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4th June 2013 - GLOOMY NAME, BRIGHT FUTURE?
|Olivier Peslier rides Gloomy Sunday
to victory at Sandown
Following a busy week of British Racing, the BHA Handicappers have plenty to discuss in this week's Blog. Stephen Hindle looks back at Thursday’s Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown, whilst Chris Nash assesses the most exciting finish of the weekend - Duke of Firenze’s last-gasp win in the Investec Dash.
Meanwhile, Dominic Gardiner-Hill covers the best of the 1m action from Sandown, Epsom and Doncaster including Gregorian's victory in the Investec Diomed Stakes. The Investec Oaks and Derby were the highlights of the week, both are covered in Phil Smith’s Head of Handicapping Blog.
GLOOMY NAME, BRIGHT FUTURE?
The Seymour Pierce Henry II Stakes at Sandown looked very interesting beforehand. Last year’s Gold Cup winner Colour Vision was in the line-up, as were other highly rated stayers, namely Times Up, successful twice in Group 2 company last year, Cavalryman, who won a Group 3 in Dubai in March, and High Jinx, who was last seen finishing second in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran at Longchamp in October, writes Stephen Hindle.
With so many big names in attendance, it was a race I was looking forward to and on paper it looked like an above average Group 3. They don’t run the races on paper, however, and none of the above named quartet managed to even reach the placings.
Whilst three of those four were coming back from long absences and the other, Cavalryman, was having his first race back in Britain, it was a little deflating to see the race dominated by the three lowest rated horses going in, and as such it can’t be viewed as a vintage renewal.
The only horse to run in Thursday’s race not entered in the Gold Cup is the winner, French filly Gloomy Sunday. She’s unexposed over long distances, though she’d given an indication as to her stamina when finishing second in a listed race at Saint Cloud in April over an extended mile and seven furlongs - at the time the furthest she’d run.
A bigger question mark as to the level of this form comes from the second, Number Theory. The five year old progressed rapidly last year, winning three times at Haydock and also finished third in the Ebor, but this is another level altogether.
In third was Model Pupil, who did at least come in as the most unexposed in the field having had only half a dozen races previously. Also, he’d never run beyond a mile and a half.
I felt Model Pupil was probably the horse to concentrate on when it came to rating the race. Despite being rated only 104 going in, he was joint fourth in the betting and surely ran to a similar level as in the past. He was rated 107 after finishing second in last year’s Chester Vase, and I elected to raise him to 106 after this to get him higher than some of those he beat and to fit in with the overall view I wanted to take of this race, which was that in the end it was just an average renewal.
A figure of 106 for Model Pupil equated to 109 for Gloomy Sunday and 108 for Number Theory, who was previously rated 98. It seems a big enough rise for the last-named, but the race has to be viewed as a whole and if you remove Number Theory from the result, this level would not look particularly high, and as already mentioned he was progressive last year and in addition to that he had not previously encountered two miles.
The steady early pace possibly didn’t suit High Jinx, whose previous race had been at two and a half miles, and I left him on 113. I also left Cavalryman and Times Up, both 115, as there seems little wrong with their most recent form.
Colour Vision is another who possibly would have appreciated more of a test, but this still has to go down as somewhat disappointing and he has failed to repeat his Gold Cup form several times now. I dropped him to 114, which reflects his best form since Royal Ascot.
FIRENZE DASHES HOME
One of the feature 5f handicap races of the season is the Investec Dash at Epsom on Derby day. It is usually an action packed race and the 2013 renewal was no different, writes Chris Nash.
The race was a cracking spectacle and produced a finish where the result only took shape in the last 30 yards. This contest is famed as a speed test and is frequently won by horses ridden handy – indeed the last three winners (Stone Of Folca, Captain Dunne and Bertoliver) were all ridden in that way. Deep inside the final furlong it looked like that pattern would be repeated with Fair Value in front and seemingly in control only to be swamped late on by horses who rocketed home from nowhere. Duke Of Firenze took the spoils by a neck from Smoothtalkinrascal with a further neck back to Dinkum Diamond. Fair Value crossed the line in fourth just a short-head behind the third and the first 12 home were covered by less than three lengths – a handicappers delight.
The first two were still in the last four at the furlong marker and the way they scythed through the field made tremendous viewing. Duke Of Firenze ran off a mark of 97 and the narrow margin of his victory means that he can only be reassessed 4lb higher to 101. Smoothtalkinrascal was burdened with a penalty for winning his previous race at York and so lined up off 103 even though his current rating was only 100. He will be raised to 106. Both horses have shown progressive form this season and both returned career best efforts on Saturday. As has been pointed out in this feature on a few occasions the difference between top class sprint handicap form and the level required to be competitive in Listed and Group races is very marginal and there is every chance that the first two will make their mark at a higher level before the season is out. The presence of Dinkum Diamond in third gives substance to that argument as in 2011 he was placed four times in Listed sprints and once in a Group 3 reaching a peak rating of 108. His run on Saturday will see him rated 103. Fair Value goes up 1lb from 90 to 91 and the nature of the finish means that only slight alterations (if any) are needed to the ratings of the 5th – 12th placed finishers.
THISTLE BIRD FLIES AT EPSOM
Whilst the emerging stars of the middle distance category took centre stage last week there was still some good quality racing for me to enjoy in the mile category, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
Best of the action took place in the Investec Diomed Stakes (Group 3) on Friday at Epsom when John Gosden’s Gregorian returned to somewhere near the best of last year’s form to take the race ahead of Penitent and Gabrial. Rated 114 in last year’s World Thoroughbred Rankings on the back of placed efforts in the St James’s Palace and the Prix Jean Prat, I have Gregorian running to 113 at Epsom in the belief that runner-up Penitent has returned to his best of 115 given that he had some cut in the ground for the first time this year. Third placed Gabrial has performed to 110 but will remain on his pre-race figure of 111 as I’m not entirely convinced being held up so far off the pace in a moderately run contest saw him to best effect.
Earlier in the afternoon Roger Charlton’s wonderfully consistent Thistle Bird justified top rating in the Investec Princess Elizabeth Stakes (Group 3) with a battling success over Gifted Girl and Ladys First. Looking back at her form of last season it is possible that she was slightly underrated at 107 and on the back of her success last week I have raised her to 108, with easy Ascot handicap winner Gifted Girl going up 2lb from 104 to 106 and Ladys First remaining on her pre-race mark of 105.
Earlier in the week Montiridge repaid trainer Richard Hannon’s faith in him with a convincing success in the Heron Stakes at Sandown. With just four runners going to post it is not an easy race to get a handle on in terms of level, but the winner stretched nicely clear up the hill and I have raised his mark 5lb to 109 – there will be greater challenges ahead for him and it will be interesting to see if he can justify that mark in stronger company.
As far as the week’s handicaps were concerned it was a mixed bag. It was satisfying to see old stagers Spa’s Dancer (career best off 92 when winning at Sandown, goes to 97) and Vainglory (first success since October 2011 off 85 at Epsom, goes to 90) both score but what looked a competitive three year old handicap at Doncaster on Saturday was blown apart by John Gosden’s Remote who landed the contest by six lengths. I took a fair bit of stick for the result from a number of trainers on Monday morning and, as we always do in these situations, you go back and have a look at its previous form to see if anything could (or should) have been done differently – in this case I don’t believe there was and Remote is just a fast improving colt who was having only his third run. I have raised his mark from 89 to 103 and will be interested to see which path they follow with him now – will they run off the new rating in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot or head straight into Listed/Group company. Whichever it is, I suspect his end of season rating may well be in excess of his current perch!!!