Eight-race cards, testing ground and big fields. All sure signs that the turf season is drawing to a close once again, as is Doncaster playing host to the Racing Post Trophy. For the third year in succession it went to a horse maintaining his unbeaten record, this time it was Kingston Hill for Roger Varian, following the path trodden by Kingbarns and Camelot for Aidan O'Brien.
Wide-margin winners on heavy ground aren't always the easiest to rate. Even the most ardent supporters of race standardisation would concede that this technique can sometimes give the winner of these strung-out contests too much credit, and the RP Trophy looks one example of that.
Historical standards for the RP Trophy suggest rating Kingston Hill somewhere in the range of 123-126. Such a rating would be the highest awarded to a winner of the RP Trophy since Celtic Swing, who also won in the mud back in 1994. Timeform have taken a lower view than that, and Kingston Hill's revised rating is 119p.
Both an ordinary timefigure and prior-rating standards were also taken into account as reasons for taking a lower view of the RP Trophy form than otherwise might have been, as was the fact that the major market rivals to Kingston Hill all failed to give their running.
Although a rating of 119p is fairly low view, in historical terms Kingston Hill has to be considered up to scratch, as only Crowded House, St Nicholas Abbey (both 122) and Kingsbarns (120) have been rated higher since the turn of the century and only three juveniles currently have a higher Timeform rating. They are Toormore (121p), War Command (120p) and Hot Streak (120p).
Prior to 2001, the RP Trophy was run on the round course, and there is good reason to suggest the race should once again be run around a bend. Switching the Autumn Stakes and Royal Lodge to Newmarket means now that all three one-mile juvenile pattern races open to colts are now run on a straight course. If only to provide some variety, returning the RP Trophy to the round course seems a sensible move.
Earlier on the Doncaster card, Night of Thunder kept up what has been a really good start to his career when taking the six-furlong listed contest for juveniles in ready fashion by three lengths from Aelous. Night of Thunder had the rare achievement of running a rating in excess of 100 on his debut and stepped up on that to increase his rating to 110p.
His form isn't at all far behind his stable companion Piping Rock who maintained his own unbeaten record when taking the Horris Hill at Newbury. Historical standards range from 109 - 115 for the Horris Hill, and a figure of 113p for the winner is relatively solid, given substance by a timefigure of 109.
Galiway shaped well in second, and it's unlikely that there would be as much as two and three-quarter lengths between the first two should they reoppose over a mile, the drop in trip from his debut clearly not suiting the runner-up.
Guineas trials could easily be on the agenda in the spring for both Piping Rock and Night of Thunder, and they clearly provide a deal of strength in depth alongside Toormore for the Hannon team.
There was success on the international stage for a couple of British-trained horses this weekend with Joshua Tree gaining another success in the Canadian International at Woodbine, while Tac de Boistron was successful in the Prix Royal Oak.
Joshua Tree's success was his third in the race, on each occasion for a different trainer, but his winning figure of 118 confirms that the level required to win at the highest level on turf over middle distances in North America is below what would be required in Europe. Fans of The Fugue take note!
Tac de Boistron was a wide-margin winner of a muddling race, the pace having been steady for a long way, and a conservative view has been taken of his win, his master rating staying at 119.
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