International Handicappers Heap Praise on U.S. Horses
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2007 5:32 PM
Posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 1:51 PM
Photo: Coglianese Photos
International handicappers were impressed by Discreet Cat's victory in the Cigar Mile..Order This Photo
A panel of international handicappers, chaired by British Horseracing Board head handicapper Nigel Gray, hailed the exploits of the top U.S. horses when the 2006 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings were unveiled Tuesday, Jan. 16, in London, England.
Explaining top 129 ranking for Invasor, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), Gray said: "Invasor has an unblemished record in North America, winning four grade Is, the Pimlico Special, the Suburban, the Whitney, and then topping it off with his best performance so far in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
"It is great news that he is carrying on in 2007 and we are looking forward to seeing if he can maintain the progress he has made so far.
"In the Breeders’ Cup Classic, his nearest challenger was Bernardini
who himself won three grade Is, a grade II and a grade III before being ground down by Invasor in the Classic. Bernardini’s performances were sufficient to earn him the mantle of joint top 3-year-old on 128 with Discreet Cat."
Gray highlighted Godolphin’s Discreet Cat as his horse to follow in 2007, stating: "Discreet Cat is still an unknown quantity. His 2007 campaign is eagerly anticipated and he is, from my point of view, the most exciting horse to look forward to in the year to come."
Gray revealed that Discreet Cat’s high rating was achieved in the grade I Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 25.
He said: "The Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile was probably the first time that Discreet Cat experienced the whip. He still has not been fully tested but that was the first time that Garrett Gomez gave him more encouragement to do it, rather than allowing him to win as he pleased. If you look at the Jerome Breeders’ Cup Handicap as a comparison, Gomez was looking through his legs and the horse was having a stroll round -- it was incredible, really!
"I’m fascinated to see what Godolphin does with him, where he is campaigned, and over what distance. We don’t know how good he is and hopefully this year he will show us that 128 pounds is by no means the limit of his abilities."
The 2006 WTRR, which covers all countries racing in the northern hemisphere season, marked the third year of this international ranking system and Gray reported a record 180 horses were rated 115 and above, as against 162 in 2004 and only 148 in 2005.
He also revealed a healthy return in the number of horses rated 120 and higher, rising from 33 in 2004 to 45 in 2005, and settling at 43 in 2006.
Gray commented: "Although we don’t have a magic 130 or 130+ horse in 2006, as we have done in previous years with Ghostzapper
and Hurricane Run, we do have a 129 horse.
"At the 125 mark and above things have steadily improved from six horses in 2004, to eight in 2005 and now 12 in 2006, so there are a lot of serious top-class horses out there."
Barbaro, injured winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), rated favorably among the 3-year-olds, being the third top-rated dirt horse of his generation on 126, two pounds behind Bernardini and Discreet Cat, and the equal of the Aidan O’Brien-trained turf performer Dylan Thomas, winner of the Irish Derby (Ire-I).
Barbaro’s Churchill Downs triumph shades the Epsom Derby (Eng-I) victory of Sir Percy who achieved a rating of 121 for that effort, the lowest ever by an English Derby winner, while French Derby (Fr-I) winner Darsi was awarded a lowly 116.
Explaining the Lael Stables’ colt’s rating, Gray said: "Barbaro ran a fantastic race on the day and the strength of the form has worked out. We did increase his rating by a couple of pounds during the season as a result of subsequent performances (by beaten rivals), and for me, that’s an essential part of handicapping.
"That contrasts with the Epsom Derby where only Dylan Thomas went on, Dragon Dancer has not advanced the form, Sir Percy was only seen once after and several others weren’t seen at all. There was nothing in the aftermath of the race, with the exception of Dylan Thomas, to boost it, and we wouldn’t boost a race on the back of one horse.
"If you look at Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby, it’s a very different story and the horses behind him have gone on. We felt it was appropriate to give him extra credit with the benefit of what we knew subsequently as opposed to sticking with what we had on the day - I think that would be cheating the horse."
Japanese champion Deep Impact, winner of the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) and Arima Kinen (Jpn-I) but disqualified after finishing third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), emerged as the top older turf horse on a mark of 127, and Gray addressed the debate that the son of Sunday Silence had claims to be outright champion of 2006.
He explained: "In our interpretation of the form throughout 2006, we believe there was very little between them but, on balance, Invasor put up the best performance.
"When Deep Impact was running in Japan he was winning in majestic style but that was not against the quality of horses that he faced in the Arc. In terms of what he achieved in Japan, we believe, as do the JRA handicappers, that 127 is a fair rating."
Gray made special mention of the Doug O’Neill-trained Lava Man (127) and Godolphin’s Dubai World Cup winner Electrocutionist (125) who achieved high ratings on both turf and dirt in 2006.
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