Harbour makes his own Law

13 Sep 16

Leger verdict and is one thrown in for the Cesarewitch?

The Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger is fast gaining a reputation as an eventful race writes staying Handicapper Mark Olley.

Last year it was pure theatre for anyone not personally involved as the placings were changed by the Stewards. This year it was most unwelcome as odds-on favourite and clear top-rated Idaho stumbled and catapulted poor Seamie Heffernan into the ground. Thankfully neither horse nor jockey incurred any lasting damage.

Idaho came into the race rated 120 for his half length second to Harzand in the Group 1 Irish Derby. That was by far the best form on offer but Aidan O’Brien’s colt had yet to prove his stamina. There would certainly have been no hiding place as the race was led at a searching gallop by the free running Muntahaa.

With the odds-on favourite out of the picture it was left to another of O’Brien’s trio of runners, Housesofparliament who had finished just under two lengths second to Idaho in the Great Voltigeur at York, to make the best of his way home. This was also his first attempt at 1m6f and in the final few yards of this real stamina test he was beaten but far from disgraced. His pre-race rating of 113 is just below the placed horse standards for the race. As the first two home both came into the race with lower ratings and the three of them pulled well clear of the other finishers, I did not feel a raise was justified.

Ventura Storm has improved with each step up in distance. This was another career high and he joins Housesofparliament with a rating of 113.

Harbour Law came into the race with proven stamina. He had finished under a length second in the Listed Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and had the race run to suit him perfectly. It was only really in the last one hundred yards that he looked like winning and his rating moves from 102 to 114. Laura Mongan’s colt looks sure to improve further and could be a real Cup horse of the future.

Comparing the race to recent runnings this did not look a vintage year. Filly Simple Verse was rated 115 last year while Masked Marvel was a recent high performing to 122 in 2011.

The other main staying race of the week was the Group 2 Doncaster Cup. Quest For More was allowed to do his own thing out in front and tried to emulate his recent Lonsdale Cup win at York. However, Martin Harley on Shiekhzayedroad was awake to the danger and sent David Simcock’s gelding to challenge entering the final furlong, just getting his head in front on the line. Quest For More remains rated 114 while Shiekhzayedroad moves up 2lb from 113 to 115.

St Michel was the only three year old in the race and he looked to have plenty to find with a rating of 99 for winning recent handicaps. He sat further back than either of the first two home and although he stayed on strongly he could not quite reach them. His new rating is 112 (up 13lb) and if he takes up his Cesarewitch entry he will be something of the proverbial handicap good thing. He was rated 93 when the entries were made and carries a 4lb penalty for his win at Goodwood on August 30th which means he will race from 15lbs lower than if the weights were framed now.

Battle of the sexes for the sprinting crown

The first weekend in September saw the running of the 6f Group 1 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock. The main talking point leading up to the race was whether Limato would take part. His impressive July Cup win was the leading performance over 6f in Europe this year writes BHA Handicapper Stuart Copeland.

Connections had made it abundantly clear though that if Soft featured in the going description he would not take part. For those of us present at the track witnessing the deluge of rain from lunchtime onwards his withdrawal seemed a foregone conclusion.

However, to use the phrase of one man’s pleasure is another man’s poison, his chief rival on our ratings had no such going concerns having previously shown herself fully effective in testing conditions. This was the three year old filly Quiet Reflection – winner of this year’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and a creditable third behind Limato at Newmarket.

She duly took advantage of his absence, travelling strongly throughout and asserting over a furlong out to run out a decisive winner by length and three quarters from The Tin Man. In terms of ratings we have Quiet Reflection running right up to her best with a rating of 116. Taking her 3lb sex allowance in to account this is well up to the standard we would expect for the winner of this race. The Tin Man producing a marginal career best of 115.

In terms of the overall sprint picture in Britain Mecca’s Angel heads the standings on 122 based on her success in the 5f Nunthorpe at York. Next best is the aforementioned Limato on 121, with Quiet Reflection currently the pick of the 3yo crop.

However with the Abbaye de Longchamp and British Champions Sprint, the two remaining Group 1 sprints in Europe, still to come there is still much to play for in this division. Both races could well play significant roles in establishing who finishes on top.

The Champagne goes to Rivet

William Haggas’ string has hit form with a vengeance in the last week or two and the stable’s most prestigious success in that time came courtesy of Rivet in the Group 2 At The Races Champagne Stakes, writes Graeme Smith.

Thunder Snow was the clear pick on form pre-race but that was in part down to the opportunities he had in Pattern company. With plenty of market confidence behind Rivet he found enough improvement elevated from maidens to cut down Thunder Snow late in the day.

My assessment brings Rivet out at 114 which is just 1lb off Mehmas (his National Stakes run comes within the new racing week and the figures are not yet finalised) and Blue Point at the top of the list of British-trained juveniles. That factors in further improvement for Thunder Snow from his second in the Vintage at Goodwood but I do not think anyone would argue against his stable being in much better form now.

With a race made up primarily of unexposed sorts I always have one eye on historical standards and they point roughly to 114. That figure brings Rivet out towards the middle in a list of Champagne winners from the last decade.

A knock on from this race was that War Decree’s Vintage success continues to look strong as far as the placed horses go. I am uneasy raising the level of that race wholesale considering what that would do to those who finished further back; but I now think War Decree looks value for 113/114 at the very least.

The Clugston Construction May Hill Stakes became a good test of stamina thanks to a stiff headwind in the straight. Those conditions proved a much better fit for the stoutly-bred Rich Legacy than she’d face in the Prestige at Goodwood.

I have her improving to 105 which is again no better than average against recent renewals; but both she and runner-up Grecian Light remain lightly raced and open to improvement.

The third-placed Urban Fox continues to thrive on racing and I have her making a further step forward to 99.

There were a handful of other promising performances in the 7f+ juvenile division at Doncaster and the listed Weatherbys Stallion Book Flying Scotsman Stakes saw a very close finish between three previously-unbeaten colts. Rodaini earned a figure of 104 as he emerged on top. He is now a winner of four races and I felt he might even have been idling a shade in front.