27 Aug 14

My races at York last week provided some cracking performances and lots of interesting thoughts for the future, writes Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith. Of course our first port of call as Handicappers is the result of the race but we were helped by the racecourse providing Turftrax sectional timing which is an invaluable tool to look at how the races were run and which provides extra information about the runners.

Some years ago the Great Voltigeur Stakes was looked upon as a St.Leger trial but actually three of the last four winners have provided future winners at Royal Ascot. It would be no surprise to me if Postponed were to win at next year’s Royal meeting. He comfortably beat the consistent Snow Sky (111) by two-and-a-quarter-lengths but I felt he was value for a further length and called the winning distance 5lbs, hence a figure of 116 for Postponed. So far all of the other International Handicappers who have put a figure on our system agree with 116.

The average rating of the last five winners of the Great Voltigeur is 117.6, so he has a little way to go yet to be a Sea Moon or a Rewilding who were both given 121 post-race. However I was taken by the style of his victory with a huge gap of eight lengths back to the third horse and the time was impressive. Interestingly Postponed produced a 10.94 seconds sectional, something that Australia was not able to match in his victory in a two furlong shorter race. Postponed is a stayer but he is absolutely not short of speed.

Do not give up on Snow Sky. He achieved the fastest sectional split in four of the last five furlongs and looks to be crying out for further. He is sure to run well in the St Leger and crucially has already proved himself adept on both good to firm and heavy going. Who knows what ground the weather will bring us at Doncaster a few weeks from now.

Unlike with Postponed there is some variety of interpretation in the merit of Australia’s victory in the Juddmonte International. Two countries have him on 128, one has gone for 127 and three so far including myself have him recording a 126 performance. I can easily understand the discrepancy as it is not an easy race to rate. Excluding Frankel, the last seven winners of the race have produced an average winning performance of 126. This fits well if you use Arod as your benchmark. He has been a very consistent performer at 109. Through him The Grey Gatsby works out at 121, an improvement of 2lbs on his rating. Given value for ease of victory I am comfortable with Australia on 126.

Post-race rumour had it that he is going to be aimed at the QEII on QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot where he will hopefully clash with Kingman who is currently published on 126 in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. So who would your money be on? Australia certainly won the Juddmonte because of his ability to outstay his opponents as he had the fastest sectionals in all of the last three furlongs.

In the Yorkshire Oaks it is possible that Taghrooda did too much too early in the race as she produced the fastest sectional split from the 10 to the nine furlong pole and as well as from the fifth to the fourth and the fourth to the third. Tapestry produced the fastest sectional in each of the last three furlongs. Food for thought!

Lustrous who finished fourth beaten 10 lengths has had numerous opportunities this season and has never been higher than 104 so I am reluctant to have her higher for being beaten 10 lengths. By calling the 10 lengths to be worth 16lbs this brings Tapestry out on 120 which will get her into next month’s edition of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. Internationally there is a very unusual spread of 6lbs between the Handicappers stretching from 123 to 117!

Am I being too cautious in going for a figure in the middle? I don’t think so as the post-race average of the last five winners is 118.4 and 120 puts her level with The Fugue from last year and only a pound behind Midday from 2010. This is exalted company in my view.

I must give one final mention for Arabian Comet who was a fast finishing second in the Galtres Stakes. The overall time for the race was nearly four seconds slower than the Yorkshire Oaks, but Arabian Comet who got a fair way behind the winner Queen of Ice early on fairly flew in the last half mile. Her time for this section was 46.75 seconds. Tapestry’s time for these four furlongs was 47.45 seconds. It will be interesting to see how Arabian Comet gets on if she runs in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster. She is certainly a big improver as her performance figures for us this year since she joined her new trainer have been, 76, 86, 86, 89, 99 and 104!