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Ratings Update: Gleneagles good, but not yet a Guineas great

Tony McFadden looks back on the weekend's action from Newmarket and provides you with the latest Ratings updates.

The 2015 running of the 2000 Guineas probably wasn’t a vintage renewal, though we did see an impressive winner in Gleneagles as he stamped his authority in decisive fashion, beating French raider Territories by two and a quarter lengths, with a further three-quarters of a length back to Ivawood in third.

The 18-runner field split into two distinct groups, one led by Home of The Brave down the stand rail, the other by Kool Kompany in the centre, and it looked as if those racing in the stand-side group enjoyed a slight advantage, though there’s little doubt that Gleneagles, who was positioned perfectly, was much the best in any case.

Gleneagles proved a prolific winner as a juvenile, finishing first past the post on every start other than on debut, and his record would have been even better had he not been disqualified in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Gleneagles was a tad unfortunate at Longchamp as he was superior to his rivals, though he did undoubtedly cause interference having hung right-handed – not for the first time, incidentally – so connections will have been delighted that he looked much more straightforward at Newmarket, showing little sign of waywardness.

Gleneagles is clearly the outstanding three-year-old miler at present and, looking more about speed than stamina, it’s unsurprising that connections have indicated that he will be targeted at races such as the Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace. Given the manner in which Gleneagles cruised through the Guineas, and the speed with which he settled the contest when asked to quicken, it’s difficult to make a convincing case for those in behind turning the tables. It is worth noting, however, that Ivawood was disadvantaged by racing in the centre group, while Estidhkaar, a crushing disappointment on the day, has shown form to be competitive at Group 1 level, so they might be capable of putting up a better fight under different circumstances.

Gleneagles earned a Timeform rating of 126 for his win in the 2000 Guineas: this marks him down as an up-to-scratch winner of the opening classic, though not necessarily an outstanding one. The graphic below shows that Gleneagles’ victory was the sixth best Guineas-winning performance in the past decade.

top Guineas winners

There was a minor shock in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes as Telescope failed to make the most of what had seemed a good opportunity, losing out to Second Step in a close finish. In truth, Telescope didn’t run badly on his reappearance, somewhere in the region of half a stone below his very best, and can be expected to put up a bold defence of his Hardwicke Stakes crown at Royal Ascot, the benefit of this run unlikely to be lost on him. The Hardwicke has also been mentioned as a possible target for the progressive winner, Second Step, and he wouldn’t need to improve a great deal on his new rating of 121p to prove competitive. Second Step hails from a yard that tend to do well with late-maturing types, and with the possibility of even better to come over longer trips, should connections explore that option later in the season, the future is bright.

It wasn’t a stellar renewal of the Palace House Stakes, but the race was won by a progressive, likeable type in Goldream who clocked a career-best rating of 121. Stiffer tasks await, notably against the likes of Muthmir and Sole Power (128), but he certainly deserves a crack at the biggest prizes. It’s possible that we saw another top sprinting prospect later on the card as Twilight Son maintained his unbeaten record with the minimum of fuss, quickening well and storming clear to land the six-furlong three-year-old handicap. He’s the type to continue improving for a while yet and is very much one to follow.

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The highlight on Sunday was the 1000 Guineas and, while some of the juvenile stars of 2014 were missing, such as Cursory Glance, High Celebrity and Found, it still produced a very good winner in Legatissimo. Legatissimo had won a fillies’ listed event in good style at Gowran Park just a week ago, and she showed much-improved form to land the Guineas, in the process earning herself a Timeform rating of 120. A rating of 120 has been bettered by only one winner of the 1000 Guineas in the past decade: Finsceal Beo.

Legatissimo was very strong at the finish in the 1000 Guineas, has already won over an extended nine furlongs and possesses a pedigree blessed with plenty of stamina, so the signs are that she will stay the one-and-a-half mile trip of the Oaks. She’s a deserving favourite for the Epsom classic.

It’s also worth giving credit to Lucida who, with a rating of 118, ran to a level that would have been good enough to prevail in most renewals of the 1000 Guineas. Lucida didn’t have everything go to plan as her rider lost an iron following an awkward exit from the stalls, and she was a bit lit up in the early stages, so she’s likely to take a fair bit of beating in races such as the Irish 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes, with her Newmarket conqueror likely to have different targets.

The Pretty Polly Stakes has been used as the springboard for success for the past two Oaks winners (Talent and Taghrooda) but the form of this year’s race looks to have its limitations with 66/1 maiden Amaze Me not beaten far in third. A relatively slow finish adds further weight to the theory that the 2015 Pretty Polly Stakes isn’t anything to write home about, but the winner Jazzi Top, a half-sister to Group 1 winner Izzi Top, travelled supremely well and looked to win with a bit in hand, so could yet develop into a candidate for top honours.

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There was also top-level action at Longchamp on Sunday as the Prix Ganay, the first European Group 1 of the season for older horses, took place. There perhaps wasn't a great deal of strength in depth, but the race still attracted two of Europe's leading middle-distance performers in Cirrus des Aigles and Al Kazeem, and it was the nine-year-old Cirrus des Aigles who prevailed.

Cirrus des Aigles had never previously won first time out during his lengthy career, but he had optimum conditions at Longchamp and proved that he retains a high-class level of ability by running out a one-and-three-quarter length winner from Al Kazeem. An incredibly durable performer, Cirrus des Aigles has won a pattern race for the past seven seasons and, despite his advancing years, you couldn't write off further success, his rating of 129 right up there alongside the best in Europe.

 
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