Royal Ascot in 2012 was always going to prove a tough act to follow, from the brilliance of Frankel in the opening race to the drama of Black Caviar just lasting home after her rider eased off prematurely and while there wasn't the stellar cast from twelve months ago there was still plenty to look back on.
Saturday's feature was the Diamond Jubilee in which Lethal Force made just about every yard, reversing Duke Of York Stakes form with runner-up Society Rock. Although benefiting from a well-judged ride, whereas Society Rock had to come from a long way back, Lethal Force still has to be credited with improvement, and his rating increased from 121 to 127.
Both historical standards and prior-rating standards suggest Lethal Force could be rated higher still, and a figure of 127 has all of the beaten horses running below their pre-race rating, but given the advantage of track position held by the winner, a conservative view has been taken of the form for now.
The King's Stand was upgraded to Group 1 status alongside the then Golden Jubilee in 2008, and this year there was very little between the two races in terms of quality. Sole Power, an unlucky third last year made amends to win his second Group 1, finishing very strongly to cut down Shea Shea in the closing stages.
A career-best of 126 was awarded to Sole Power, slightly higher than what historical standards point to. However he had finished behind the runner-up twice in Dubai earlier in the year and given that Shea Shea raced closer to the pace than the other principals, and in the centre of the course, there are reasons for thinking he deserves marking up, and though only running to 125 on the day, he remains rated ahead of Sole Power on 127.
The King's Stand is the second of three Group 1 contests that open the meeting, the action getting underway courtesy of the Queen Anne. With winners in the last three years like Frankel, Canford Cliffs and Goldikova, even before the absence of Farhh this year's renewal looked below recent standard, more so with Animal Kingdom pulling his chance away.
In event, Declaration of War stepped up on his effort behind Farhh in the Lockinge to run out a comprehensive winner, improving his rating from 119 to 126. This is a relatively low view to take of the form, but it still credits the second and third with some improvement, Aljamaaheer up to 123 from 121 and Gregorian 122 from 118.
The highlight of the three Group 1 races on the opening day proved to be the St James's Palace Stakes in which Dawn Approach quickly got his career back on track after his horror show in the Derby.
Dawn Approach ultimately came out on top, just a short-head in front of Toronado, the pair two and three quarter lengths clear of Mars. The form ultimately has a muddling look to it, in part because of a modest early pace, Dawn Approach again taking a keen hold and Toronado ending up further back than ideal.
In terms of bare form of the day, Dawn Approach and Toronado both ran to 126, and have also seen their master ratings revised. The positive view of the 2000 Guineas form taken in the immediate aftermath no longer looks sustainable, the first three all failing to match their Newmarket efforts on their next start, as a result Dawn Approach comes down to 130 and Glory Awaits to 116.
Toronado's new master rating is 129, with sectional times, like in the Craven, supporting the view that the bare form doesn't tell the full story with him. He again quickened up in smart fashion, but the amount of ground he conceded early on just proved beyond him. With Dawn Approach seeming an increasingly difficult ride, perhaps Toronado will get his revenge later in the season.
The Prince of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday was billed as a rematch from the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, but not for the first time in his career, Camelot failed to read the script and he came home a disappointing fourth despite being backed into clear favouritism.
Al Kazeem backed up the form that he showed in Ireland, not having to improve on the 127 he achieved there, cutting down Mukhadram in the closing stages. The runner-up increased his rating from 120 to 126. The Fugue ran on well for third, ending up too far back and she evidently retains all her ability, value for finishing alongside the runner-up.
The highest profile winner of the week proved to be that of Estimate, for the Queen, in the Gold Cup. Since the retirement of Yeats, the staying division has lacked a high-class consistent performer, and acknowledging the fillies allowance as a factor, Estimate's 119 rating is the lowest for a Gold Cup winner since Kayf Tara's 117 in 2000.
The other Group 1 race of the week is the Coronation Stakes on Friday. Bringing together formlines from all three of the major European Guineas, Sky Lantern showed herself to be the clear pick of them with a wide-margin win, albeit in a race which panned out very well for her.
The Coronation Stakes was run at a strong pace, those that raced close to it, including Big Break, had their chances compromised, while Just The Judge was also caught wide from her draw. Sky Lantern has been given a rating of 119, which is on the low side for a four-length Coronation Stakes winner with historical standards suggesting a range of 120-123.
The Coventry Stakes isn't currently a Group 1 contest, but it's elevation is overdue considering it's recent roll of honour and it is surely only a matter of time until this year's winner War Command is making his mark at the highest level.
War Command was one of the most impressive winners of the week, quickening up most impressively to beat Parbold by 6 lengths. His rating of 120 is the highest this century, ahead of 2003 winner Three Valleys (119) and 2009 winner Canford Cliffs (119+).
The margins weren't as far, but most of the other 2-y-o races produced clear-cut and fully deserving winners. Rizeena was back against her own sex in the Queen Mary and ran to a figure of 108 when beating Sweet Emma Rose by 2 lengths.
Sweet Emma Rose is trained in the US by Wesley Ward and he gained compensation for her defeat when No Nay Never took the Norfolk. Although fast conditions played a part, No Nay Never broke the juvenile track record and this appeals as a strong renewal as he ran to 112p.
Sandiva set the standard in the Albany, and though she wasn't at her best, she was usurped anyway as the highest-rated 2-y-o filly after Kiyoshi's success. Kiyoshi's rating of 109p is as high as has ever been awarded to the winner of the race.
The Albany ended up suiting those drawn high that raced close up, and Joyeuse can have her effort marked up a lot. Although running to a bare figure of 97+, her new rating is 102p and it is just a matter of time until she is winning in pattern company.
Berkshire earned a figure of 108p for winning the Chesham over seven furlongs, but this race has a mixed record looking forward, and Extortionist ran to 106 to come out best in a close finish to the Windsor Castle.
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