Group 1 action headed to Perth at the weekend where the $1million Railway Stakes produced a $31 upset. The Ascot meeting provided a few pointers to the Kingston Town Classic in a fortnight.
Also at the weekend, Ballarat hosted the major Victorian meeting, where the Cup was overshadowed by a dominant performance in the 2YO Magic Millions Clockwise Classic.
The Queensland carnival is also about to hit full momentum and there was a warm-up with a stakes race at Ipswich last Wednesday.
Here’s a look at some of the key performances of the week.
G1 RAILWAY STAKES
Great Shot 98
Black Heart Bart 102.2
Tom Melbourne 98.7
Great Shot provided the fairytale Railway result for connections, who were able to deny the might of the Darren Weir and Chris Waller stables in landing the $1million feature.
As we noted in our pre-race notes before the Railway, Great Shot had “recent ratings aren’t far off” and “can give cheek.”
He was assessed at $16 and duly landed the prize at an SP of $31.
His WPR of 98 was consistent with his three lead-up runs, which had all topped the 97 mark.
But obviously it’s a figure well below what we would describe as genuine Group 1 standard, even at the weights.
Black Heart Bart showed courage to just miss under his 59kg impost and returned a figure that is close to his best marks of the 2017 calendar year. His best mark this season is 103.
As we’ve noted previously, that is well below the level of performance we saw from him in 2016, where he reached a career best of 106.1
It was reported that the WA Handicapper has assessed him at his equal career best handicap rating of 119, but we see it quite differently.
At an objective level our speed measure model which benchmarks a range of indicators beyond “overall time” (which can be misleading) highlights that the race is comfortably short of G1 standard and certainly not the best Black Heart Bart has produced in his career.
Ignoring those measures for the moment… there were 7 horses within 2L of the finish in the Railway and even allowing for the fact that it was a handicap and Black Heart Bart gave them all weight, putting Black Heart Bart artificially at a career peak or just off it would raise varying degrees of suspicion about the figures allocated for Great Shot, Variation, Material Man and even Gatting.
Subjectively, given the preparation Black Heart Bart (a 7YO) has had, it seems a stretch to imagine he came to this race off a 55 day break and suddenly rebounded to the best he’s ever gone in his career or even just off it.
It makes much more sense to believe that he’s rebounded to something close to the best we’be seen from him in 2017 (102.2 vs 103 peak) but that he’s not quite the same horse he was when at the peak of his powers in 2016, rating around 2 lengths lower than his 106.1 peak. When we bring the speed related benchmarks back into the equation, they’re are consistent with that conclusion.
That said, at 102.2, he’s still the benchmark figure heading into next month’s Kingston Town Stakes.
His figures aren’t dominant Group 1 weight for age standard by any stretch. But whether his rivals have the necessary improvement to topple that mark remains to be seen.
Tom Melbourne did what Tom does and found a way to get beaten. He’s missed a golden opportunity here – four of his five previous ratings would have won this race.
That’s the anomaly which may have some believe it’s right to rate Black Heart Bart higher, but a 98.7 rating is consistent with Tom Melbourne’s median level of form. Further to that, given his reputation of being a “non winner”, it’s more than plausible that he’s run with the herd in the Railway and rated lower. In other words, even if we wanted to ignore speed measures and assess Black Heart Bart higher, we couldn’t possibly use Tom Melbourne as the reliable reference point to hinge that assessment on.
Perfect Jewel 97.7
This was a superior WA Guineas performance to the ones we’ve seen in the past two years.
She is now headed to the Kingston Town and it’s interesting to compare her ratings with Perfect Reflection, who won that race two years ago.
Perfect Reflection rated 97.4 in her lead-up (where she used the fillies G3, rather than the Guineas) to the Kingston Town before taking a leap forward to 101.3 in winning that race.
Similar improvement from Perfect Jewel would put her right in the mix too (as outlined above with Black Heart Bart setting the benchmark).
Her ratings continue to take a nice upward curve, rising from 89.7 three starts back and a lead-in to this of 95.
Perfect Jewel’s overall speed measures were inferior to those of the Railway, but she’s still progressing and the quality of her last 200m rating suggests a new peak at 1800m is not out of the question.
Itsahymn (2014) is the last horse to complete the Guineas-Kingston Town double. He went 99 in the Guineas and improved to 102 in the Group 1 against the older horses.
Monsieur Gustave 100
The Keith Noud Quality was transferred from the abandoned Doomben meeting to Ipswich last Wednesday and Monsieur Gustave was able to win a third stakes race in succession at his resumption to racing here.
Notably, this winning return was significantly higher than he went to in winning both the Eye Liner Stakes (92.3) and Glasshouse (94.1) at the back end of the winter carnival.
In fact, this was a new career peak for Monsieur Gustave, who showed black type potential in August last year where he ran to an eye-popping 97 WPR in a Sunshine Coast Class 1 when winning by nearly 10 lengths.
He now goes to the George Moore Stakes and through to the Magic Millions carnival. If he can maintain this level of performance, he will be a threat in all of those races over the summer.
La Pomme De Pin 96.5
The Clockwise Classic is a relatively new addition to the calendar and to this point has had little impact on the Gold Coast Magic Millions 2YO Classic, despite the winner being assured a start.
La Pomme De Pin came with solid credentials, having run second to subsequent Melbourne stakes winner Long Leaf on debut.
But she took a big step forward at her second start on Saturday, running her rivals ragged to win by 5.5lengths.
Her WPR figure of 96.5 ranks her as the ninth best two-year-old we’ve seen in Australia this season.
Breeders’ Plate quinella Performer (102.2) and Bondi (100) are the clear top two raters.
A 96.5 WPR is short of the required mark to win a Magic Millions, but it’s encouraging how La Pomme De Pin was able to improve off her debut 88.9 to record this type of figure.
Grand Dreamer 96.5
The Ballarat Cup became a real slog fest and Grand Dreamer was the one best suited by the heavy conditions to win by just under two lengths.
It’s hard to take a lot from this race. The heavy conditions put some fancied runners out of play and the overall rating is nothing to get excited about.
This John Thompson has 5YO has come back a better horse this preparation, running to a clear new career peak, 2nd up over 1500m. He did control the race at a slow speed, but ran a high quality L600m rating, which meant those chasing needed to be genuine Group class to run him down. A lower level stakes race under handicap conditions is certainly within the reach of Dreamforce.