There is a nursery race at each of the meetings today and both have a similar
shape to them and good examples of why topweights can compete relatively
well. There are a number of reasons for this but before covering the races
it is worth considering these points :-
The ratings range for most hadicappers that you see will be OR45 to OR95.
The range OR70-79 can be thought of as an Interchange Zone between moderate
physical types up to OR69 & better handicappers at OR80 and above.
The differences between lower OR70s runners and those really capable
of OR76+ is visible in physical types.
The effect of OR weighting is non-linear and their are a number of 'Class
Level' breaks within the range. Within a Class Level a 1 point rating change
will make a set amount of difference. A horse will have to be the appropriate
physical type to compete at a higher level. If it isn't then it will need
extra relief to jump a Class Break and compete well.
The handicapper will give average seller winners around OR62 and weak ones
in the high 50s. Win a seller by a clear margin and you will get high 60s
and perhaps into the 70s. Win multiple sellers and you will get into the
higher ranges. Win a claimer and you'll get high 60s and perhaps into the
Run in open maidens and auction events and you risk getting over-rated
for even the mildest glimpse of ability. Races do not spread out horses
by ability for the most part and the BHA handicapper will be literal in
looking at lengths beaten. This means that a lot of horses that haven't
shown worthwhile form end up getting OR60s ratings when they aren't up
to that level. Run in the wrong maiden and you will find yourself rated
OR70s for having shown form that wouldn't win a seller. Quite what Lahaleeb
has done to earn an OR68 rating in the Newbury race is a puzzle. [The majority
of races are run as some version of a "2f Sprint" with a balanced pace
for the race to that point followed by an effort of some kind at that point.
The penultimate furlong, i.e. between 2 furlongs from home and 1 furlong
out, is often the fastest in the race and the final furlong sees horses
slowing down and fading even when they win and place. Many of the 'eyecatching'
strong finishes in later races are by horses making ground cheaply
against fading rivals. Inferring from this that they can put together a
full race and keep close enough to the pace to win next time is a much
more tricky than thinking that relatively eyecatching finish will
be repeated next time.]
The previous point means that a lot of OR55-74 rated horses have never
achieved the level of form they have been adjudged to have done and are
over-rated whent hey enter nurseries. The majority of horses show a decline
in OR rating to season end from the level they entered the handicap races
The handicapper will reserve OR86+ (perhaps OR88+ given that 88 is one
of those 'magic numbers' that reappears) for horses who have run in higher
class races (Conditions, Listed & Group level). Win, or compete strongly
in Novice events and you could get into this zone. Only four horses have
been declared for handicaps so far that have been estimated as rated above
OR88. Shampagne won off OR96 in a thin Southwell race with a 7lb apprentice
aboard having won a maiden and conditions race in early season prior to
unplaced runs in better races. Bahamian Babe won the first Listed race
of the year and ran off OR94 yesterday. Missile Dodger ran placed off OR90
for a clear auction win in April and unplaced efforts in better races.
He was down to OR87 when 2nd at Kempton last Wednesday and probably fits
around that level. The other is Watergate who runs in the Newbury
nursery. As with Lahaleeb it's baffling to look at his form because it
just isn't worth OR90 and a lot has been added for the ease of his last
win. He hasn't run in a high class race so OR90 is mild victimisation.
However, he's trained by Mark Prescott who is in the middle of a period
of racking up sequences of wins with various horses that got into the OR
ratings with figures that were much too low so perhaps a bit of retaliation
was the point with Watergate.
The previous items in the list mean that from around OR74 down you have
a lot a over-rated horses who are not competitive off their OR mark and
will be starting the process of slipping down the handicap. The upper barrier
around OR85-88 limits how high horses who have demonstrated real ability
can be shunted up to and keeps them too close to those at OR74 and below.
And so, topweights can compete somewhat better than the average overall
because they are often a different type of horse and not properly separated
from the lesser ones.
At Chester the Nursery has 10 runners and the spread in ratings
is from Aahaygirl on OR81 down to Lunar Romance who runs
off OR58 although has a real rating of OR51 but has to be promoted up to
the bottom weight of 7-12 (i.e. 'Out of the Handicap' by 7lbs = OH7 and
the trainer has applied a 7lb apprentice to try to off-set that). The other
horses rated above the moderate cut-off of OR70 are Red Baron Dancer (claimed
out of a seller on debut and a clear winner of an auction race at this
course since), Alphabeth (seller winner and won a nursery off OR61 and
her OR is on the way back down) and Hawkspur (placed at 25/1 in amoderate
Windsor maiden and failed next time). The only other winner is River Dee
on OR67 for a clear seller win at Yarmouth (where else) and being bought
in for 15,000gns which would hint to the handicapper this was better than
the ordinary seller win.
If you look at the Virtual Paddock for the race the three horses show a
spread across the range of ORs. Aahaygirl is at least medium height
and solidly built and the most powerful in the group. Although strong she
isn't that neatly put together and not the most fluent of movers in the
walk. After a solid debut she has been tried in higher class races and
followed a 4th in the Listed Hilary Needler (note that the 4th is getting
81 to make the point about Listed race class) with an eased run at Royal
Ascot. If she had run midfield at Ascot whe would have been at OR86 or
higher so OR81 might be usable if she can shift herself athletically enough
and has recovered from whatever got to her at Ascot.
At the other end of the range we have Kingswinford who is on OR68
and down from OR71 as his decline starts. He's a colt but he's just plain
smaller, in any dimension, than Aahaygirl and that relative lack of power
is why he's on 68 to her 81. He was wound up for early season by David
Evans, probably the master of that approach currently, and couldn't win
even at his 'peak'. He doesn't have the scope to develop physically so
his OR number and story is visible.
In between we have Hawkspur who is small but much more strongly
built than Kingswinford. On physical type his OR71 looks usable and he's
the type who sits well in the OR72-5 range and has some scope to strengthen
up. The picture shows him at Sandown when he looked in terrific condition
and heart. Too well as it turned out because that exuberance led to him
running too hard early and crossing in front of the field to the far rail
and lead at Sandown. He steps up to 6f but ought to be held up and compete
solidly off OR71.
The two topweights, Aahaygirl & Red Baron Dancer (well drawn in 1 and
proven on the course), should go well because apart from Hawkspur the others
are probably at the high point in their OR careers unless they have any
latent capacity to improve physically. The niggles would be that Aahaygirl
hasn't really got involved in the finish of a race and failed last time
and Red Baron Dancer is presumably at his upper limit of the OR range so
wouldn;t have anything in hand.
The one possible lurker is Impressible who is a half-sister to Group
1 sprinter Reverence and she goes off OR64. Her trainer doesn't have a
strong record with 2yos and the wins come along unpredictably like Toledo
Gold's 22/1 success last week. She has run in toughish northern maidens
on her last two runs and there are hints her form might be better than
OR64 (if you at the track does she look like that level or better?). For
instance, the two horses behind her when out the back behind Shyrl at Catterick
have won at Musselburgh and run a strong second at Carlisle since.
Before going on to Newbury it is worth considering the issue of lurkers
in the low weights. A better physical type knocking around off OR60-64,
for example, should show up on physical inpection. Not all of them will
be able to rate more highly because issues such as mental strength, breathing
problems, and so forth which you will struggle to pick up in Paddock Review
can limit them. However, on the reverse side if a lurker mugs a topweight
then inspection is likely to show thye didn't fit on their OR mark.
Let's take the example of Barry Hills' Servoca (Picture)
who has been mugged on his last two runs when he has been topweight. The
picture shows him when he had a go in midfield at Royal Ascot and he's
an Aahaygirl sort of size and type. Less forward in preparation than her
and less mentally sharp but a believabke OR80s powerball type if a bit
on the 'neat' (medium small) side. He has run off OR85 & OR84 on his
last two runs and finished 3rd and 2nd as 6/4f and 9/4f. On the first of
those runs he was held too far off a pacemaker (on OR62) who had an easy
lead and who had a good 7lb apprentice riding. Next time he ran well but
got outstayed by a runner who was running off OR61 and also had a 7lb apprentice
Let's consider the two horses that beat him and whether they fit well in
the OR62 range. At Salisbury Servoca was beaten by Ridgeway Silver
trained by Mark Usher. Two early season runs, including a poorer one on
fibresand, were followed by a better one, although still well beaten, in
a Chepstoa Novice. With a different trainer he wouldn't have been on OR62.
Mr Usher has a bit of previous of bringing along horses for nureseries
with Saxon Saint having won four, yes that's four, in a month in 2005 beginning
off OR61 after being beaten off OR64. This is what he looked like at Ascot
- Picture 
- and try thinking back to the picture of Kingswinford who started off
at OR71. The picture doesn't show well that he's narrowed bodied but on
size and athleticism this isn't a seller rabbit and off OR61 with David
Probert riding and a soft lead Servoca ran pretty well to close up on him
at all. [The Ascot race Ridgeway Silver ran in next time featured a too
strong pace, that he assisted with, and the first three home were the last
three at halfway and vice versa to confirm the point.]
Servoca then went to Newmarket and now off OR84 and ran well again. After
the Kempton Nursery over 7f on 16th July the notes that came back to B2yoR
from the paddock review guy noted both Another Luke (OR66, Picture)
(OR63, Picture) should be competitive off their ORs. The first in the Ridgeway
Silver way of being narrow but ok size and athletic and the second on the
way it had bulked up from early season although being small. These aren't
"this thing is 10lbs well in" type stuff but in a range OR55-69
where a lot of horses are over-rated ones that are on the right OR or value
for a few pounds (points) more are relatively well in. Another Luke has
looked too fiery and immature to confirm the view but Swingfire, armed
with a 7lb apprentice and a good stalking ride, went on to plug on past
Servoca at Newmarket. Again, the Hills' horse ran well and was clear of
the others but beaten by a horse who was on a usable OR mark.
At Newbury the nursery has a similar shape with two horses rated
above the OR80 breakpoint with Watergate on a too high (for what
he has achieved, he has not been paddock reviewed) OR90 and Lucky Redback
on OR85 for two wins and a typical palcement on the OR scale for a horse
who hasn't had a go in Conditions races or higher. The rest of the field
range from OR71 down to OR64 with the bottom 4 upped to OR64 because that
is the bottom possible weight given a horse at OR90 on 9 stones and 10lbs.
So, we have two 80+ horses who have won and demonstrated some solid form
taking on a lot of moderate horses who have managed a single win in a seller
between them. There is at least one 'Class Break' between those two groups
so the weight differential wont bring the higher weights fully back to
the lower set so long as they are not over-rated themselves. It will need
a lurker in the lower weights to challenge the top 2 horses if they are
placed correctly on OR90 7 OR85.
If you look at the VP for the race (the version in racecard order) this
split shows up. Lucky Redback isn't entirely convincing as an OR85 type
but the picture comes from his debut and he has presumably come on from
then. With one exception, the bottom 8 pictures show small horses lacking
bulk and development. They are in the OR71 range and lower for a reason.
The filly Sparkling Crystal was beaten as 2/1 joint favourite second time
out in a maiden and quite easy to see she wouldn't have been a good favourite
in a group with any bigger horses [she got beaten by the much bigger Ahla
Wasahl to make the point].
Which one of the horses in that lower batch looks a bit out of place? The
answer you will probably have is the colt Fasalee who is in amongst mostly
smaller fillies. He ought to be the lurker if there is one but his trainer
doesn't seem to get the best out of these bigger, naroow bodided, types
he buys. This is a recurrent theme.
So recurrent that it crops up in the Newbury Maiden. Alan Jarvis
runs Kings Ace who is another from his typical physical range and
looked a solid type at Ascot when he made his debut last week. But, he
ran moderately and you cannot be sure he will move forward to this run.
He should compete well but the race has a solid field and doesn;t look
like an 'empty' one begging for a 20/1 winner like some at the course.
That view is dependent on a good set of debuts from Pearl Of Manacor, Fanditha
& Naizak plus Hesketh finishing a race off properly after a bad fad,
and easing, FTO.