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Ratings Update: King ace Place enters Gold Cup picture and novices promise
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Ratings Update: King ace Place enters Gold Cup picture and novices promise

Keith Melrose takes a look at the biggest performances over the last week in the latest Ratings Update.

No handicap, Flat or jumps, has consistently delivered high-level performances like the Hennessy Gold Cup. This century, the only winner to return a Timeform rating of less than 150 was Carruthers in 2011. The trend is generally an upward one, too. Seven of the last 11 winners now have pushed through the 160 barrier and one of the exceptions went on to win the Grand National.

The Hennessy informs both the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and tends to be the point at which the paths to the two races diverge. There can be little doubt that Smad Place is going to Cheltenham now after his deeply impressive 12-length win on Saturday.

The numbers of Smad Place’s performance don’t quite match the visual impression, but then that was never likely. His new rating is 165, a career-high for him and one that’s towards the top end of winning performances even in this race. The only ones better in recent years came from Denman (twice) and Bobs Worth.

In terms of the wider Gold Cup picture, Smad Place might be at the top table now, but he is still very much on the wings. His rating still lags behind Coneygree (171p) and Djakadam (170), as well as Don Cossack (180) and Cue Card (179). Whether he should be as much as six points shorter than Road To Riches (167) for the Gold Cup, or the same price as Djakadam, is doubtful.

The race undoubtedly smudged Saphir du Rheu’s Gold Cup claims, though maybe not by as much as some are making out. He’s still rated 161+ after finishing fifth, the feeling being that racing wide as he pressed Smad Place proved too much, especially giving the winner 8 lb. The main concern if you’re a Saphir du Rheu fan is that Saturday’s performance may fan the notion expressed by Paul Nicholls that he isn’t ready for a race as unforgiving as the Gold Cup just yet.


Newbury also tends to offer plenty of clues for other big spring races, not least the World Hurdle courtesy of the Long Distance Hurdle on the Hennessy undercard. The likes of Cole Harden (164) and Whisper (163) underperformed, though the statement made by emergent force Thistlecrack was a strong one as he stretched six lengths clear of the strong-travelling Deputy Dan (149p). The winner is now rated 159p and will provide a stern test to the established World Hurdle contenders next time even if they’re back on-song.

The early days of the meeting provided a smattering of big-race clues, especially in the novice divisions. Among the chasers, Grade 2 winners Native River (148p) and Three Musketeers (143p) both look set for the big spring prizes after their respective wins. Native River could have been even higher, the choice to be cautious was taken as a result of so few others giving their running. There was also a big statement made by Buveur d’Air in the maiden hurdle that ended Friday’s card. He’s rated 135P after beating Champion Bumper third Wait For Me with ridiculous ease. His being second-favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this stage is by no means a gross over-reaction.


The Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle doesn’t tend to inform the Champion Hurdle in the same way the Grade 3 Hennessy and Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle inform the Gold Cup and World Hurdle respectively. It’s felt that this year will fit in with that trend, though there are other top-level races to be won with the two youngsters that fought out the finish. Identity Thief is progressing rapidly, going from 135p to his current rating of 159p in the space of two runs, while Top Notch put up a bold showing just a week on from his reappearance and, rated 159, won’t need to find much more to become a Grade 1 winner himself.


We also had plenty of pick over in Ireland on Sunday, with three Grade 1s coming from Fairyhouse. The ostensible feature race, the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, offered us little besides a step towards peak form for winner Arctic Fire (168). The novice contests either side were more indicative. Long Dog (150p) justified a slew of late money in the Royal Bond, though that stablemate Bachasson (148p) pushed him so hard may suggest there’s more to come. They came a long way clear of some promising types off what was just a steady pace, so we’ve been positive with their ratings.

In the Drinmore Novice Chase, we were robbed of the opportunity to see Outlander take on No More Heroes, but the latter more than made up for that with a convincing defeat of Monksland (150p) aided by a superb round of jumping. The winner is now rated 153p, well on his way to championship standard just two starts into his chasing career. He has the build and manner of one that could go to the very top as a chaser and he’s probably the best we’ve seen so far this season, certainly among those over longer distances.

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