'Rate horses on races, not races on horses' is one of the most fundamental lessons learnt when starting out handicapping for Timeform. This tends to be done through various standardisation techniques (which my colleague Simon Rowlands has written about extensively in the past, some of it HERE) and seems worth bearing in mind in particular when assessing Sunday's Prix Jacques Le Marois.
Although Dawn Approach failed to show his best form (subsequently reported to have scoped dirty), four previous Group 1 winners pulled a long way clear of the rest, all showing at least high-class form. Moonlight Cloud was rated 128 coming into the race and didn't need to improve, running right up to that level with Intello and Declaration of War in third and fourth running to a similar level as to what they had previously.
The big improver in the race was runner-up Olympic Glory, who showed that he's far more carbon copy than simply understudy for the same connections' Toronado, earning a figure of 132 and arguably unfortunate not to have won given he was short of room as the winner was making the best of her way home.
Historical standards point to a rating in the mid-120s for the winner, but with this looking a deeper race than usual and with prior-rating standards suggesting a figure as high as 129. Only a preconceived idea of what Olympic Glory's level is would seem reason to doubt the form, but given his rate of progress prior to having a valid excuse for a poor run in the Poulains, a positive view of his effort has been taken for the time being.
A positive view was also required for the first juvenile Group 1 race of the season in Ireland, the Phoenix Stakes won by Sudirman. In beating Big Time and Coventry winner War Command by half a length and the same, he achieved a rating of 121p, making him Timeform's highest-rated 2-y-o at present.
The figure is a high one on historical standards, they point to a range of 110-114, but the overall time was fast, only 0.02 second slower than that recorded by 126-rated Slade Power in the older horse Group race later on the card. Although Timeform don't publish timefigures for Irish courses, it translates to a figure worth approximately 120.
Runner-up Big Time was beaten the same distance by the winner as in the Railway Stakes and moves up to 118. Much of the focus afterwards centred on beaten favourite War Command, who wasn't able to show anything like the same turn of foot that has sealed his Coventry success.
A lot has been said about the weakness of the Coventry Stakes form, but not much of it is borne out by the facts. Of the ten horses that contested the Coventry to have run subsequently, only two (War Command and Thunder Strike) ran below their Coventry figures next time, while seven of them ran to a higher figure, including the second Parbold and third Sir John Hawkins. It's certainly too soon to be suggesting War Command won't run up to it another day, particularly as he was only 4 lb below that level on Sunday.
Despite War Command's defeat, there was plenty for Ballydoyle to be positive about elsewhere on the Curragh card, particularly with Tapestry maintaining her unbeaten record in the Debutante Stakes. Her figure of 112p makes her the highest-rated 2-y-o filly in Europe. That rating would have been good enough to have won all bar one of the last ten Moyglare Stakes, and she should make a bold bit to emulate her dam Rumplestiltskin that won both contests in 2005.
Two-year-old fillies were also in action in the Sweet Solera at Newmarket where Ihtimal continued Godolphin's recent domination of this race with an authoritative 2¾ length success. This was a weaker renewal than recent editions however, the 108 awarded to the winner towards the lower end of the range suggested by race standards (105-115).
The other pattern-race fare this weekend in the UK was at Haydock where Telescope failed to land the odds in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes, going down to David Livingston. The winner produced a career-best of 118, but Telescope was a shade below par what he achieved at Leicester.
Having had his problems, it could be that a relatively quick turnaround on the back of a big effort on his reappearance didn't suit Telescope and he retains the 'p' symbol to his rating of 118. Hopefully coming back fresh in the autumn, though more so perhaps as a 4-y-o will he fulfil his potential.
Finally, the rating review cannot be completed without mention of Wise Dan. He's currently the highest-rated horse in the world on 134 and showed he's as good as ever when successful at Saratoga at the weekend. If he turns up to defend his crown in the Breeders' Cup Mile against Toronado and some of those who were in action in the Prix Jacques le Marois, then it could be the highlight of the meeting.
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