, Muhaarar, he surely deserves his shot at something like the Middle Park now.

A drawback to the Gimcrack form is the fact the time doesn’t endorse the performance quite in the way that might be hoped – Minzaal clocked a speed figure of just 91 by my reckoning – but that has been reflected in the slightly cautious figure of 112 he emerges with. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see him taking another step forward given just how easily he put the race to bed.

Minzaal wins the Gimcrack
Despite much going wrong, Minzaal was so impressive in the Gimcrack

On a footnote, Owen Burrows is having a year to remember, and he has plenty to look forward to as the shadows begin to lengthen into autumn with both Hukum and Minzaal having major targets on their horizons.

The lack of Irish challengers for the York juvenile races was fairly striking for all it was understandable, but from just two representatives they still struck a telling blow courtesy of Miss Amulet in the Sky Bet Lowther.

Unlike in the Gimcrack, the Lowther returned a sound speed figure of 109 in support of Miss Amulet’s 111 performance and her drawing clear with the Queen Mary runner-up Sacred (raised 4lb to 108) reads well from all angles.

That point was further hammered home when the Queen Mary winner, Campanelle, made all in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville over the weekend.

Miss Amulet’s story may have begun from modest beginnings – she was bought for only €1,000 as a foal and £7,500 as a yearling – but she’s establishing herself as a player at the top level now and achieved significantly more than the last three Lowther winners had on the day.

Indeed, she’s currently only around a length and a half off what it’s taken to win an average Cheveley Park in recent seasons.

The Tattersalls Acomb Stakes was the trickiest of the York juvenile races to assess, not only lacking an Irish challenge but also seeing two of the top three in the market flopping badly.

Gear Up looked a strong stayer at 7f as he got going late to run down the powerful-travelling Spycatcher late on. Having raced only twice so far, it’s easy to see Gear Up improving further on this 106 performance when given a chance at 1m, and there will be plenty of options for him in the autumn.

Spycatcher looked all over the winner for a long way, and considering what a big step forward this was from his Redcar debut (when fourth after stumbling badly at the start), his connections are likely to be looking forward to the autumn too.

Super Sprint winner Happy Romance has been making hay better than most this summer and she provided her owners with a second bumper payday in the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Auction Stakes.

Devious Company (107) looked a formidable opponent having chased home Battleground in the Vintage at Goodwood, but the 11/8-favourite was rather taken off his feet following a slow start at this shorter trip.

Happy Romance further reiterated her professionalism by putting the race to bed with a good furlong to run.

At 97 this rates her best performance to date (pre-race 92) and the speed figure could justify a pound or two more still. She holds an entry in the valuable auction race at Redcar in October but she’s also been given the option of the Prestige over another furlong at Goodwood next weekend, and it may well be that black-type races take precedence from here – she’s certainly worth her place.

Similar comments apply to Naval Crown, who blew the British Stallion Studs EBF Convivial Stakes (maiden) apart in a strong time on Friday. He’s now rated 96, up from 93.

Factoring in both that performance and what Cobh achieved in winning the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury on the same afternoon (up 6lb to 103), it’s clear that the Pat Eddery at Ascot on King George weekend was notably strong for a Listed race.

The winner, Chindit, now rates at 107 rather than my initial assessment of 104 and he looks a real contender for pattern success this autumn.

Handicappers' blog
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