27 Aug 14

The welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival proved more of a smash and grab for Irish stables than a celebration of any within the county as the raiding party took all three Group 1 prizes and rounded the week off with success in the Ebor itself. The headline exploits of Australia and Tapestry are discussed at length in Phil Smith’s Head of Handicapping blog. For the best of the rest, read on…

Power packed

The 5f Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes on Friday was a relatively straightforward race to assess, writes Mark Olley.

The first two home Sole Power and Stepper Point had finished first and second in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot. The only difference this time was the winning margin, one-and-a-quarter-lengths at Ascot but just half-a-length here. However, the half-length was not a true reflection of Sole Power’s superiority as he was repeatedly stopped in his run before showing an electric turn of foot to lead close home under a masterful Richard Hughes ride.

We had Stepper Point on a figure of 113 after Ascot and as he finished alongside the 113-rated Extortionist, with half-a-length back to Moviesta (112) in fourth, the figures all fit very neatly.

The only real decision to make is what to call the half-length winning margin. My thinking is that you can add at least a length (which equates to 3lb) and that has Edward Lynam’s speedster recording a figure of 118. He came into the race on his Irish rating of 119 and my Irish colleague Garry O’Gorman has no intention of lowering that after this thrilling win.

I am sure that anyone who follows the results of the 7f Group races will be well aware that there is no Group 1 over 7f for older horses in the UK. Each time a 7f Group 2 is run there is mention in the press that the racecourse is looking to upgrade the race to Group 1 status. This ambition is admirable and as the 7f handicapper I would clearly welcome having a Group 1 to assess.

That said I was somewhat surprised to read in the Racing Post that York are looking to upgrade the listed Sky Bet City of York to Group 1 status. I applaud their ambition, but with the average rating of the winner over the last five seasons at 109, a figure matched by this year’s winner Absolutely So, it looks like they have a way to go. Let’s hope the increased prize money has the desired effect and quickly attracts some top-class horses.

Double Irish

The Irish domination of the top races at this year’s Ebor festival continued in the staying events towards the end of the week, writes Stephen Hindle.

First up was Pale Mimosa in the Group 2 Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup. This was a trappy race to assess as they finished in a bit of a heap by 2m standards and I got creative with the figures.

It was pretty obvious that Pale Mimosa is an improving mare. She’s still lightly raced, despite the fact she’s now a five-year-old, while Estimate has clearly returned to form by running her to half-a-length. With that in mind, and with Estimate’s best prior form looking fairly solid at 112, I had Pale Mimosa running to 113.

On the bare form Times Up, two-and-a-quarter-lengths behind Estimate in third, has run to the same figure as her because he was carrying 3lb more. I find that somewhat hard to believe, however, as he hasn’t run to that sort of mark for nearly two years, while Angel Gabrial, beaten only three-and-a-half-lengths in fifth, appears on the maths to have run 5lb above his pre-race 106. Even Forgotten Voice, who beat only Certerach, has in theory outperformed his pre-race figure of 109.

Another way round it, of course, is to take a lower view, but that would have Pale Mimosa coming out lower than Estimate, which is surely not right as she appeared to beat her entirely on merit. In the end I went for the middle ground and credited Times Up with a new mark of 110 which is in line with what I have him running to when winning last year’s Doncaster Cup.

I gave Angel Gabrial 109. It’s very believable that he improved further on his pre-race 106 the way he’s progressed this year, so I have tied in his new figure with Times Up and put him on the same mark as Forgotten Voice, who finished upsides him.

The disappointment of the race was Cavalryman. The Goodwood Cup winner could manage only fourth and I’ve left him 115 for the time being.

Pale Mimosa may well have booked her ticket to the Melbourne Cup, a race her trainer Dermot Weld has won twice before with Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle.

Speaking of valuable staying handicaps, the Betfred Ebor is the richest Flat handicap in Europe and as such it was fitting that it took a high-class performance to win it. Sir Mark Prescott’s Pallasator went off favourite but it was actually a former inmate of the yard Mutual Regard who took the honours.

I have Mutual Regard running to 112 in defeating Van Percy by a length-and-a-quarter, a mark 6lb above the one he ran off. Van Percy, meanwhile, goes up 4lb to 103.

Elidor has to be one of the most consistent horses in training and showed himself still to be on the upgrade by finishing a close third. He goes up to 102, 3lb above the mark he ran off, whilst Pallasator ran a gallant race from the widest draw and, 4lb well in after winning at Ascot since the publication of the weights, stays on 111.

Retirement Plan, who ran off 99, appears to have returned to his best of 100 in fifth, whilst Clever Cookie returned to form back up in trip and posted a very creditable 106, the mark he ran off.

A vintage Lowther

Tiggy Wiggy put her reputation on the line in the Pinsent Masons Lowther Stakes and came away smelling of roses, writes Matthew Tester.

Regular readers will remember that Tiggy Wiggy had already earned a rating of 117 in winning the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury over 5f. Could she be as impressive over an extra furlong against stronger opposition? Her opponents included Cursory Glance, the impressive winner of Royal Ascot’s Albany Stakes, and Anthem Alexander who had got the better of Tiggy Wiggy in the Queen Mary at the same meeting.

Here were top-class fillies to put her to the test and battle was joined in the final two furlongs. Tiggy Wiggy had made all the running, the other two fillies tracking her. Tiggy Wiggy did not flinch and saw the sixth furlong out well enough to win by a length-and-a-half from Cursory Glance with Anthem Alexander a further half-length away. The gap was then five lengths back to anything else.

Think about all the fast two-year-olds which have galloped down York’s 6f straight over the years. Well, Tiggy Wiggy was faster than any of them and smashed the track record. Amazingly, the race was so fast that Cursory Glance and Anthem Alexander also broke the record. So the third quickest horse in this race was faster than any 6f two-year-olds at York had ever been before over all the years. This was a special race.

Whenever possible, I produce speed figures for my races. In the last five years only three horses have earned a two-year-old speed figure of 120 or above: Dawn Approach, Frankel and Canford Cliffs. Now add to those three outstanding colts the name of Tiggy Wiggy. Her rating stays on 117 whilst Cursory Glance goes to 112 and Anthem Alexander, who gave away 3lb to each of them, I have at 114.