It is worth a short review of the
season to date and some thoughts on rating levels. With the Royal Ascot
races around a month away what are we to make of 9 length maiden winners
like Orizaba in terms of being able to compete to win a 'typical' Coventry
Stakes? Was the Listed 'Marygate Stakes' for 5f fillies at York last week
a credible 'Queen Mary' trial? If it wasn't where might we be looking for
the better sprint fillies?
Let's start with the 'Marygate'. If we go back to Warwick racecourse on
a filthy day, with horizontal sleet, and look at the fillies maiden run
on April 16th - Result. The Paddock
Review report didn't think much of them as a group and the race was run
in a slower time than the juvenile seller on the same card. The previous
year the race had produced a slow time but a reasonable winner (probably
OR70s), the best type was Ramatni (still going ok in handicaps at 3yo off
OR80s) and a later season winner off OR68 (called Leading Edge).
As physical specimens this year's field didn't look up to that level. If
you look at the results over the last few days it's perhaps times to change
the Paddock Reviewer. The winner of that maiden was third in the 'Marygate'
after a bump at the start and staying on late in the manner which gets
people saying "6f and the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot". The third
at Warwick was the punted on Moss Likely who has a very similar profile
to Leading Edge (Sire, trainer and physical setup). She won the Newbury
fillies' conditions race on the same day as the 'Marygate'. The fourth
(Bethie) looked poor and has run poorly since and the second looked usable
at an OR60s to low 70s level and has run like that since. Miss Hollybell
ran moderately STO when trying to mix it with Missile Dodger (who ran poorly
over 6f yesterday after leading at the 5f mark) but ran well enough this
week against solid colts when second in a '2f sprint' after being held
So, what's going on? Time to replace the Paddock Reviewer or perhaps the
sleet was blinding them. Well, no-one's going anywhere and it's at times
like this that a clear headed look at the actual strength of the form we've
seen helps to put matters into a proper context. In profile the 'Marygate'
looked a weak edition populated by a set of similar, early season fillies,
without longer term prospects. The possibles on paper for a better winner
either didn't run (Maggie Lou), didn't appear to stay (To The Point who
made a move to lead before fading in the final furlong) or didn't look
out of place amongst the standard on show (Doughnut).
The race got a B2yoR estimate of 50 which equates to late OR70s handicappers
in the 'Overall Season' view of form. Listed races of this type are often
won by, typically, OR88 handicappers who can look like the 'real thing'
because they are so precocious they can run to that level in early season.
By the end of the year the physical development required of a 2yo just
to maintain it's rating position is in the region of 18-20lbs. If you were
a small & ready filly in early season who can't make the required progress
you'll drift back through the metaphorical pack to whatever your real OR
Last year's 'Queen Mary' winner got a B2yoR rating of 74 to give an idea
of the difference in level between what the 'Marygate' gave us and what
is likely to be required. Bahamian Babe put up a thoroughly admirable performance
in the race in contesting the lead before dropping back a little as a couple
made their efforts. She wouldn't give in though and battled back to lead
and was still sticking her head out to keep ahead of the closers at the
line. Her athleticism and desire make her unusual and lift her to the front
of the early filly group. But, in a 'normal' year she would come up short
in the Queen Mary and finish in the 3rd-7th region depending upon the depth
of quality on show.
Going back to last year's race - Result
- let's think about the quality required and where the fillies at the front
had come from. The first and third came from Ireland and this is a regular
source of better 2yos to descend on us (the 1st & 4th in the Coventry
in 2007 came from there). The second made her debut in the Thirsk fillies'
maiden that Haigh Hall won from Excellent Show two days ago and both those
fillies have different profiles (sales price, etc) from the fillies in
the 'Marygate'. The 4th was one of two fillies that Jeremy Noseda debuted
on June 6th in 2007 (the other was Group winner Fleeting Spirit) so perhaps
we haven't seen the best of the British fillies at all yet. The 5th was
the useful Hannon filly Cake (i.e., exactly the same connections as Doughnut)
who had made an earlier April debut. After that you are already into the
handicappers, at best.
And, where were last year's Marygaters? The winner was Janina who would
have looked superior physically in this year's field and she only managed
6th. Her runner-up in Tia Mia was 10th and is currently making some sort
of a job of competing at 3yo or OR90ish but probably is an OR80s filly.
The third at York in 2007 was Cristal Clear who finished last and won a
nursery in later season at 2yo off OR88 (a number that often crops up).
You get the point, this year's first three in the 'Marygate' are probably
not up to the level of 2007 and that group found some better horses to
push them well back at Ascot. It would take a thin year for Bahamian Babe
to win the 'Queen Mary' and Aspen Darlin the 'Albany Stakes' (i.e. the
6f fillies' championship event at Royal Ascot).
Have we seen any fillies already that might be the better end of the British
'Queen Mary' runners? The two you would pick out would be Danehill
Destiny who won the Newmarket fillies' maiden in mid-April. If you
use the rule-of-thumb that you want to see something different from the
better types that marks them as a above the average then she passes that
test. She wouldn't stand out on size but is very strongly built. She did
show a real change of pace to go clear in the Newmarket race though and
that marks her as a possible better one. The fillies behind her were a
mixed group and the abilities a little mixed up but solid enough to say
that Danehill Destiny wasn't going past 'trees'. We probably have some
better fillies still to see from Jeremy Noseda but his Mythical
Border made a very good debut at Lingfield on their turf track. She
ran away from a limited group and that tenders enthusiasm for the form
as such. But, she made ground easily off the rail which is a good sign
The best of the David Evans fillies would be bidding for the 3rd to 6th
range on what we have seen. She's A Shaw Thing looked very good in early
season on soft but less good in the Lily Agnes and the early form is probably
over-rated. It wasn't obvious when she beat Sally's Dilemma at Nottingham
that the runner-up had gone so far backwards in performance from her Brocklesby
victory. White Shift runs at Windsor today and will be assessed there.
The best of those seen is probably Miss Chamanda who, although narrow through
the body, has a bit more size and range to carry her further into the season
in competitive terms.
Before moving onto the colts it would be interesting to know how many form
students came to the conclusion that Gone Hunting was a certainty for the
Newcastle Novice race on Saturday. On his last run at Thirsk he had finished
just behind Bahamian Babe (went on to win...etc.) and just in front of
Lord Shanakill who had been successful in the important 6f maiden at the
York meeting. Form franked with a capital Frank, surely? How come he finishes
5th of 6th and behind Saxford whom he also beat at Thirsk?
Lots of strands to pull together but in summary. Bill Turner had his runners
much readier for the season start than most and more forward than his runners
in 2007. The two with some ability won very early but nothing since. Those
two early winners have both run poorly since. Sally's Dilemma has run three
very bad efforts since. The trainer often targets that mid April Thirsk
meeting and Gone Hunting was probably at his peak then and gone backwards
since. He only got anywhere near Bahamian Babe at Thirsk because she had
worn herself out in a pace duel early in the race (and burst those who
tried to mix it with her). At York last week the impressive thing in that
Bahamian Babe mixed it the whole way and was still going forward at the
line. Karl Burke doesn't get his 2yos ready to win until well into May
and Lord Shanakill's debut stood out as a relatively better effort
from his early season debuts. However, he was well below what he can do
and stepped up to 6f and with a month's more training the Lord Shanakill
we saw at York wasn't anything like the April Thirsk version.
So, Gone Hunting wasn't a representative of the better end of what the
other pair could do from his Thirsk form and the Newcastle 5th about what
he should have done. A couple of other items though. Linda Stubbs brought
both of her early season runners (Saxford & Russet Reward) to run to
their best on Friday and Saturday with both just touched off by better
physical types (but s plus for the stable because they had got their cheap
ones running to their maximum). Saxford had finished behind Gone Hunting
at Thirsk mostly because he had been broken by trying to go Bahamian Babe's
pace. The other thing that showed up in the Newcastle race (and does at
other courses) was how important staying close to the stands' rail was.
As soon as Gone Hunting drifted left off the rail he went backwards even
faster. The runners keeping on well and making ground from being outpaced
kept close to the rail.
Let's now turn to the colts and focus of two debut successes by Mick Channon
last week with Cerito & Orizaba. The trainer hadn't been in good form
in early season but as May has progressed he has come into top form. After
the wins by these two he said he knew they were "Okay" but hadn't been
expecting them to win by so far. He also said they had been working together
and were on a level with each other and that partly explains the confidence
on show behind Orizaba's Newbury success.
If we go back to last year's Coventry - Result
- Henrythenavigator got a rating in the mid 80s (B2yoR scale) for his win
(the top for the whole year was New Approach on 112 for his Dewhurst win
on the overall season scale). If you look behind him there aren't a lot
of 'important' horses in 3yo terms and the only later winners, at all,
as 2yos were Luck Money (Irish sales race), Coasting (nursery off OR85
which got him up to OR91 and either side of that OR88 number again) &
Dubai Dynamo (Listed Redcar Trophy and a typical slow developer with racing
that Stan Moore goes for (either consciously or perhaps without planning)).
Orizaba's debut effort was rated B2yoR 70 and he looked remarkably ready
for the day. He's the typical narrow and light build type (Picture)
the trainer has with some range and, because he doesn't carry 'condition'
(fat), was very fit FTO. On Paddock Review he doesn't look a superior type
and you suspect he has less improvement than the average. Which means he's
probably a 70s, low 80s nowish, B2yoR rater and would come up short in
a normal Coventry. Try looking at this picture
of Henrythenavigator at 3yo or this one (picture)
of Luck Money on Coventry day to get an idea of the type of 'big lad' he
might run into. Ok, so comparing a May 2yo Orizaba with 2,000 Guineas day
Henrythenavigator is a little unfair but is he going to develop into that?
Is he going to be as big and able as Luck Money? He needs to send off for
the 'Charles Atlas' pack (that'll baffle the younger readers) and athleticism
allied to an 'engine' will only get you so far.
Cerito is a little smaller than Orizaba and his debut win may have been
by 6 lengths but from less good opponents than Orizaba faced. He didn't
look a better type either and another lighter framed & narrow one.
You feel that there will be better ones around come Royal Ascot and, if
you listen to the Channon stable, they have got better ones still to come
out. The wins of these two, you feel, have probably surprised them and
got them looking forward to what is still to come out.
If we ask the same question about what is around already or what is likely
to come along to be better for the 'Coventry' then there are more options
than with the 'Queen Mary'. Of those that have already run you could pick
out Finjaan and Lord Shanakill (not Paddock Reviewed yet) as having more
development potential. The dreadful debuts by the Tregoning 2yos in the
Newbury 6f maiden divisions that Orizaba won a half of make Finjaan's debut
win seem better. Lord Shanakill put up a performance not far behind Orizaba
with his York win and perhaps has more potential. The best of the British
runners in last year's 'Coventry' made their debuts in mid-May and into
early June including other than a couple of early season wind-ups by Jamie
Osborne (winnerless in 2008). Luck Money made his debut in a Newmarket
maiden which will be run next Sunday this year. Declaration Of War won
the Newmarket Novice that was run two days ago this year and won by Northern
Tour (not that standard). Bob's Surprise was a typical early June debut
winner for Barry Hills which we should be watching out for.
The Peter Chapple-Hyam horses haven't looked ready so far this year and
haven't impressed in readiness and condition. He's into the period when
he often brings out his best 2yos (like Declaration Of War in 2007) and
in the last 3 days he has run Great Art (2nd in the other division of the
Newbury maiden) and Exceptional Show (2nd in the important Thirsk fillies'
race). Great Art was a very likeable type in Paddock Review and had the
size to develop in the way that Orizaba doesn't. Unlike the Channon horses
he looked heavy and not particularly fit. Given that he ran well to travel
strongly through the race and be picked off late by Hannon's Instalment.
The time was much slower than Orizaba but they went slow in the early part
of the race and Great Art was miles behind Orizaba in on-the-day preparation.
You wouldn't mind betting that Great Art is the better horse in the longer
term. Whether he'll be ready to get to Orizaba a month from now is a trickier
Hannon doesn't have many debut winners overall and when they do it usually
indicates as better type. As well as Instalment he also had a good debut
winner last week with Prolific and both may go to Royal Ascot. But, the
headline point here is that asking the 'Coventry' question about Orizaba
is premature because we perhaps haven't seen the best to out 6f 2yos yet
and haven't seen the best of the better ones that have run. That's before
we worry about what the Irish will bring.