1. Pinatubo (Timeform rating 134)
Pinatubo was quite frankly an exceptional two-year-old – as his lofty Timeform rating suggests – winning all six starts, including two Group 1s. Pinatubo isn’t a precocious sort on paper, but he made a good impression when making a winning debut at Wolverhampton in May, and found a jolt of improvement when following up in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom on his next start.
In the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot on his next start Pinatubo was overshadowed in the market by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Lope Y Fernandez, but he progressed to win again, keeping on well on his first start at seven furlongs and readily brushing off the favourite.
Pinatubo had little trouble winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, scoring by five lengths, but he produced an even better performance in the National Stakes at the Curragh, proving he was an outstanding two-year-old. He conjured a performance of sensational authority to dismiss out of hand the winners of the Coventry and Futurity Stakes.
Pinatubo signed off for the season with another Group 1 success in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. Admittedly, it wasn’t in the same exhilarating fashion as at the Curragh, taking a while to assert from his rivals, but he still ran to a high level for a two-year-old. Charlie Appleby
2. Blue Point (131)
Blue Point was a smart juvenile in 2016, winning three of his six starts, notably the Gimcrack Stakes at York. He was placed in the Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes on his last two starts that season, but he had excuses on both outings, not suited by a tactical affair in the former race and unsuited by the longer trip in the latter.
He showed very smart form as a three-year-old, making a winning reappearance in the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot and then finishing third in the Commonwealth Cup over the same course and distance at Royal Ascot after. Blue Point’s other victory that season came in the Bengough Stakes back at Ascot, proving at least as good as ever down in grade.
Blue Point went on to develop a great affinity with Ascot, recording back-to-back wins in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2018 and 2019, and recording a famous double at the meeting in 2019 when also winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes four days later. He didn’t have to match the form of his King’s Stand win earlier in the week over the extra furlong, though the way he tanked through the race suggested he was in every bit as good form. He was retired weeks after completing that brilliant double. Charlie Appleby
3. Able Friend (130)
‘Able Friend always will be admired for what he could do at both ends – you could have him up on the speed or he could come from off the pace, he was so versatile. Of all of them, Able Friend would be the one I’d run the video back and get excited, he was something!’
Above is a quote from trainer John Moore on his top-class miler Able Friend. Given the horses that Moore has been responsible for over his long career, it is big testament indeed. Able Friend made his debut in 2012 but it was in 2013, as a four-year-old, that he really started to progress.
The following year Able Friend improved again, recording another four wins, culminating with a top-class win in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin. He swept all before him in Hong Kong in 2015, winning his first four starts, and he was sent off the 11/4 second favourite in the Queen Anne Stakes when making the trip over for Royal Ascot. However, Able Friend didn’t run to form, beaten over eight lengths, the travelling a more plausible reason than the deeper field.
Able Friend produced another top-class display four months later when winning a Group 2 handicap over six furlongs back at Sha Tin, putting his lacklustre Royal Ascot display well behind him. That turned out to be his last victory, only able to finish third in that year’s Hong Kong Mile, and he was not at his best in four further starts over the next two years. John Moore
4. Dariyan (126)
A compact, high-class colt, Dariyan made his debut as a three-year-old in 2015 and won three times that season, notably the Grand Prix de Maisons-Laffitte. Dariyan would produce his best form that season when third in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin.
Dariyan displayed similar form in a couple of starts at Meydan in early-2016, but he took it up another notch when winning the Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud on his return to France. He again seemed suited by the drop back in trip to a mile and a quarter, putting up a high-class performance, coming from last to first under a typically confident Christophe Soumillon ride. Unfortunately, Dariyan couldn’t reproduce that effort in his remaining three starts and was retired to stud later in 2016. Alain de Royer-Dupre
4= Dan Excel (126)
Dan Excel began his career in Ireland with Kevin Prendergast (named Dunboyne Express) and won his first two starts as a two-year-old in 2010 before finishing fifth in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. He developed into a useful performer but switched to John Moore in Hong Kong at the end of 2011.
Dan Excel showed smart form in his first season in Hong Kong but it took him over a year to open his account. That came in the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin, where he proved better than ever. He held his form well after, but it was not until the following season that he got his head in front again, and that came in another Group 1 at Kranji in Singapore, where he put up a career-best effort at the age of six.
Dan Excel became the first horse to win that race twice when following up the year after, showing similar form. That would prove to be Dan Excel’s final victory. John Moore
4= Mukhadram (126)
Mukhadram was a well-backed favourite for the Wood Ditton at Newmarket – the long-standing race for three-year-old newcomers – and finished second, shaping with plenty of promise. He was later awarded the race as the winner tested positive for a prohibited substance, but Mukhadram nonetheless won a maiden back at Newmarket on his next start.
Mukhadram showed useful form up in grade the remainder of that season, but, an imposing sort physically, he always left the impression he would improve as a four-year-old, and he proved better than ever when winning the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown on his seasonal reappearance in 2013. He went on to finish placed in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown later that season before taking advantage of the drop in grade when winning the York Stakes, not needing to show his best form.
The following year Mukhadram went two places better in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, only needing to match the pick of his placed form at Group 1 level, and he was also better placed than some of his better-fancied rivals. Still, the way in which he quickened clear was impressive on the eye. Mukhadram ran to a similar level upped to a mile and a half for the first time when third in the King George at Ascot on his next start, but he was below form on his final two starts and was retired to stud. William Haggas
5️⃣ weeks to go until the 2019 Coral-Eclipse...— Sandown Park (@Sandownpark) June 1, 2019
5️⃣ years ago Mukhadram won the 2014 Coral-Eclipse... pic.twitter.com/gsyTg9S7pN
7. Lope de Vega (125)
Lope de Vega won his first two starts as a juvenile in 2009 and was supplemented for the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp. For all he acquitted himself well, he didn’t find the necessary progress to make the expected impact at the highest level, only finishing fourth.
He showed plenty of improvement as a three-year-old, though, winning the French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp and the French Derby at Chantilly. By doing so, he emulated Shamardal, who completed the same double in 2005. The manner in which he won from a wide draw was very taking also, soon getting across to track the pacemaker and going clear before the home turn.
Lope de Vega ran too badly to be true when trailing home last back down in trip in the Prix Jean Prat on his next start, seemingly going well when overtaking his pacemaker two out but even failing to beat him home. Another below-par run in the Prix du Moulin followed, but he was surprisingly supplemented for the Arc after. Lope de Vega shaped better than the bare result there, moving easily into a share of the lead in the straight before his stamina gave way. Lope de Vega has since developed into a top sire. Andre Fabre
8. Pakistan Star (124)
Pakistan Star started the 10/7-on favourite when making a winning debut for Tony Cruz at Sha Tin in 2016, missing the break and still having plenty to do when turning for home, but showing a good turn of foot to readily come out on top. Pakistan Star went on to finish second on five occasions that season, but did easily win a minor event at Sha Tin.
He showed improved form the following season without winning, quickly developing a reputation in Hong Kong, mainly as one not to be trusted (he virtually pulled himself up in a Group 3 in 2017), but he had a ton of talent and finally put it all together when winning the QEII Cup and the Champion Chater Cup, both at Sha Tin.
His temperament got the better of him, though, matching his best form only once when making his first start for a new yard in 2019. Pakistan Star was slowly into stride and in the rear when putting his head in the air and pulling himself up after a furlong. He has the Timeform squiggle attached to his rating. Tony Cruz
9. Usherette (123)
Usherette won her first two starts as a three-year-old and wasn’t disgraced when beaten under four lengths in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville on her only other start in 2015. She won her first four starts the following year, notably the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket and the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Her performance at Royal Ascot was the best of her career, readily accounting for some fillies that had top-level form to their name. After that victory, Usherette was rated higher than any other filly in Europe at the time, and, for all she never won at the highest level, there is no doubt she was of Group 1 standard.
Usherette didn’t prove as good in her final season in 2017, though she did hit the frame at both Group 1 and Group 2 level before winning a listed event at Maisons-Laffitte. Her final start came in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket, where she wasn’t beaten far in fourth, but left the impression that she should have finished closer having had to pick her way through in the final furlong. Andre Fabre
9= Tryster (123)
Tryster was an enigmatic type but very capable on his day. He had already been gelded prior to his debut in 2014 and showed plenty of ability. He duly landed the odds on his next start at Brighton, but was beaten from a mark of 88 in first-time cheekpieces on handicap debut at Newmarket on his only other start that season.
In 2015 Tryster proved himself one of the most progressive horses around on the all-weather, winning six of his seven starts (only defeat came on his sole start on turf in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown). Tryster won his first three starts in handicaps, landing one at Kempton from a mark of 100 with any amount in hand, and his remarkable improvement bagged him one of the big all-weather races in the Winter Derby at Lingfield on his next start. Victories in the Easter Classic back at Lingfield and a minor event at Chelmsford followed that year.
Tryster, like many of Godolphin’s horses, went to Dubai in 2016 and it was there where he also proved himself just as effective on turf, winning the Dubai Millennium Stakes and the Jebel Hatta. He started the 7/4 favourite for his next start in the Dubai Turf, but was found wanting when trying to come from last to first in a deeper Group 1. Soft ground negated his turn of foot in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on his first start back in Britain and he failed to meet expectations on his final start in the Arlington Million. Charlie Appleby