Handicappers' Corner: King in waiting

Kingman has shot to the head of the Guineas market
Kingman has shot to the head of the Guineas market

Flat Editor David Johnson & Scottish jumps follower Keith Melrose take you through an illuminating dual-purpose weekend...

Kingman looks better placed than any to make the step up to the required level, his winning performance in the Greenham better than all winners of that race this century with the exception of Frankel who ran to 131+ in 2011.

There's already been one Kingman that has won a classic. The winner of the Kentucky Derby of 1891 holds the dubious accolade of recording the slowest ever winning time for that prestigious event. The future looks a lot brighter for the modern-day version after he made a winning reappearance in the Greenham on Saturday.

The Greenham attracted a good field, other juvenile pattern winners to line up to take Kingman (123p) on were Royal Lodge winner Berskhire, Mill Reef winner Supplicant and Gimcrack/Middle Park winner Astaire. In event it was all rather one-sided, Kingman coasting to success by more than four lengths, with up-and-comer Night Of Thunder putting up most resistance.

As well as being visually impressive, there is plenty of substance to Kingman's performance, and he fully deserves his place as a short-priced favourite for the 2000 Guineas.

Despite plenty taking a keen hold in the early stages, Kingman produced a very good overall time, almost two seconds faster than the Fred Darling over the same C&D and earning a timefigure of 122.

Historical standards for the Greenham give a volatile range of ratings, 109-129. That's too volatile to rely on in truth, and the main pointers to Kingman's new rating are the aforementioned timefigure, and prior-ratings standards from the runners in the Greenham which also point to a figure in the 120s.

Although Kingman is likely to be top rated in the 2000 Guineas (Toormore in the Craven may yet have something to say about that), 123 isn't enough to win a typical Guineas. It was sufficient for Camelot to win a below-par renewal in 2012, but the five-year average for a 2000 Guineas winner is 128. In mitigation, that average includes wide-margin winners Frankel and Dawn Approach.

Kingman looks better placed than any to make the step up to the required level, his winning performance in the Greenham better than all winners of that race this century with the exception of Frankel who ran to 131+ in 2011.

The Fred Darling doesn't look anything like so strong, and it would be expected that the winner of the 1000 Guineas will emerge elsewhere. J Wonder was awarded a rating of 106 for her narrow victory over Al Thakira.

Though the first three can probably progress as the season goes on, the steady pace limits the view that can be taken of the bare form with relatively exposed Lady Lara in fourth, and Manderley, who is still a maiden, in fifth.

With regards a typical 1000 Guineas, a figure around 116 is what is typically required, and like with the colts, none of the contenders have as yet produced a rating of that calibre.    

***

At Ayr it was their biggest day of the jumps season, with the Scottish National the feature race. Unless you're David Cleary, who tipped him on Timeform Radio, winner Al Co probably came as a surprise. There seems no fluke about the performance, Al Co simply seems better when the ground is less testing and the horses immediately behind him give the race a solid look. Al Co has recorded a clear lifetime-best on Timeform ratings, however, his new figure of 144 putting him on the cusp of becoming a smart chaser.

To briefly come back to the horses Al Co beat, runner-up Godsmejudge matched his best previous efforts (148) in putting up a spirited defence of his title. He hadn't been ready for the Grand National just the week before, so it's conceivable that he may do better still in either this race or the National itself with a smoother run-up in 2014/5.

Third-placed Trustan Times (143+) was belatedly upping his game over fences but still has room to improve on his best hurdles form, while the fact he came from so far back in the field also suggests he's worth marking up.

The Scottish Champion Hurdle was the other big race on the Ayr card. Many foresaw a procession for Champion Hurdle second My Tent Or Yours or perhaps a set-to between him and Court Minstrel. For at least a mile and seven furlongs those predictions looked accurate, only for Cockney Sparrow to swoop after the last. The winner upped her rating 9 lb to 151, putting her behind only Annie Power among the mares on this season's form.

Some severe criticism went the way of third-placed My Tent Or Yours after the race. In one sense it was justified, as he showed no sign of curbing his destructively-headstrong ways despite his connections attempting all manner of equipment to calm him down. However, there's no stick with which to beat him on ratings: My Tent Or Yours ran to 165 on Saturday, just 5 lb below his master rating achieved at Cheltenham. Incidentally, given the pounds-per-length scale used by Timeform in this instance even his best wouldn't have been good enough.

Finally, a quick mention for Eduard (152p), who announced his arrival in no uncertain terms by trouncing Arkle fifth Valdez in the Future Champions Novices' Chase. His new rating puts him within range of the best in the division (Arkle winner Western Warhorse is rated 157) and next season he should be up to competing in top handicaps at the very least.

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