HARTNELL PRODUCES A WORLD CLASS PERFORMANCE

There were some terrific performances on the track over the weekend, but none better than Hartnell who ran to a new WFA Performance Rating peak of 111. That's a world class figure which makes him a serious threat to Winx and puts him clearly on top of our latest rankings.

Here's the top 10 rated performances from the last week's racing, with commentary on the most notable:




HARTNELL– 111 

His dominate 111 rating win the Turnbull Stakes was a world class performance and a clear improvement on his previous peak of 108. His combination of fast overall time with very fast sustained sectional ratings is something we rarely see. Once again he was eased down over the last 75m and undoubtedly would have rated a little higher if pushed out to the line. 


There’s absolutely no doubt that he is a legitimate contender to Winx who has peaks of 111.5 (2016 Doncaster) and 113 (2015 Cox Plate when ideally suited by a rails bias and dream run through the field.) 


JAMEKA – 105.9 

She has gone to an entirely new level this preparation, improving yet again from her last start 104.8 peak in the Naturalism Stakes. She’s a real testament to Ciaron Maher’s abilities as a trainer; stakes placed as a 2YO over 1000m, VRC Oaks winner as a 3YO and now a top Caulfield Cup contender as a 4YO. With performance ratings around the 106 level, she also moves into the realm of a genuine G1 WFA horse. Outside of Hartnell and Winx, she’s now the next best middle distance horse in the Country.


EXTREME CHOICE – 105 

An elite rating win in the Blue Diamond made him our  top rated 2YO of last season (despite a defeat in the Golden Slipper) and his return in the Moir Stakes showed that he’s well and truly ready to go on with it as a 3YO. 


The pace up front was above average, but they certainly didn’t fly along so his effort to come from the back and win running away from them carries more merit than the 105 rating indicates. His combination of overall time and sectional ratings was top class and shows that he has the potential to rate higher, especially over 1200m. 


While Chautauqua ran below his best, it’s worth pointing out that in his last 3 preparations he has rated between 104 and 104.5 first up, so even if he ran up to his form, Extreme Choice would have still beaten him on Friday night. 


RUSSIAN REVOLUTION – 104.5 

Undefeated in four runs now, this was a clear new peak up from his prior best of 101. The 7 week break since his Vain Stakes win has obviously been a huge benefit. 


The key to his win was a tactically brilliant ride from Kerrin McEvoy who established the lead at a slow speed and then seized the momentum initiative early enough so the dominant favourite Astern could not make up any ‘easy ground.’ With plenty of momentum passing the 600m Russian Revolution was able to clock a very fast 33.12s in the run home, making it virtually impossible for Astern to catch him. 


ASTERN – 104 

Returning from a setback after the Golden Rose, he rated well below his 108.7 peak and even 106 next best, but that was definitely contributed to by such a conservative ride early and the fact he was unable to make any easy ground on Russian Revolution. He ran 32.29 secs for his last 600m which is phenomenal and shows that he’s still going very well… on this day he was simply beaten by a much better ride from the opposing Jockey. 



HAURAKI – 104 

He did an outstanding job to come from a mile back and win the Epsom Hcp in the last stride. The quality of his closing speed ratings were outstanding and suggest that he could have a new peak to come this preparation. I’d like to see him step up to 2000m now, which may be the trip where we see his absolute best.



MADEENATY – 103 

Her Maribyrnong Trial win at Flemington on Sunday was every bit as impressive on the clock as it appeared visually. She ran particularly fast time for a 2YO and her 103 rating is about as good as you’ll see for a debut performance. She still needs to learn to relax a little more (which is to be expected), but a performance of this quality already puts her in the picture as a key player for races like The Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper. 


GLOBAL GLAMOUR – 103 

As a 2YO we had her marked as the 3rd best 2YO Filly in the Country off the back of her Kembla Maiden win in January and that was looking a little shaky this preparation until she stepped up here with a terrific win in the 1600m G1 Flight Stakes. 


Despite the small field she led in an even pace (just below average) and then kept running to record a strong overall time rating for an early 3YO Filly, holding off Yankee Rose by 0.5 lengths. Her 103 here was a new peak (up from 101.) There might be some perception that she was aided by Yankee Rose not going so well or being ridden poorly, but that’s not the case at all. Yankee Rose rated 102.2 (within a length of her 2YO peak) and given the even pace up front, Blake Shinn made his move on her in plenty of time. It was simply the quality of performance by Global Glamour that made the challenge too great. The key point I’m making here is not to underestimate Global Glamour… a 103 rating is a very good performance and as far as Fillies go this season, only Omei Sword (104.2) has gone better. 


WPR Top 5 - Hartnell eclipses Winx

The Spring Carnival is well and truly hotting up and a number of horses are rising to the challenge with some terrific on track performances. We saw the Winx at the track for the second time this campaign in the George Main Stakes (1600m) and she duly saluted, but in terms of performance quality she was upstaged on the day by the John O'Shea trained Hartnell. 

Our top 5 ranked performances from last week's racing:



HARTNELL – 107 

It wasn’t quite as strong as his 108 rating last start, but nonetheless it was still another serious G1 WFA performance and there’s no doubt he could have gone to 108 or a touch higher had he not been eased up over the final stages. 

Off the back of these two performances the Caulfield Cup is an ideal target race, especially as he only has 55kg at the moment. If he continues to tackle WFA lead up races and escapes re-handicapping then he’ll go into the race with a forecast performance that exceeds what the winner of the race actually ran in 7 of the last 8 years and equal to the other (Dunaden 2012.)  The opportunity to get a horse with genuine G1 WFA ratings into a major race like the Caulfield Cup with a handicap weight 4kg under WFA doesn’t come along very often.  


WINX – 106 

Ratings and deeper analysis of times & sectionals on the day suggest that Hartnell would have theoretically beaten Winx if they met, but I’d suggest that Chris Waller has his champion Mare exactly where he wants her at this stage of her preparation. 

She went ahead from a 105 first up rating to this 106, which is consistent with last preparation and ahead of her 2nd up run in the preparation that she won the Cox Plate in 2015. The significant lack of pace in her first two runs this preparation have actually inhibited her ability to rate any higher in my opinion. Relative to the early pace she’s been running home about as fast as you could expect any horse to. Once she gets into a race with some decent early pace I firmly believe we’ll start to see her elevate towards her previous peaks of 109, 111.5 and 113, the latter two being world class marks. 

JAMEKA – 104.8 

She has progressed significantly here to a big new career peak (up from 101.6) which puts her right into Caulfield Cup calculations. Her dominant 3.8 length win in the Naturalism was stamped by a fast overall time and strong late sectionals, adding plenty of substance to that overall rating. 


HAURAKI – 103.8 

He’s come back a better horse this preparation and went ahead slightly on his 103.5 first up rating and at least gave Winx a challenge up the straight. 

The quality of Hauraki’s last 200m in this race suggests that had McDonald used the horse’s energy a little differently in the race, he could have really made the finish interesting. Had Winx been able to use her energy different she would have certainly gone to a higher level as well, but the key is that Hauraki had a head start on Winx and in my opinion James McDonald missed an ideal opportunity to take the initiative and give himself a real chance of stealing the race. 

Passing the 800m mark Hauraki had close enough to a 2 length break on Winx and by the 600m mark it was still a 1.5 length advantage. Up to this point in the race, both horses had travelled at what is considered a “very slow speed” for their level of talent and had plenty of energy in reserve. With a 1.5 length margin on Winx at the 600m it was the ideal time for McDonald to really made a move on Hauraki, seizing the momentum initiative to gain an extra length or so over the mare before she could have reacted and built her speed to the same level. It would have been a strong and very astute tactical move to have a real go at trying to steal the race. 

However he continued to follow the race pace, which saw the entire field still travel at a very moderate speed between the 600m and 400m mark. Bowman was tactically aware and went a fraction faster on Winx to make up the gap and by the time they straightened at the 400m mark, Winx was no more than a neck back, right on the outside of Hauraki. Both horses had done little work and still had plenty of gas in the tank. 

If you balance up at the top of the straight with Winx on your outside and she has spent minimal energy, then there is only one outcome… a Winx victory. Had McDonald gone for home from the 600m mark, she may have still run him down, but he would have at least done everything possible to try and win the race. Had the pressure gone on from the 600m then you couldn’t make that judgement, but the fact that the pace was still so moderate between the 600m and 400m well and truly highlights a lost opportunity in my opinion.


HE’S OUR ROKKII– 103 

He returned from a spell last start with a 101.5 new career peak and then a went to an even better 103 rating in this race, winning easily by 3.3L… and he did that while racing in the worst part of the track. He’s a real emerging talent this Spring and a race like the Toorak Handicap looks ideal. It wouldn’t surprise if he eventually developed into a WFA horse.



WPR Top 6 - Astern moves into elite company

The Golden Rose has quickly become a top class Group 1 race for 3 year olds and the win of Astern on Saturday has only strengthened that reputation. He clearly heads this week's WPR rankings, which also saw a new Darren Weir star in Palentino establish his G1 WFA talent. 


 


ASTERN – 108.7 

This was a massive performance by Astern, running to a big new career peak up from his 106 rating win in the Run To The Rose. The quality of this performance puts him up there with the likes of Pierro, All Too Hard, Sepoy and Atlantic Jewel as a seriously elite 3YO. 


The pace of the race was even enough up front, certainly not strong but it wasn’t slow by any standard. The strength of Astern’s closing sectionals over the last 800m suggests that 1600m in the Caulfield Guineas will be no problem at all. In all likelihood he’ll be able to rate below 108.7 and still win the race.  


PALENTINO – 106 

He’s emerged as a genuine G1 WFA horse with this win, going ahead just over 2 lengths on his previous peak as a 3YO. He ran good time with excellent sectional figures… his speed between the 600m and 200m was outstanding! With Darren Weir’s ability to get his horses to maintain their form well into the preparation, Palentino could be in for a big campaign. He looks to have a race like the Underwood at his mercy and that will give us a good guide on his potential to get the 2040m of the Cox Plate.


BLACK HEART BART – 104.4 

On the surface it may seem disappointing that he was rolled as an even money favourite, but he went ahead from his 103 first up rating and has career peaks of 106 and 105.6… so he was only 0.6 to 0.8L below his absolute best. That’s hard to knock racing 2nd up over 1600m. 

OMEI SWORD – 104.2 

She lost absolutely no admirers running 2nd to Astern and going ahead to a new peak, up from her 103 rating first up. That doesn't include the fact that she was held up from the 400m to 250m, which probably prevented her from rating a little higher. Make no mistake, Omei Sword is right on track towards elite status herself, especially when you consider that we probably won’t see her best until she gets to 1600m – 2000m. She’s a very exciting prospect!


IMPENDING – 103.8 

The stable talked up his chances in the Golden Rose saying he was a better horse that he’d shown so far and he well and truly delivered. His 103.8 is a massive improvement on his previous peak of 96. He did get all the favours in the run and had every possible chance, but it was still a quality performance in a very strong race. 


DIVINE PROPHET – 103.2 

He was a little unlucky in the run having to ease across heels in the early part of the straight and he did run the 2nd best closing sectionals in the race behind Astern, so there’s certainly some merit in the performance. That said, I feel that right on the line he may have peaked and the run through after the line certainly wasn’t flattering for him. It will be very interesting to see his next run… I’m not convinced he has much upside. 


WPR Top 5 - Hartnell explodes to a new career peak.

John O’Shea trained runners have been going better than ever over the past couple of months and there’s no better example of that than Hartnell’s incredibly impressive Chelmsford Stakes win on Saturday. He ran to a top class WFA Performance Rating of 108, winning by 7.8 lengths while eased down over the final stages. He sits clearly at the top of this week's WPR rankings: 




It’s easy to be somewhat dismissive of Hartnell's win because those behind him were stayers early in their preparation, but the style of his win and the merit in his speed related measures makes his 108 rating rock solid and a genuine G1 WFA Performance.

It may have been a spike and we could see him come back off that mark slightly, but he did run to 106.5 when he won the BMW, so he could well and truly establish himself around that level again this preparation. A performance of 106.5 to 108 with his current weight of 55kg's in the Caulfield Cup would make him very hard to beat.


HAURAKI

In the past the O’Shea stable have suggested Hauraki needs a dry track to show his best, but that looks out the window now as he returned first up here with an impressive win on Slow to Heavy ground and an equal career peak rating… further evidence of just how good the stable has their horses going at the moment. The moderate pace up front was far from suitable, but he ran home in top class sustained sectionals to provide plenty of substance around his rating. 


Reports are he’s being aimed at The Epsom, but with a handicappers rating of 109 he’ll be right up in the weights and certainly need a new career peak to win that race. After this first up performance though that’s not out of the question.


LE ROMAIN

A very solid 2nd to Hauraki in The Tramway, but looks hard to place now as he’s paying the price in official rating & weight for a Group 1 win in the Randwick Guineas, which was comfortably below genuine G1 standard. He’ll be weighted up in most handicaps and doesn’t look quite good enough to compete at WFA. It will be interesting to see where the stable head with him.

 

WHISPERING BROOK

She may have narrowly gone down to Merriest (her first defeat in six starts) but strong race figures and her impost of 58.5kg (giving the winner 3.5kg in weight) left her with a high quality rating that stamps her as a very promising filly this Spring. She worked early to cross from a wide draw and then when challenged by Merriest she refused to give up and fought all the way to the line. There’s a stack to like about her going forward.

 

AWESOME ROCK

A solid rating win in the Dato, just a shade better than his Australian Cup performance when he was first across the line, but lost on protest.  Similar to the PB Lawrence though, the figures from this race were a little underwhelming, around 1 length below genuine G2 class. That said, most of the runners in this race are very early in their preparation and still building fitness, so races run at a good early pace like this was can tend to take their toll and limit the fields ability to record strong overall figures.  




Australia's Top 25 Rated Performances 2015 / 2016

Below is a list of the top 25 rated individual performances according to our WFA Performance Ratings for the completed 2015 / 2016 season. 


Winx was undoubtedly the star, recording two truly world class ratings of 111.5 in The Doncaster and 113 when she won the Cox Plate. Chautauqua well and truly confirmed his status as our premier Sprinter with ratings of 107.5 &107.8 and backed that up with a similar rating performance when he went on to win at The Chairman's Sprint at Sha Tin in December. 

Exosphere was dynamic in his Spring 3YO campaign but then disappointed in the Autumn and ultimately retired with a race record that arguably does not reflect his legitimate top class talent. 

Extreme Choice was the only 2 year old to make the top 25 list, courtesy of his outstanding 106.5 rating Blue Diamond Stakes win. While he was beaten in The Golden Slipper, there's no doubt that this Blue Diamond win was the premier 2YO performance of the season, the equal highest rating win in the race in at least the last 20 years (equal with Sepoy.) It will be very interesting to see how he returned in his 3YO season.  

 


WFA Performance Ratings - Day 3 of The Championships

THE ALL AGED STAKES - ENGLISH

This was the standout race on the day, with genuine Group 1 quality on display. English ran to a 106 rating, a new career peak up from her last start 104.8 in the TJ Smith. She’s now well and truly established herself as a G1 WFA performer and could potentially extend her talents to at least 1600m in the future. 

Black Heart Bart is now starting to justify our very high rating of him last season off some WA Listed race wins. His 105.6 rating was stamped by a very strong closing run off the slow pace and it’s possible that we will see him rate higher in the future. He has plenty of staying blood in his pedigree and has some good performances around 2000m in WA, so it will be very interesting to see if Darren Weir progresses him in that direction during the Spring.


THE CHAMPAGNE STAKES - PRIZED ICON

The scratching of Yankee Rose left this race lacking quality and the subsequent ratings back that up. Prize Icon only ran to a 97.5 rating, which is at least 2.5 lengths short of reasonable Group 1 standard for a 2YO. To provide a comparison, Yankee Rose has run between 103 and 104.1 in each of her 3 career starts so far.

On the surface the time rating out of the race appears very solid when adjusted for conditions on the day, but such indicators are meaningless unless there is consideration of the early pace. When the time is interpreted in the context of the fast pace established by the Kiwi El Sicari, there are some very clear benchmarks which highlight a well below average contest by G1 standards. 


THE FRANK PACKER PLATE - HE’S OUR ROKKII

He's Our Rokkii is a progressive type and we saw him take another good step forward here with a 101 rating win, a clear new peak beyond his previous 97.8 rating.  

This win positions him right up there among the best distance 3YO’s we’ve seen this season with only Tavago (106.5) and Tarzino (103.5) clearly better, while  Jameka and Perfect Reflection are similar. 

The challenge he faces as all of these 3YO’s do is that come August they move into Open Age company and the depth of talent increases dramatically. He’s Our Rokkii will need to progress to somewhere in that 104 to 106 range if he’s to be a Group 1 contender in the Spring. 


THE JRA PLATE - GUARDINI

Guardini looked a class above his opposition here. He sat 3 wide with no cover for most of the race (genuine early speed) and then sustained a strong run in the straight to win by 1.5 lengths. .

His performance rated 99.6, which is solid but it still leaves him plenty to do if he's to step up to the next level and contest G2 / G1 races in the future. There are clear indicators to suggest that going up to 2400m will be even more suitable for him and that could very well see him progress to the next level. 

He'll need to take that next step though as he's moved up 6 points in the handicapper ratings to a 107 mark, which makes him challenging to place in future races. His exposed Australian ratings are currently well short of WFA standard, but a 107 official mark will see him well up in the weights in G2 / G3 handicap races and far less suited than others.  




WFA Performance Ratings - Day 2 of The Championships

LUCIA VALENTINA – EXPLODES TO A NEW PEAK 2nd UP

Lucia Valentina ran a genuine Group 1 WFA Performance Rating of 107 to easily win the Queen Elizabeth, which is a new career peak (up from 105.) The quality in her win was stamped by both strong overall time and high quality closing sectionals. 

She was only 2nd up into this race, which is an unusual preparation with only 11 of the 126 runners in this race since 2005 having the one lead up run. However it’s proven to be a remarkably successful pattern with 4 of those 11 runners winning the race: Pompeii Ruler @ $13, My Kingdom of Fife @ $13, Reliable Man @ $12 and of course Lucia Valentina @ $8. 

It's a very small sample, but since 2005 only 8.7% of the runners have come into this race 2nd up, yet they’ve won 33% of the races. 


AZKADELLIA – A DESERVED G1 WIN 

In our opinion Ciaron Maher is the next superstar of the Australian training ranks. Since the start of the 2013/2014 season there is 37 Trainers across Australia with 100+ runners in Black Type races and Maher’s winning strike rate ranks him #2, behind WA’s Grant Williams. He has a terrific ability to build his horses into a preparation, improving with each run to a peak and there’s no better example of that than Azkadellia. 

She’s now had 5 runs this preparation and her ratings in order from first up have been 96.8, 97.5, 100.7, 102.5 and her new peak of 104 in winning the G1 Queen of the Turf on Saturday.  It was a well deserved win after 3 previous placings at G1 level, including a very unlucky 3rd in the G1 Myer last Spring where she clearly should have won. 

One interesting insight out of Azkadellia’s win is that there were some solid indicators to suggest she could be equally effective over 2000m and could perhaps run to a new peak over that distance. It will be interesting to see what she is aimed at in the Spring. 


ATC OAKS – LOWEST RATING SINCE AT LEAST 2000

Sofia Rosa produced a tough effort to sit 3W and win the ATC Oaks, but unfortunately there was very little substance in the quality of the race. Her 98 rating is the lowest of any Oaks winner since at least the year 2000. 

Benchmarks around the overall time of the race in the context of a moderate early pace are weak by G1 standards and there’s nothing in any of the other speed indicators we use to offset that. Furthermore, the speed measures are well and truly supported by key form line and margin spread indicators. There were 6 horses within 1.7 lengths at the finish, 3 of them at odds of 25/1, 40/1 and 60/1. 


OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

  • The United States 103.6 – Down on his 104.5 Ranvet win, but was worked up pre race. He lost no admirers. 
  • Happy Clapper 102.8 – Went ahead from his 101.7 Doncaster run. Ideally suited to Handicaps or perhaps 2nd tier WFA races. 
  • Gallante 101.6 – A good Sydney Cup win, but that’s about all it was. He’d need to lift significantly to be sighted in a Melbourne Cup.
  • Rageese 99.7 – First start for Darren Weir he returned a 3YO Stakes class figure of 99.7. With Weir’s ability to gradually improve horses, he could go on with it and win more. 


WFA Performance Ratings - Day 1 of The Championships

WINX RETURNS A WORLD CLASS FIGURE

Winx's Doncaster Mile victory has well and truly stamped her as one of the best Mare's we've seen race in Australia. She returned a 111.5 WFA Performance Rating, which sits along side her 113 Cox Plate rating as two genuine world class performances within the last 6 months. 

The fast pace established by Vergara set the race up to be a brutal test of 1600m and Winx's stamina came to the fore. She ran an incredibly fast overall time rating (set up by the early pace) and still had quality in her last 200m. There's no doubt in our minds that her best distance is 2000m, so there's prospects for her to run to 113 again and potentially higher before her career is finished.  

When we look at Mares in the last 25 years at 1600m or further, only Sunline (116) and Makybe Diva (114) have eclipsed what Winx has produced. Her dominance over Australian opposition right now is so clear cut that her talents deserve to be tested on the world stage. 


TAVAGO THE BEST SINCE IT'S A DUNDEEL

He may have been big odds, but Kiwi visitor Tavago has produced a legitimate top class 106.5 rating in winning in the ATC Derby. That's the 2nd best performance in at least the last 15 years, with It's A Dundeel (107.5) the only winner to rate higher. 

Tavago was well suited setting just behind a slow speed, but he showed outstanding sustained finishing speed consistent with Group 1 quality. Whether he can do the same on a Good 3 track remains to be seen, but there's absolutely no doubt about the quality in this win. 

Tarzino was disappointing beaten 7 lengths, but it's worth noting that his peak is only 103.5, which is 1.5 lengths off the level Tavago went to in this race. So the reality is that even if Tarzino was up to his best or ran to a marginal new peak, he still would have been beaten by Tavago. 


CHAUTAUQUA AWESOME

A 107.8 WFA Performance Rating is not the best we've ever seen from Chautauqua (his peak is 111), but visually it was perhaps his most stunning victory. He looked to be giving an impossible start at the top of the straight and even with 200m to go he still had plenty to do. However he has a rare ability to sustain top class closing speed and that was well and truly on display as he powered past Fell Swoop and English to win easily in the end by 1.3 lengths. 

A 107.8 rating is a genuine top class performance, but at least a length below what we would consider a world class sprinting performance. 


YANKEE ROSE REINFORCES THE RATINGS

WFA Performance Ratings have been the leading force in 2YO assessment this season with no better example than Yankee Rose. We were out on a limb before the Golden Slipper declaring that her 2YO Open win back in November 2015 ranked her as the 2nd best 2YO in the Country, but she has now well and truly justified that. She ran a close 2nd in the Golden Slipper at big odds when first up from a spell and then dominated the Sires Produce field on Saturday, beating Godolphin Colt Telperion by 2.5 lengths, with a further 2 lengths to Faraway Town.

Yankee Rose returned a 104.1 WFA Performance Rating in the Sires Produce, marginally up on her 103.6 rating in the Golden Slipper.  She has been narrowly pipped by Capitalist (104.7) as the 2nd best 2YO in Australia, but she's clearly 3rd best and well clear of any other 2YO Filly.  


OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

  • Jameka 101.6 - Marginally up on her 101 Oaks win. 
  • Libran 99.2 - Puts him right up there among the top Sydney Cup chances with 52kg, but will need to improve a little to beat the likes of Who Shot Thebarman and Grand Marshal.
  • Astern / El Devino 97.5 - They may become better 3YO's, but they're "B Grade" as far as 2YO's go.



 

Post Race Analysis of the 2015 Caulfield Guineas


2015 Race Quality

Our pre-race WFA Performance ratings suggested that this year's Caulfield Guineas lacked depth compared to past years and that's the way it turned out. We didn't see anything 'jump out of the ground' and run to a big new peak befitting of historical Caulfield Guineas quality and even the winner Press Statement ran to a performance level below his previous best.  

Press Statement was heavily favoured as a standout betting prospect in our preview and he did a great job to cross from a wide draw and lead the field to win, defying a clear pattern on the day. However the merit of those factors are subjective... on the facts and figures, his win only rated 101.5 against a peak of 103.4 (1.2L off his best). No matter how you try to dissect the indicators, it's impossible to objectively rate the performance any higher. 101.5 really is the maximum reasonable rating.

That rating makes this year's Caulfield Guineas the lowest rating edition in recent years. Below is a comparison of winner ratings for the past 8 years. 

  • 2015 – Press Statement – 101.5
  • 2014 – Shooting to Win – 105.2
  • 2013 – Long John  - 105
  • 2012 – All Too Hard – 108
  • 2011 – Helmet – 107
  • 2010 – Anacheeva – 102
  • 2009 – Starspangledbanner – 107
  • 2008 – Whobegotyou – 108


It may not sit comfortably with intuition or racing logic to have Press Statement carry that label, but if we take a simple look at some key indicators the clock, the signs of a moderate rating race are there.  

  • Press Statement ran 0.6 seconds slower overall time for the 1600m than the Thousand Guineas winner Stay With Me. (wind speed was comparable, almost non existent 4-6km/h in both races - yes, we do look at wind speed.)
  • Press Statement Led at an even speed, while Stay With Me got back off a strong pace. Their individual times for the first 1000m of the race were only 0.12 secs different (Press Statement went slower)
  • Despite a fractionally slower first 1000m, Press Statement still ran home 0.48 secs slower over the final 600m compared to Stay With Me.  

There's no doubt that in a speed sense, the race only reached a low to moderate performance level relative to Caulfield Guineas quality. There are some reasons for this (discussed later) but in terms of what the Guineas field actually did, the facts are the facts. 


How do the ratings fit?

Press Statement's 101.5 rating out of the race is superior to what our speed measures indicate...  rating purely on that would be wrong, especially given some of the explanations behind the speed measures discussed below. His figure takes some influence from his winning margin and fit to the previous performances of the runners behind him. When that figure is sanity checked through the field, there's no objective evidence to rate the race any higher.

The current rating already has 2nd placed Lizard Island and 4th placed Sovereign Nation running to clear new career peaks. 3rd placed Ready for Victory rated below his Golden Slipper spike, but ran clearly his best rating this preparation. Those further back like Rageese and Bassett logically ran marginally below their best ratings and the current mark reflects that.

Subjectively ignoring the speed indicators and pushing the race higher in these cases in almost always a mistake. In this case it would push the likes of Lizard Island and Sovereign Nation to big new peaks... even 7th placed Tarzino (who ended up with a +1.3L career peak) would have been pushed to an even higher level, which makes no sense, especially when he was a little unlucky in the straight and not able to finish as close as possible. 


Ratings Philosophy

One of our key philosophies is that it is a grave mistake to push a number of horses out of a race to big new career peaks when they have not shown the speed based indicators to warrant it. Ultimately class is "pace and speed" and stepping outside of reasonable boundaries to promote horses without that evidence results in flawed ratings.  

The reality is that plenty of horses run below their peak performances and still win the race. In rating races you have to be mindful of that otherwise it's easy to end up consistently overrating horses behind the winner under a flawed assumption that they have suddenly improved. 

That's very much the case with this year's Caulfield Guineas. If you focus on Press Statement then it doesn't sit comfortably that he rated below his best, but equal focus needs to be given to those behind him and it's impossible to make a logical case that they should be rated higher. 

.
So why did Press Statement not run to his peak on the day?

The answer lies in Hugh Bowman slowing the tempo once he established control off the race and then maintaining varying degrees of moderate speed until around the 400m mark. 

In most races we start to see an increase in tempo from the 800m mark and from the 600m mark the speed well and truly escalates. However in the Caulfield Guineas, passing the 800m Bowman had already slowed the race to a moderate speed and he kept an almost identical rate to the 600m, which was many lengths below the speed we normally see in this section of a race. 

Passing the 600m he did start to increase his actual speed, but it was still to nowhere near the levels you normally see horses travelling at during this stage of the race. The cumulative effect of that was very moderate speed from the 800m to 400m mark of the race. It was only from the 400m that the speed really started to get serious. 

To draw a comparison, Press Statement traveled at an average of 16.47 meters per second between the 800m and 400m mark. The Thousand Guineas winner Stay With Me was travelling at 17.41 meters per second, that's 8 lengths faster than Press Statement in just one 400m section of the race... and a very important section when it comes to establishing overall performance quality. Take Pride who ran the slowest splits between the 800 and 400m as the tiring leader in the Thousand Guineas was still going 0.3m per second faster than Press Statement or 3 lengths over the 400m.

Press Statement ran a solid last 400m to win the race comfortably, but it was only the 6th best in the field. The big slow down in the race from Press Statement limited his potential to run faster overall time and even his ability to run a faster last 400m split due to a lack of momentum, especially compared to other runners in the race. Most importantly it was an impediment to him running to his full potential and maximising his winning margin over the remainder of the field. 

Maintaining such a slow speed from the 800m to 400m gave those behind him the momentum initiative and the ability to make up cheap ground without being under pressure or being asked to travel anywhere near their peak speed. That in itself helps those chasing to get closer at the finish. When runners have to work and run faster to make up ground, then the race becomes a more genuine test of sustained speed and overall quality. 

Had Bowman started to wind the speed up gradually from the 800m and then really start to get serious inside the 600m, then there's no doubt Press Statement would have won by further and rated higher. That's not a criticism of the ride, it was a great tactical ride that won the race... but in a performance sense the speed tactics limited the potential of Press Statement to display his full ability in the race.

Note that the tactics mentioned to maximise overall performance are most relevant when examining the best horse or at least one of the best in the race, especially if settling up near the lead. A key tactical mistake by riders on the top chances in a race is going too slow for too long. You simply give inferior horses the chance to make up cheap ground, especially between the 600m and 400m and also give away the momentum initiative, which is a key advantage on pace horses assume in a race. 


Conclusions

Press Statement had such a quality advantage over this particular Caulfield Guineas field that he was still able to run at well below optimal speed between the 800m and the 400m, give away momentum and ultimately produce a performance below his best, but still easily win the race.  

When we rate the performance of Press Statement on the day, it has to be consistent with what was actually done in the race, rather than speculating about what he could have done with different tactics. The integrity of the process is very much about getting the right assessment for the field, rather than just how the rating reflects the winner. In this race, the rating mark for the race measures what Press Statement did on the day, but is by no means a reflection of his overall level of talent.  

Press Statement is well established at 103.4 as a peak and the hope was that in the Caulfield Guineas he might go to a new peak of 105+. The way the race was run didn't allow that, so the question of just how good he is is still to be determined. We suspect that a 105 rating is within his reach as a 3YO and maybe a little higher as a 4YO.

The Cox Plate this year is likely to require a performance of at least 107 to win, which is approximately 2.5 lengths better than Press Statement's best so far  That highlights the challenge he faces if going to that race. 




* Thanks to Vince Accardi's www.dailysectionals.com.au for their accurate and detailed breakdown of individual sectional times in the Caulfield Guineas.

Sydney Horses - First Time to Caulfield?

With Press Statement a short priced favourite ($2.30) for the Caulfield Guineas on Saturday, theories again have resurfaced about NSW - Sydney horses travelling to Melbourne for their first start at the Caulfield track. Many believe that the Caulfield track can be difficult for some horses to handle and that Sydney horses in particular are at a disadvantage with that lack of course and anti-clockwise direction race experience. 

We thought we would analyse the data and put some facts around the theory. Are NSW based horses really at a disadvantage when they go to race at Caulfield for the first time?


Overall Stats

Over the last 10 years (since 1st August 2005) there has been 347 horses trained out of NSW that went to Caulfield for their first start at the track, off a last start run in NSW. 

  • Runners = 347
  • Winners = 39
  • Strike rate = 11.2%
  • POT% = +1.8%

The benchmark strike rate for all runners at Caulfield is 9.1% and profit on turnover (POT%) is -9.0%. From that we can clearly see that this group of NSW horses having their first start at Caulfield have overachieved both in terms of their win rate, but most notably their betting profitability. It's a sign that the market has possibly allowed too much in its price for the perceived disadvantage of "first start at Caulfield." 


Black Type Races

If we restrict the analysis to Black Type races at Caulfield then the statistics are even more significant:

  • Runners = 231
  • Winners = 28
  • Strike rate = 12.1%
  • POT% = +11.9%

When you compare these figures to the benchmark strike rate and profitability mentioned above, it's clear that the 'first start at Caulfield' factor has had no bearing at all on the ability of NSW trained horses to win at the Black Type level. They have won more often than the average and been significantly more profitable for punters. 

With all the focus right now on Press Statement and the Caulfield Guineas, it's worth remembering that Shooting To Win actually won the race last year as a Sydney trained horse having his first start at Caulfield and the Victorian way of going.

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Favoured Runners

If we re-cut the analysis to a sample of horses that were strongly fancied in betting (top 2 in the market) across all Caulfield races, we see the following results:

  • Runners = 78
  • Winners = 19
  • Strike rate = 24.4%
  • POT% = +7.3%

The benchmark strike rate for all top 2 market ranked runners at Caulfield is 24.5% while the POT% is -4.5%. In this case the NSW horses have achieved an identical win rate against the comparison group and a significantly better profit on turnover. 


We are dealing with small samples of just a few hundred runners and natural variance could see the next sample group produce an entirely different result. However on the evidence available there is no proof to support a theory that NSW horses are at a disadvantage when having their first start at Caulfield.

If anything, the facts support an opposing argument...  that going to Caulfield for the first time has no negative influence on winning chance and is likely to see the market offer punters a marginally better price than they should.