Weights & Measures: Future Champions
Ben Linfoot rounds up the key official ratings amendments following Future Champions Weekend at Newmarket.
Ryan Moore riding Chruchill win the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket
Churchill: Gleneagles mark II?
Churchill >>>> Up 2lb to 119
Lancaster Bomber >>>> Up 16lb to 115
Blue Point >>>> Remains on 115
"I see him like a Gleneagles, a horse that isn't extravagant but gets the job done," says senior Irish Flat handicapper Garry O'Gorman of the Dewhurst winner, Churchill.
This won't be the first time Aidan O'Brien's Churchill has been compared to Aidan O'Brien's Gleneagles and it won't be the last. The similarities are striking.
Both are Galileo colts out of Storm Cat mares. Both lost on debut before winning their subsequent five starts as juveniles – all over seven furlongs. Both won the Group Three Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown, the Group Two Futurity Stakes at the Curragh and the Group One National Stakes at the same track.
The only difference is, while Gleneagles was demoted to third after passing the post first on his final start at two, in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, Churchill suffered no such dramas in beating stablemate Lancaster Bomber in the Dewhurst.
In terms of ratings, the two have developed near identically. Gleneagles was rated 107 after the Tyros, Churchill 109. Gleneagles was rated 113 after the Futurity, Churchill 111. Gleneagles was rated 113 after the National Stakes, Churchill 117. And, heading into the winter, Gleneagles was rated 116, Churchill 119.
This time last year, Air Force Blue came out of the Dewhurst rated 124. He was touted as the best juvenile O'Brien ever had, and he might've been, but things just didn't happen for him at three. He looked a shadow of his former self, not troubling the judge in four starts before the towel was thrown into the ring.
But he was a War Front and Churchill is a Galileo.
"I would be surprised if he doesn't train on better than Air Force Blue, most Galileos do," said O'Gorman.
"He's never really impressed but he just does enough and he sets the standard. Along with Caravaggio, O'Brien looks to have two very good, very different, colts heading into the winter."
As for Lancaster Bomber, he made marked improvement to the tune of 16lb according to the handicapper after he chased his stablemate Churchill home for the third time this season. This was the closest he'd got to him, not surprisingly, on the best ground he'd encountered.
A half-brother to Excelebration, it could pay not to underestimate him too much, especially when he gets his favoured fast ground.
After all, he did beat the smart Blue Point, who remains on 115 after appearing not to quite get home. He's already as short as 6/1 for next year's Commonwealth Cup, for which Caravaggio is the 4/1 favourite.
But the Dewhurst was all about Churchill. He might not be flashy, but he continues to do little wrong. The next step for him will be to prove he is more Gleneagles than Air Force Blue.
Flower power part of a strong bunch
Rhododendron >>>> Up 9lb to 116
Hydrangea >>>> Up 2lb to 111
Urban Fox >>>> Up 1lb to 100
This time last year Aidan O'Brien won the Fillies' Mile with Minding who was rated 120 following her success. She went on to lead home a Ballydoyle one-two-three in the 1000 Guineas before winning the Oaks, the Pretty Polly and the Nassau.
That Guineas trio also included Alice Springs who has subsequently won three Group One races in the Falmouth, Matron and Sun Chariot Stakes, while another three-year-old filly, Seventh Heaven, has also bagged a couple of top-level races in the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks.
Staggering stuff, but O'Brien could have an even stronger hand with his three-year-old fillies next year.
"It surprised me how far clear his fillies were at Newmarket, but it does look as if Aidan O'Brien is particularly strong in the two-year-old fillies' department this year," said O'Gorman.
"As well as Rhododendron on 116 and Hydrangea on 111 he's got Promise To Be True on 111, Roly Poly on 114 and Brave Anna on 115. Numerically I can't remember him having so many fillies rated 111+ at this stage and Rhododendron is, at the moment, the best of the bunch."
Out of the Irish 1000 Guineas and Sun Chariot winner Halfway To Heaven, Rhododendron looked top-class here and is well-positioned to match or surpass her dam's feats.
She bounded clear by two-and-a-quarter lengths in a power-packed display not dissimilar to Minding's the year before, even though she is considered 4lb inferior to that filly at the same stage.
That might change by the time the year is out, though, as O'Brien left the door open for her to take a trip to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup.
Poet's Vanity Oh So Sharp
Poet's Vanity >>>> New entry at 104
While we're on the 1000 Guineas, what of 20/1 chance Poet's Vanity following her Oh So Sharp win?
Miss France won the Oh So Sharp Stakes back in 2013 before winning the following year's 1000 Guineas, although she was rated 112 going into the fillies' Classic.
She had a prep race in the Prix Imprudence prior to her Guineas win, but Poet's Vanity could well head straight to Newmarket and she'll have plenty to find being rated 104, a number 12lb inferior to that of Rhododendron.
However, there could be plenty of improvement to come. This was only her third start, she's yet to race over a mile and her trainer Andrew Balding is expecting plenty of physical improvement.
Speaking after Friday's race he said: "She's got a lot of physical scope, so she's really one to look forward to next year.
"She showed she handles the track, so it's exciting to think she might come back here in May. It looked like she was doing all her best work at the finish, which is really encouraging. As long as she winters well and is working well in the spring, I don't see why we wouldn't (target the 1000 Guineas)."
It'll be tough to overhaul the O'Brien fillies, while there are Frankel's daughters Fair Eva and Queen Kindly to consider too, but Poet's Vanity goes into the winter on the back of a promising win, giving at least some hope to Balding that he can finally unearth his first Classic winner since Casual Look landed the Oaks in his debut season as a trainer.
Godolphin Solution solves Autumn puzzle
Best Solution >>>> Up 8lb to 110
Zainhom >>>> New entry at 106
The Autumn Stakes has produced Classic winners Trading Leather and Kingston Hill in recent seasons and this year's victor, Best Solution, can be considered at least as good as those two at the same stage.
He did have more racing experience under his belt than either Trading Leather or Kingston Hill did prior to their Autumn Stakes victories, and that did count for plenty as he took up a good position off the leader Montataire on the favoured stands' rail under William Carson.
Even so, he travelled well and kicked clear out of The Dip, relishing his first go at a mile and pulling two lengths clear of the field.
Both Trading Leather and Kingston Hill went on to the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster following their wins in this race, the former finishing only fifth while the latter won by four-and-a-half lengths.
Best Solution could bid for the double, too, with Saeed bin Suroor pondering supplementation for the son of Kodiac.
He's an unconsidered 40/1 chance for the 2000 Guineas at the minute, although that could change if he rocks up on Town Moor and enhances his claims. It seems unlikely, with connections already talking of a trip to Dubai for their 2000 Guineas or the UAE Derby.
The one to take out of the race for next year, then, could well be Sir Michael Stoute's Zainhom.
A York maiden winner on his previous start, he was held up and keen, finding trouble in-running as the race developed away from him before staying on through a gap nicely to take second.
Described as mentally immature by connections, a rating of 106 is presumably way ahead of where they expected him to be and there could be much more to come from him next year.
Aclaim rises to the Challenge
Aclaim >>>> Up 9lb to 114
Martyn Meade's Aclaim has really blossomed in the second half of the campaign, improving 17lb in the last six weeks since being stepped up in trip from six furlongs.
A handicap win off 97 at Ascot over a mile in early September was supplemented by a Listed success over seven furlongs at Newbury two weeks later and he took a step up in class in his stride to register a clear career-best on Saturday.
He travelled really well in the hands of Frankie Dettori before gunning down the front-running Lumiere, who produced something approaching her best following a couple of disappointing efforts.
With this Group Two win under his belt the next obvious step is the top level. Perhaps he'll start off in the Lockinge next season given he's already won at Newbury and over a mile.
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