By Murray Bell
Good Ba Ba performed “to a whole new level” in the April 27 Champions Mile (HK-I), according to senior handicapper Nigel Gray, who believes the record-breaking miler must now be the equal of the best milers in the world.
This will see Good Ba Ba share the lofty 122 rating with 2007 Breeders Cup Mile (gr. IT) hero Kip Deville, Australia’s rising star Weekend Hussler, and Hong Kong Cup winner Ramonti. But Gray believes it was only Good Ba Ba’s “arrogance” in victory that has cost him a higher rating, and therefore the outright tag of world champion miler.
Good Ba Ba’s pending elevation to the 122 level is also just one pound short of the world’s top rated sprinter Sacred Kingdom, who will have his final start for the season in the group II Gome Cup May 1.
Good Ba Ba previously owned an international rating of 119, but Gray, like everyone else present April 27, was blow away by the arrogance of his win over a quality horse like Armada.
“That was very exciting, and to see the way he ambled up to Armada, with Olivier Doleuze still having a strong hold on him, was very special,” said Gray. “I have no doubt he’s performed to a higher level here than previously, and I’ll be seeking to convince my colleagues among the world’s handicappers that he should be promoted to 122, up three pounds and that will bring him equal with Australia’s outstanding 3-year-old Weekend Hussler.”
Gray said Good Ba Ba really has only himself to blame for not being rated higher because of the way he eases up on Doleuze once the job has been done.
“All season, we’ve suspected that he’s been winning and not really letting himself down fully, and that would seem to have been the case because he’s made the improvement here, and to the naked eye, has still taken it easy in the concluding stages,” Gray continued.
“The fact that Doleuze has been standing tall in the saddle for a number of strides before the winning post, posing for the photo, also suggests that Good Ba Ba was not flat out, but until a horse actually performs to a higher level, it’s generally not appropriate for a handicapper to give him credit for having done it.
“So while we may believe he may well be a 123 horse or better, I think we’ll have to leave it at 122 until he actually does it.”
Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) winner Archpenko will earn an elevation in the international ratings, “to 119, maybe 120,” after his thumping of the elite field, though the second placing of French-trained outsider Balius gave the handicapper some trouble.
“Balius was a hard one to get a line on because so much of his French form was on soft, and very soft tracks,” Gray explained. “But with Archipenko having clocked 2:00.8 in the QE-II and Good Ba Ba having run 1:33.5 in the Champions Mile, it’s hard to argue that the track was anything but riding on the firm side.
“From a handicapping point of view, with Viva Pataca obviously not having run to his best as a result of his trip to Dubai, the performance of the fourth horse Packing Winner gives us the best line in the race,” Gray continued. “He looks to have run to his best figures and accepting that to be so, 119-120 looks right for the winner.”
With attendance up 13% to 48,459 and turnover up, albeit by a marginal HK$5 million year on year, Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges hailed the meeting a “great success.
“We had a tremendous atmosphere at the track and everyone I spoke too seemed to have had a great day,” he said.
“Certain people would be disappointed if I didn’t mention that Good Ba Ba is a graduate of the Hong Kong international sale, and what an advertisement he has become, now winning four successive group Is. It is also the first time that any horse has won two international group Is in Hong Kong in the one season.
“It has been a special day to be able to witness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum winning the most important race in his career as an owner, and I am sure he will return to Dubai with great things to say about Hong Kong.”