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Ratings Update: Prince rules and a French revolution
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Ratings Update: Prince rules and a French revolution

Keith Melrose rounds up the big ratings stories from home and abroad in the first Flat-focused Ratings Update of 2015.

On Dubai World Cup night, one of the richest events in all of sport, you’d like to think that we’d see the best horse in the world. There’s a fair chance we did, but it wasn’t in the feature race, nor would the horse in question even have registered on the radar of most British fans before Saturday.

It was only in the second half of last year that Solow kicked into gear in his native France, but the progress since has been irrepressible. Wins at Deauville, Longchamp and Chantilly, impressive though they were, proved to be just a preamble to his win in the Dubai Turf (formerly the Dubai Duty Free), in which he destroyed a field that included The Grey Gatsby by more than four lengths.

Solow is now rated 129, the joint-highest in Europe with dual Arc winner Treve. It could have been higher, as a less-than-searching early pace (evidenced in part by the winner’s eye-catching 11.08s final furlong) failed to string out the field satisfactorily. You’d certainly fancy a horse that beats The Grey Gatsby (128) by that far on merit, which looked to be the case on Saturday, could break the 130 barrier.

The other major French victory on the card went to Dolniya (123) in the Sheema Classic. Given that her form is already marrying up with her physique to suggest she’ll thrive this year, her early position as Treve’s closest pursuer in the Arc betting is easy to justify. Flintshire, Treve’s closest pursuer in last year’s Arc, was second to Dolniya on Saturday and it should be said that his Arc effort is starting to look something of a standout on his record, not that we can doubt the strength of that form.

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Fairytale stories don’t often pass through the hands of Saeed Bin Suroor, so Prince Bishop is a rare beast indeed. Rarer still will be horses that take four goes at the same Group 1 before winning it, which is what he achieved in outlasting California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup. Prince Bishop has been rated 126, 1 lb behind California Chrome’s best, which originates from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. The fact that the runner-up raced closer to the strong pace and raced wider for longer leads us to think it would a close-run thing were they to meet again under similar conditions.

Before Saturday, Sole Power had an even more painful history with the Al Quoz sprint, though his four previous attempts had at least yielded a couple of in-frame finishes (Prince Bishop had never been better than seventh in previous World Cups). Sole Power ran to 126 in winning the Al Quoz, enough to merit the return of his peak 128 figure after a tame autumn in 2014. That reinstates him as Britain and Ireland’s leading five-furlong sprinter.

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The other results from Dubai of obvious interest would be Brown Panther’s win the Dubai Gold Cup and MubTaahij in the UAE Derby. Brown Panther didn’t have to improve on his Master Rating of 123, a comfortable success in running to 121 nonetheless proving that he retains all of that ability aged seven.

The target for Mubtaahij (121) is presumably the Kentucky Derby, for which he’s now third-favourite in many lists behind American Pharoah (126) and Dortmund (122). Saturday’s UAE Derby was an excellent dry-run for that race and Mubtaahij could scarcely have been more impressive in scooting away by eight lengths. On the other hand, the scenario was conducive to him running to a big figure, while others might not have had the same opportunity. We can only say for definite that Mubtaahij is firmly in the mix for Chruchill in early-May.

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In all the brouhaha over Dubai, it’s too easy to forget that turf racing returned to the British Flat diet on Saturday. The Lincoln is far more self-contained than much of the Dubai offering, in that it doesn’t often have a huge bearing on future Group races. Winner Gabrial is bound for a return to that level now, though his rating of 116 is no higher than what he’s taken into countless other Pattern events that he’s failed to win. Runner-up Mondialiste (120) could have more of a say in good races down the line, especially given that this was his first start for David O’Meara having previously been based in France.

The other significant news from Doncaster came in the Cammidge Trophy, in which Naadirr (119) beat off a field of established sprinters including a resurgent Astaire. Naadirr pounced late and was going away at the line, which combined with his unexposed profile makes us think it’s possible he’ll improve again, a return to Group company (fourth in the Hackwood on his previous try) surely on the cards now.

***

The all-weather will still have its say in Britain, at least until Friday, and Kempton’s Saturday card promises to inform nearly as much as Doncaster. Derby third and St Leger second Romsdal (121), who now carries the Godolphin silks, confirmed his wellbeing with a comfortable success in the Magnolia Stakes. His performance suggests he’d have Leger fourth Windshear (118), a winner at Doncaster on Sunday, held again were they to meet in something like the Ormonde Stakes next time.

Chelmsford also got in on the act on Saturday, producing the best performance from across the first three two-year-old races of the 2015 season. Buratino (90p) edges out Brocklesby-winning stablemate Ravenhoe (88p) and Kempton winner Rah Rah (82p) in a two-year-old division that’s scarcely at the primordial soup stage. Even so, they’re an early display of power from the reportedly realigned Mark Johnston yard and all three should be up to winning more races before the first amphibians start to emerge from the swamp.

 
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