Handicappers' Blog

The head handicappers from the British Horseracing Authority review the best of the action from the Ebor Festival at York which include Postponed’s victory in the Juddmonte International and Mecca’s Angel success in the Nunthorpe Stakes.

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Postponed rules in Juddmonte

The 10f Juddmonte International produced the best performance of the week in ratings terms courtesy of Postponed writes Andrew Mealor.

The highest-rated horse in Europe, Postponed is currently on 124 and faced eleven rivals in what looked a solid renewal of the International.

The opposition was headed by King George winner Highland Reel (121) who was attempting to give trainer Aidan O’Brien a record-breaking sixth win in the race. Also challenging was Godolphin’s Eclipse winner Hawkbill (122), one of only two three-year-olds in the line-up along with King George runner-up Wings of Desire (115).

The other to start at single-figure odds was the improving five-year-old Mutakayyef (118) who was stepping up in trip after landing the Summer Mile at Ascot.

Despite being forced to miss the King George due to a well-publicised virus, Postponed was a still a warm order at 15/8 and did not let his supporters down. Sensibly kept handy by rider Andrea Atzeni as his stablemate King Bolete did the pacemaking duties, Postponed was sent for home 3f out after travelling well and always looked like holding on despite the best efforts of Highland Reel in second.

An assessment of pre-race and historical standards suggests a figure in the low-to-mid 120s as an appropriate level for the race. It seemed logical to assess both the winner and second as running to their pre-race ratings given the length and a quarter gap between them at the line which I have called 3lb.

Postponed and Highland Reel’s ratings remain unchanged as a result. Slightly less straightforward was what to do with Mutakayyef who was beaten a further length in third. He may have finished closer but for running out of room late on as Postponed drifted across him. It is possible that interference cost him second place – to my eyes it might have been a close-run thing - though for now I have settled on a figure of 120 for him, 1lb behind Highland Reel.

That still represents a career best for the William Haggas-trained gelding. It is also worth bearing in mind that his defeat of Dutch Connection in the Summer Mile has worked out well with that rival improving to a rating of 119 when subsequently landing the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood.

That level for the International ties in well enough with most of the beaten horses.  It does represent a further jump forward for Highland Reel’s stablemate Sir Isaac Newton who was beaten just over four lengths in fourth. He came into the race a fair way off the first three on a rating of 112. Although his record over 10f this year is progressive and it is believable at this stage that he could have improved a bit more granted this test. He has been put up 4lb to a mark of 116 by the Irish handicapper as a result.

The disappointment of the race was Hawkbill with the ground offering an obvious excuse on the colt’s first outing on firmish conditions since a poor showing on his debut. Whatever the issue at York his Eclipse form has been franked by both The Gurkha and Time Test since Sandown and he remains on a figure of 122.

The other two races I dealt with on the Knavesmire came on the final day. Scarlet Dragon continued his progress with a decisive success in the opening 10f handicap earning himself a further 7lb rise to a mark of 99. Both the visual impression and analysis of the sectional data suggest the race was falsely run.  Eric The Red and Battalion, third and fifth respectively, caught the eye coming from off the pace.

The Strensall Stakes went to the in-form Scottish who produced a career best figure of 116 in landing his first Group race. Ex-South African-trained Yorker made a promising start for his new trainer William Haggas.  Yorker had been off the track for two years before finishing a staying-on second. He ran to a figure of 113+ on the day but had been rated as high as 118 following a Group 1 success in his native country in 2014. I have placed him on a mark of 116 for now so as not to be rated ahead of Scottish. It will be exciting to see if he can regain his former peak with this run behind him.

Mecca's is one quick Angel

The feature race at York on Friday, writes Chris Nash, was the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes run over 5f. 

It looked a solid renewal on paper beforehand and the race lived up to its billing.  For a big field sprint it was an amazingly clean race and I could see no hard luck stories in it.  It saw a dazzling performance from last year’s winner Mecca’s Angel to beat this year’s July Cup winner Limato.

There were decent distances between the placed horses and that allowed me to take a positive view of the form.  I have long been a fan of the winner and her pre-race mark of 120 actually had her the horse to beat in this as the higher-rated Limato (pre-race 121) had to give her 3lbs.  In beating him by two lengths (6lbs over 5f) she emerges as a 3lb better horse on the day.  There were a further two lengths back to the 3rd who was the admirably consistent Take Cover.  He had won a Group 2 last time and was rated 113. There was a neck further back to Cotai Glory who had finished 2nd in the Group 1 Kings’ Stand at Royal Ascot this year and was rated 112.

The form seemed to largely take care of itself with the 3rd and 4th seemingly running to their marks which had Mecca’s Angel running to 122 and Limato to 119.  This represents a career-best effort by the winner and I think this was a better performance than when taking this same race last year.  I also feel that it is perfectly reasonable to have Limato slightly below his July Cup figure as he is almost certainly a better horse over further than 5f. 

The next meeting point for the majority of these horses will be in the Abbaye on Arc day although it is likely that Limato will be directed to races over further than 5f with a trip to the Breeders Cup in early November in the mix.

Blue Point too good in Gimcrack

Saturday saw the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes – a Group 2 race over 6f for 2-year olds only. 

This race also produced a really good winner in the Gololphin owned Blue Point.  He had won his maiden at Nottingham and then waltzed in by eleven lengths in a conditions race at Doncaster.  That saw him start favourite for the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood where he was beaten a neck by Mehmas. Connections were keen to point out that making the running that day might not have suited him and he was still learning his job. 

Everything seemed to fall into place on Saturday as he was able to take a lead early on and when asked to extend the result was impressive. He came home three lengths clear for largely hands and heels only riding.  In second was Mokarris who had won a Listed race the time before and arrived here rated 105.  The third and fourth, The Last Lion and Global Applause respectively, were also Listed winners and arrived rated 104 and 105.  The form looks to have solidity for me and I was impressed by the winner. 

The last ten winners of this race have been rated as running to between 108 and 114 but I was happy to rate this winner a touch higher at 115.  This has Mokarris running a marginal career best at 107 and the third and fourth each running to 103.  Blue Point does not lack for speed and his next race is likely to be the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes next month.  Though it is possible that Mehmas will re-oppose and the unbeaten Aiden O’Brien trained Caravaggio may also be running so it promises to be a cracking race.

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