Handicappers' Blog (28 August)

The head handicappers from the British Horseracing Authority review the pick of the flat action from York's Ebor Festival in a detailed blog. Get their reaction and new official marks for some of those who ran right here.

  • Thursday 28 August
  • Blog
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My races at York last week provided some cracking performances and lots of interesting thoughts for the future. Of course our first port of call as Handicappers is the result of the race but we were helped by the racecourse providing Turftrax sectional timing which is an invaluable tool to look at how the races were run and which provides extra information about the runners. Here, Phil Smith covers his share from York's Ebor Festival.

Some years ago the Great Voltigeur Stakes was looked upon as a St.Leger trial but actually three of the last four winners have provided future winners at Royal Ascot. It would be no surprise to me if Postponed were to win at next year's Royal meeting. He comfortably beat the consistent Snow Sky (111) by two-and-a-quarter-lengths but I felt he was value for a further length and called the winning distance 5lbs, hence a figure of 116 for Postponed. So far all of the other International Handicappers who have put a figure on our system agree with 116.

The average rating of the last five winners of the Great Voltigeur is 117.6, so he has a little way to go yet to be a Sea Moon or a Rewilding who were both given 121 post-race. However I was taken by the style of his victory with a huge gap of eight lengths back to the third horse and the time was impressive. Interestingly Postponed produced a 10.94 seconds sectional, something that Australia was not able to match in his victory in a two furlong shorter race. Postponed is a stayer but he is absolutely not short of speed.

Do not give up on Snow Sky. He achieved the fastest sectional split in four of the last five furlongs and looks to be crying out for further. He is sure to run well in the St Leger and crucially has already proved himself adept on both good to firm and heavy going. Who knows what ground the weather will bring us at Doncaster a few weeks from now. Unlike with Postponed there is some variety of interpretation in the merit of Australia's victory in the Juddmonte International. Two countries have him on 128, one has gone for 127 and three so far including myself have him recording a 126 performance. I can easily understand the discrepancy as it is not an easy race to rate. Excluding Frankel, the last seven winners of the race have produced an average winning performance of 126. This fits well if you use Arod as your benchmark. He has been a very consistent performer at 109. Through him The Grey Gatsby works out at 121, an improvement of 2lbs on his rating. Given value for ease of victory I am comfortable with Australia on 126.

Post-race rumour had it that he is going to be aimed at the QEII on QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot where he will hopefully clash with Kingman who is currently published on 126 in the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings. So who would your money be on? Australia certainly won the Juddmonte because of his ability to outstay his opponents as he had the fastest sectionals in all of the last three furlongs. In the Yorkshire Oaks it is possible that Taghrooda did too much too early in the race as she produced the fastest sectional split from the 10 to the nine furlong pole and as well as from the fifth to the fourth and the fourth to the third.

Tapestry produced the fastest sectional in each of the last three furlongs. Food for thought! Lustrous who finished fourth beaten 10 lengths has had numerous opportunities this season and has never been higher than 104 so I am reluctant to have her higher for being beaten 10 lengths. By calling the 10 lengths to be worth 16lbs this brings Tapestry out on 120 which will get her into next month's edition of the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings. Internationally there is a very unusual spread of 6lbs between the Handicappers stretching from 123 to 117! Am I being too cautious in going for a figure in the middle? I don't think so as the post-race average of the last five winners is 118.4 and 120 puts her level with The Fugue from last year and only a pound behind Midday from 2010. This is exalted company in my view.

I must give one final mention for Arabian Comet who was a fast finishing second in the Galtres Stakes. The overall time for the race was nearly four seconds slower than the Yorkshire Oaks, but Arabian Comet who got a fair way behind the winner Queen of Ice early on fairly flew in the last half mile. Her time for this section was 46.75 seconds. Tapestry's time for these four furlongs was 47.45 seconds. It will be interesting to see how Arabian Comet gets on if she runs in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster. She is certainly a big improver as her performance figures for us this year since she joined her new trainer have been, 76, 86, 86, 89, 99 and 104!


The welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival proved more of a smash and grab for Irish stables than a celebration of any within the county as the raiding party took all three Group 1 prizes and rounded the week off with success in the Ebor itself. The headline exploits of Australia and Tapestry are discussed at length in Phil Smith's Head of Handicapping blog. For the best of the rest, read on…


The 5f Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday was a relatively straightforward race to assess, writes Mark Olley.

The first two home Sole Power and Stepper Point had finished first and second in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot. The only difference this time was the winning margin, one-and-a-quarter-lengths at Ascot but just half-a-length here. However, the half-length was not a true reflection of Sole Power's superiority as he was repeatedly stopped in his run before showing an electric turn of foot to lead close home under a masterful Richard Hughes ride.

We had Stepper Point on a figure of 113 after Ascot and as he finished alongside the 113-rated Extortionist, with half-a-length back to Moviesta (112) in fourth, the figures all fit very neatly.

The only real decision to make is what to call the half-length winning margin. My thinking is that you can add at least a length (which equates to 3lb) and that has Edward Lynam's speedster recording a figure of 118. He came into the race on his Irish rating of 119 and my Irish colleague Garry O'Gorman has no intention of lowering that after this thrilling win.

I am sure that anyone who follows the results of the 7f Group races will be well aware that there is no Group 1 over 7f for older horses in the UK. Each time a 7f Group 2 is run there is mention in the press that the racecourse is looking to upgrade the race to Group 1 status. This ambition is admirable and as the 7f handicapper I would clearly welcome having a Group 1 to assess.

That said I was somewhat surprised to read in the Racing Post that York are looking to upgrade the listed Sky Bet City of York to Group 1 status. I applaud their ambition, but with the average rating of the winner over the last five seasons at 109, a figure matched by this year's winner Absolutely So, it looks like they have a way to go. Let's hope the increased prize money has the desired effect and quickly attracts some top-class horses.


The Irish domination of the top races at this year's Ebor festival continued in the staying events towards the end of the week, writes Stephen Hindle.

First up was Pale Mimosa in the Group 2 Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup. This was a trappy race to assess as they finished in a bit of a heap by 2m standards and I got creative with the figures.

It was pretty obvious that Pale Mimosa is an improving mare. She's still lightly raced, despite the fact she's now a five-year-old, while Estimate has clearly returned to form by running her to half-a-length. With that in mind, and with Estimate's best prior form looking fairly solid at 112, I had Pale Mimosa running to 113.

On the bare form Times Up, two-and-a-quarter-lengths behind Estimate in third, has run to the same figure as her because he was carrying 3lb more. I find that somewhat hard to believe, however, as he hasn't run to that sort of mark for nearly two years, while Angel Gabrial, beaten only three-and-a-half-lengths in fifth, appears on the maths to have run 5lb above his pre-race 106. Even Forgotten Voice, who beat only Certerach, has in theory outperformed his pre-race figure of 109.

Another way round it, of course, is to take a lower view, but that would have Pale Mimosa coming out lower than Estimate, which is surely not right as she appeared to beat her entirely on merit. In the end I went for the middle ground and credited Times Up with a new mark of 110 which is in line with what I have him running to when winning last year's Doncaster Cup.

I gave Angel Gabrial 109. It's very believable that he improved further on his pre-race 106 the way he's progressed this year, so I have tied in his new figure with Times Up and put him on the same mark as Forgotten Voice, who finished upsides him.

The disappointment of the race was Cavalryman. The Goodwood Cup winner could manage only fourth and I've left him 115 for the time being.

Pale Mimosa may well have booked her ticket to the Melbourne Cup, a race her trainer Dermot Weld has won twice before with Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle.

Speaking of valuable staying handicaps, the Betfred Ebor is the richest Flat handicap in Europe and as such it was fitting that it took a high-class performance to win it. Sir Mark Prescott's Pallasator went off favourite but it was actually a former inmate of the yard Mutual Regard who took the honours.

I have Mutual Regard running to 112 in defeating Van Percy by a length-and-a-quarter, a mark 6lb above the one he ran off. Van Percy, meanwhile, goes up 4lb to 103.

Elidor has to be one of the most consistent horses in training and showed himself still to be on the upgrade by finishing a close third. He goes up to 102, 3lb above the mark he ran off, whilst Pallasator ran a gallant race from the widest draw and, 4lb well in after winning at Ascot since the publication of the weights, stays on 111.

Retirement Plan, who ran off 99, appears to have returned to his best of 100 in fifth, whilst Clever Cookie returned to form back up in trip and posted a very creditable 106, the mark he ran off.


Tiggy Wiggy put her reputation on the line in the Pinsent Masons Lowther Stakes and came away smelling of roses, writes Matthew Tester.

Regular readers will remember that Tiggy Wiggy had already earned a rating of 117 in winning the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury over 5f. Could she be as impressive over an extra furlong against stronger opposition? Her opponents included Cursory Glance, the impressive winner of Royal Ascot's Albany Stakes, and Anthem Alexander who had got the better of Tiggy Wiggy in the Queen Mary at the same meeting.

Here were top-class fillies to put her to the test and battle was joined in the final two furlongs. Tiggy Wiggy had made all the running, the other two fillies tracking her. Tiggy Wiggy did not flinch and saw the sixth furlong out well enough to win by a length-and-a-half from Cursory Glance with Anthem Alexander a further half-length away. The gap was then five lengths back to anything else.

Think about all the fast two-year-olds which have galloped down York's 6f straight over the years. Well, Tiggy Wiggy was faster than any of them and smashed the track record. Amazingly, the race was so fast that Cursory Glance and Anthem Alexander also broke the record. So the third quickest horse in this race was faster than any 6f two-year-olds at York had ever been before over all the years. This was a special race.

Whenever possible, I produce speed figures for my races. In the last five years only three horses have earned a two-year-old speed figure of 120 or above: Dawn Approach, Frankel and Canford Cliffs. Now add to those three outstanding colts the name of Tiggy Wiggy. Her rating stays on 117 whilst Cursory Glance goes to 112 and Anthem Alexander, who gave away 3lb to each of them, I have at 114.

Handicappers' Blog (28 August)
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