Timeform 'Racehorses of 2010' Ratings: Harbinger best since... Sea The Stars!

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Harbinger is the second horse in the last two years to be rated 140 by Timeform

Harbinger is the second horse in the last two years to be rated 140 by Timeform

"Harbinger hinted at what he may be capable of when stringing out his Hardwicke field on this third outing in 2010, but that proved just a taster for what was to come in the King George."

Timeform Handicapper David Johnson takes a look at the horses that produced the best performances at middle distances in 2010...

What's that old adage about London buses? Having waited nine years since Dubai Millennium (and fourteen before that since Dancing Brave in 1986) for another horse to be rated 140, Sea The Stars in 2009 was quickly followed by record-margin King George winner Harbinger.

Both Sea The Stars and Harbinger were unbeaten throughout their triumphant season. Sea The Stars was successful at the top level in each month between May and October, starting out in the 2000 Guineas and completing his epic campaign with a breathtaking victory in the Arc. Harbinger, who was four when going through his admittedly prematurely curtailed season, benefited from the renowned patient approach adopted by Sir Michael Stoute and improved with each outing. Harbinger hinted at what he may be capable of when stringing out his Hardwicke field on this third outing in 2010, but that proved just a taster for what was to come in the King George.

Starting second favourite to his Derby winning stablemate Workforce (we'll come back to him in a minute), Harbinger produced a flawless display at Ascot, everything coming easily to him as he cruised to the front before drawing clear to win by a record margin of 11 lengths, an effort backed up by the clock (produced a timefigure of 135). Sadly, that was the last we got to see of Harbinger, as he fractured a cannon bone on the gallops when being prepared for a tilt at the Juddmonte International. Although Harbinger failed to capture the imagination of the racing press or the general public as Sea The Stars had before him, at Timeform we have no doubt that Harbinger was a truly outstanding racehorse in 2010. It's a real shame we didn't get to see more of him.

Like Sea The Stars in 2009, Harbinger stands tall above his contemporaries. Harbinger is rated 7 lb ahead of his stablemate Workforce, who himself had an excellent year.

Viewing Workforce in the context of when the pair met in the King George is a gross misrepresentation. The real Workforce was the one we saw win the Derby at Epsom by 7 lengths (smashed the course record) and the one that bounced back from his horror showing at Ascot to provide Sir Michael Stoute with a first Arc win. Workforce's victory at Longchamp was gained in very different style to that of his Derby success, sweeping through and then having to battle to hold off Nakayama Festa, who emulated fellow Japanese raider El Condor Pasa who finished second in Montjeu's Arc in 1999 and went a place better than subsequently-disqualified Deep Impact in 2006. Workforce is to be kept in training and will surely be given the chance to atone for his King George flop -we anticipate him making into a top-notch 4-y-o.

Cape Blanco's form ties in with Harbinger and Workforce. He beat Workforce to win the Dante and, after flopping in the French Derby, bounced back to win the Irish Derby before his good second in the King George. However it was in the Irish Champion Stakes that he put up his top-class effort, soon clear but setting a searching pace and in no way flattered as Rip Van Winkle and Twice Over failed to challenge him. He gave the impression that hard race had left a mark when disappointing back in France in the Arc.

Rip Van Winkle and Fame And Glory might have been expected to have an easier time of things in 2010 without Sea The Stars around. However, after a delayed reappearance, Rip Van Winkle didn't seem to recapture the best of his 3-y-o form and gained just a Juddmonte International victory from five outings at the top level. Fame And Glory managed to put up top-class performances in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and Coronation Cup but, after a mid-season break his campaign ended on bit of a low note, when just fifth having been hampered in the Arc. Fame And Glory will stay in training in a bid to give Aidan O'Brien his first success in that race.

Twice Over very much lived up to his name with a Group 1 double courtesy of a sub-standard Eclipse and a repeat win in the Champion Stakes, and he's likely to have a hat-trick bid for the latter as his big end-of-season target in 2011 at the revamped meeting that has been switched to Ascot.

If there is a lurker amongst the top middle-distance horses of 2011 that remains with potential, then that horse is surely Rewilding. On a couple of occasions in 2010 he promised so much, only to subsequently disappoint. So impressive on his British debut in a listed race at Goodwood, he was sent off second favourite for the Derby (behind Jan Vermeer - remember him?) but failed to handle Tattenham Corner. Rewilding looked much more like the horse he had at Goodwood when putting up his best effort in the Voltigeur at York, merely nudged clear to beat Midas Touch by 4 lengths but again showed his darker side when beaten before stamina was an issue when favourite for the St Leger. Whilst Doncaster was clearly a low point, what Rewilding achieved and promised at York is the fuel to fire a 2011 campaign in which he'll get the Group 1 honours he deserves.

The accolade of top filly over middle distances is shared by Midday and Sarafina. Despite developing a tendency to idle, Midday showed herself to be an improved performer in 2010, the pick of her efforts coming when winning the Yorkshire Oaks. Much of the aftermath of that race centred on Sariska's refusal to race, but Midday was most impressive as she readily left dual-Oaks winner Snow Fairy behind. That form was looking even stronger by the end of the year given the runner-up's exploits abroad.

Sarafina failed to add to her win in the Prix de Diane in the autumn but still enhanced her reputation in defeat, putting up a career-best effort when third in the Arc, which was all the more meritorious considering she was badly hampered. Midday held the upper hand when the pair met in the Prix Vermeille, but a rematch in 2011 will be something to savour.

Timeform top middle-distance performers in Racehorses of 2010

140 Harbinger
133 Workforce
132 Nakayama Festa
130 Cape Blanco, Fame And Glory
129 Rip Van Winkle
128 Twice Over
126 Midday, Rewilding, Sarafina, Byword

What was your middle-distance highlight of 2010?

Pre-order your copy of Racehorses 2010 at timeform.com.

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