Handicappers Blog | Glorious Goodwood 2017
Can Battaash beat the Lady?
One of the Goodwood performances of the week was produced by Battaash in Friday’s Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes writes Chris Nash. Battaash lined up as a lightly-raced progressive sprinter rated 115. He had produced career best figures on his previous two runs this season and he continued his upward momentum with a sparkling display.
The race looked to be run at an honest pace with Take Cover bowling along in his customary style. Battaash was able to track that pace travelling comfortably before skipping clear to win by two and a quarter lengths from Profitable. The filly Marsha was a further three quarters of a length back in third and Take Cover the same distance away in fourth. The second, third and fourth here had finished second, third and fifth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot where they had run figures of 116, 113 and 110 respectively. For sprint form their performances tie in very neatly and point to a figure of 122 for Battaash which is another significant career best. This has the next three home running to 115+, 110 and 111 and this form has a really solid look to it.
In the context of the Goodwood race Battaash has produced the best performance this century – the previous best was a figure of 118 by Kingsgate Native in 2009. In terms of the sprinting division he has shown himself to be a real challenger to Lady Aurelia in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes to be run at York later this month. Regular readers of this blog might recall me rating her 122+ after her victory in the King’s Stand and explaining that because she receives a 3lb fillies allowance a colt or gelding would have to run to a figure of 125 to match her. Maybe, just maybe, we have found one who can. Fingers crossed that both make it to York in top shape because if they do then an intriguing clash awaits.
2yo sprinters contested the Group 3 Bombay Sapphire Molecomb Stakes run on Wednesday. This race was run on Soft ground which led to some significant non-runners. It was a new test for several of the participants including the winner Havana Grey. He had shown himself to be a nicely progressive sprinter with victory in a Listed race last time out and arrived at Goodwood rated 109. He made just about all of the running against the stands rail and saw it out really well to beat Invincible Army by a length and three quarters with a nose further back to To Wafij in third.
Whether to raise When
As a Handicapper one of the questions I often ask myself, says Dominic Gardiner-Hill, is “are we rating the inherent ability of the horse or is form largely a mathematical exercise?” Last week’s Qatar Sussex Stakes provided a classic case of this conundrum.
After twenty eight previous starts, the highest Here Comes When has ever been was 116 after winning the 2014 running of the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. He had not managed to reproduce that subsequently – until last Wednesday!!
Given the horses that he beat, it would mathematically be easy to get him as high as 119 – pretty standard for a Group 1 winner although on the low side for the Sussex Stakes. But did he really wake up a 3lb better horse than ever before or where there other factors at work?
On a filthy, rain swept day when the ground was getting softer by the minute, the likelihood is that he handled the conditions better than anything else in the race. As such, I have him returning to that peak level of 116. This suggests that runner-up Ribchester (115) was anywhere between 8 and 10lb below the level of form he showed to win the Lockinge and the Queen Anne and Lightning Spear in third was 3lb below his current mark of 117.
It may seem harsh to have him rated behind four horses (Zelzal & Lancaster Bomber will also remain higher) that he has just beaten to win a Group 1. Given his overall record and his ability to handle desperate conditions better than most, it sits comfortably with me at present. Should he go on to run to a higher figure in something like the QEII, I will be happy to give him due recognition and raise his mark accordingly.
Far more predictable than Here Comes When’s success was Winter’s victory in the Nassau. It was her fourth Group 1 success of the season on her first attempt at 10f. In running to a mark of 118 I do not believe that she achieved anything more than she had done previously; but she could do no more than win. Having now beaten the older fillies, it will be interesting to see if she is pitched in against the boys at some point during the autumn.
Whilst Here Comes When was rightly the chief flag waver for the Balding yard, they have another quality miler on their hands in Beat The Bank who took his career record to four wins from five races in landing the Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes (Group 3) in style on Friday.
Clearly top rated before the race, he extended his superiority over third placed Forest Ranger (106) by a long looking three lengths and a neck. His new mark of 114 still leaves him some way off genuine Group 1 class but he is heading in the right direction.
Taking the Eye
Following a quiet first half of the season, the two-year-old division really sprang into life in the last ten days writes Graeme Smith. The star shining brightest of all is undoubtedly Expert Eye who blew his rivals away in the Qatar Vintage Stakes.
Successful in what is proving to be a very hot novice at Newbury seven weeks previously, Expert Eye carried Andrea Atzeni to the front approaching the last 2f when everything else was hard off the bridle. He then ran right away from them for hands-and-heels riding. Four and a half lengths was the margin over the improving Zaman at the line.
Race standards pointed to 117 and I have no doubt this is the best 2yo performance of the season so far. Expert Eye currently tops the class on 117 which is the highest performance in the Vintage this century even considering that Shamardal, Sir Percy, Highland Reel and Galileo Gold all won the race within that period.
That Newbury novice won by Expert Eye received another endorsement when Barraquero ran out a clear-cut winner of the Qatar Richmond Stakes later in the week. By this stage testing ground was muddying the waters somewhat. I certainly do not believe that we saw the best of the July Stakes-winner Cardsharp in third or the Coventry runner-up Headway, who did a solo against the stand rail.
The speed figure was only 95 and, while race standards suggested a figure in the region of 113 to 115, I felt the low point of that range was most appropriate for now. That level is supported on a line through the runner-up Nebo, who on 109 remains 3lb ahead of the Vintage runner-up Zaman after beating him by that margin in the Superlative. I have also revisited the Superlative and now feel Gustav Klimt’s performance is worth at least 110.
One of the most memorable performances of the week came from Billesdon Brook. She overcame all sorts of trouble with a dazzling late surge in the Telegraph Nursery nailing her stablemate Cheeky Rascal right on the line. The winner was a major blot on the handicap with a 9lb rise pending following her Listed placing the previous week. She would have run out a clear-cut winner with a better run. She remains on 96 and should hold her own back up in grade.
The pick of the fillies at this stage is Nyaleti. She had run to 114 when destroying the opposition in the Princess Margaret at Ascot the previous weekend. She looks the best in Britain by some way although it is worth bearing in mind that both September and Clemmie had beaten her previously; so they may well get to that level themselves when the opportunity arises.
To update from the Royal Ascot blog, the Albany form is proving strong and a recalibration puts Different League in the 110 bracket with Alpha Centauri on 108.