Fabre’s Full House
Miss France’s (pictured) success last Sunday not only saw the 1000 Guineas go across the Channel for the third time in the last seven years but also completed a full-house of British classics for the perennial French Champion trainer Andre Fabre. Dominic Gardiner-Hill gives his take on the race and its standing historically; whilst Stephen Hindle and David Dickinson go on to discuss the major handicaps they each dealt with.
Viva la France
I wonder how many people at Newmarket on 27 September last year could have imagined they were watching a full-on preview of the following year’s Qipco 1000 Guineas when they witnessed Miss France and Lightning Thunder fight out the finish of the Aqlaam Oh So Sharp Stakes, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
On that day the French filly prevailed by a head. Last Sunday she confirmed her superiority over her old rival by landing the Newmarket showpiece by a neck, with half a length back to Godolphin-challenger Ihtimal. With a number of the pre-race favourites and higher-rated fillies in the contest not doing their stuff, including Rizeena (113 – not on good terms with herself beforehand and a disappointing seventh), Vorda (114 – lost a shoe in eighth) and leading Irish-contender Tapestry (112 – last), it is hard to actually promote the winner from her two-year-old figure of 112 in my view and that is the figure I currently have her running to.
This level suggests Lightning Thunder improved 1lb from her two-year-old figure of 110 to 111 and also means a rise in the ratings for front-running Manderley (98 to 109 in fourth), fifth-placed Euro Charline (101 to 106) and sixth-placed Majeyda (101 to 103). It is the proximity of these fillies which leads me to be conservative with the winner’s figure.
Ihtimal had earned herself a figure of 114 when scooting home in the UAE Oaks on tapeta at Meydan and some may take her rating as a guide by which to level the race. My misgivings on taking that particular route revolve around the excessive hikes the aforementioned beaten horses would need to take, the fact that Ihtimal achieved that rating by beating a bunch largely made up of fillies rated in the 80s and 90s and the fact that prior to that race she had never been better than 107 in seven previous starts, six of which were on turf. I have her running to 110 at Newmarket and have given her a turf rating of 110 and a new all-weather rating off 113 to represent her win in Dubai.
From an historical perspective Miss France’s performance is at the lower end of the last ten years, although is superior to both Special Duty (2010) and Sky Lantern’s figures of 111. The latter showed improvement as the season progressed and ended the campaign at 118 and it would be no surprise if Miss France followed a similar profile. At 111 Lightning Thunder is the joint fourth highest rated runner-up in the last ten years whilst Ihtimal’s performance of 110 is the joint second best performance of a third-placed filly in the same period – bettered only by Saoirse Abu’s 111 behind Natagora in 2008.
Double delight for Koukash in cup
Marwan Koukash’s scattergun approach to the stanjames.com Chester Cup is paying off as he has now won it in two consecutive years, writes Stephen Hindle.
Following on from Address Unknown’s half-length success 12 months ago, Suegioo gave Dr Koukash victory this time and it was by the same margin. In another act of coincidence, Koukash owned both the first and the second this year, whereas last year the first two were both trained by the same person, namely Richard Fahey.
This year’s was a far from vintage renewal. Montaser was the top weight, on a mark of 99, which was the lowest since Leonato ran off a mark of 98 in 1998. Koukash, however, probably cares little, and in post-race interviews was already talking of his plan of attack at next year’s Chester Cup.
More than one member of the media suggested the Ascot Stakes as a potential future target for this year’s winner, but that would mean a rise of only 2lb in order to qualify for that 0-95 handicap and with the first two pulling clear in such a valuable event, that just isn’t an option.
I looked a fair way further down the field when it came to levelling the race, feeling that Suegioo and the second, Angel Gabrial, had run a fair way above their marks in coming at least three and three-quarter lengths away and the fact both are unexposed at extreme distances.
Communicator, who finished third, ran off 93 but has been as high as 98 so I decided to raise him as well. I actually looked further down the field still when it came to rating the race, deciding fifth-placed Glenard and sixth-placed Shwaiman had run close to their marks.
Another consideration was fourth-placed Mubaraza, who started favourite and was 4lb well in having finished a neck second to Angel Gabrial (who himself was 2lb well in under a 3lb penalty) at Ripon after the publication of the weights.
I wanted to leave Mubaraza going up 4lb because the Ripon form has proved solid so far, and the way I have rated the race has Angel Gabrial 5lb higher than the mark he ran off and Suegioo 6lb higher, meaning Angel Gabrial going to 96 and Suegioo 99. Communicator goes up 1lb to 94.
Many will be of the opinion that Angel Gabrial was an unlucky loser as he made a big move from the back of the field when the pace was increasing and then hung badly in the straight. In doing so, however, he inconvenienced the winner and I elected to call the half-length margin the usual 1lb. I don’t suppose Dr Koukash could care less about that.
Another popular local success came in the Group 3 Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes, with Brown Panther turning over odds-on favourite Hillstar and setting himself up for a tilt at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
While holes can be picked in the form, it would be harsh to knock the performance of Brown Panther, who is a tough and consistent, not to mention high-class, individual. I decided to raise him 2lb to 115, which is still a few pounds short of his best. That puts him on the same mark as Hillstar, as I’m not convinced he would have beaten him under different circumstances. Hillstar had never ventured over as far as this 1m5f trip before and Brown Panther rather ran the finish out of him. Furthermore, Hillstar’s best form is on firmer ground and I was inclined to give him another chance to run to the sort of level he showed when third in last year’s King George before dropping him.
Ballyglasheen baffles the scoopers
Overnight rain at Haydock saw slower ground than usual for the Grade 3 Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle, writes David Dickinson.
The one horse neglected by the 207 ticket holders going into this fifth leg of the Scoop6 was the winner Ballyglasheen, so I am taking it he was the one horse that was considered to have been given no chance at the weights.
Now I would say this wouldn’t I, but I really didn’t see it that way.
The horse was a shock winner of the JCB Triumph Trial Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, beating the subsequent Triumph runner-up Kentucky Hyden and Commissioned, who went on to be fourth in the Grade 1 at Aintree.
This was Ballyglasheen’s third run in a handicap. His first came in the Fred Winter when he was all but brought down at the second flight and wisely pulled up before the next. Now hindsight is a wonderful thing but he wore a visor for the first time in that Cheltenham race, only for it to be left off the next time at Sandown, where he would still surely be classed as an eyecatcher, flying home from a seemingly impossible position on the home turn to be beaten by less than five lengths.
Ballyglasheen had been shaping as though trips beyond 2m could help him and that stamina might well have been the deciding factor in the closing stages of such a truly-run race on the prevailing ground with the visor reapplied on Saturday.
For the second year running there was a significant gap between the principals and the body of the field, always a headache for a Handicapper in such a supposedly closely-knit handicap. In raising Ballyglasheen 10lb to 145, Barizan 8lb to 142 and Vibrato Valtat 7lb to 138, I have given Kentucky Hyden and Commissioned a pull for their defeats by the winner in December, yet have left Sign of A Victory marginally above Vibrato Valtat from their very unsatisfactory meeting at Ayr last month. Many of the others in the race would have preferred it if the rain had stayed away.
The form does appear to once again frank the value of the Imperial Cup form whilst calling the Scottish Champion Hurdle into doubt.