Only four lengths covered the first seven home in Saturday’s King George PICTURE: Getty Images
Ascot form not certain to repeated at Longchamp
WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the international scene according to Racing Post Ratings
Japanese race fans may have been disappointed with Deep Brillante’s run in the King George on Saturday, but the result was actually a boost for the Arc chances of the best horse in Japan, Orfevre.
There is no contradiction here. Firstly, Deep Brillante has never run against the older horses in Japan, so his performance was irrelevant to what Orfevre might do at Longchamp.
But secondly, with a blanket finish ensuring just four lengths separated the first seven in the King George, the Arc looks open to an outsider victory; one from a horse entirely unattached to this bundle of form. That could mean Camelot or it could meanOrfevre.
The King George field was strong. It contained four of the leading fancies for the Arc – St Nicholas Abbey, Sea Moon, Nathaniel and Danedream – all of whom have peak RPRs of between 127 and 129.
That’s one way of looking at the result, but where does the King George form fit within the bigger picture? Let’s look at exactly what Nathaniel and Danedream achieved when separated by a nose at Ascot on the weekend.
First of all, neither one came out as clearly the best on the day and it would be hard to know which of them would come out on top next time. In addition, they were hardly decisive against the opposition. Yes, it was a strong field, but the margins were very compressed.
Any piece of form is only as strong as its weakest link, so it is always worth considering how close the beaten horses finished – or how superior the winner was over the form limiters.
On Saturday, Reliable Man was beaten a little over a length-and-a-half into fourth (that’s the closest he’s got to winning in four starts this year), while Brown Panther was beaten less than four lengths in seventh in his first start at championship level.
Both Reliable Man and Brown Panther have clearly improved this year and both were rated to career best RPRs on Saturday, but in finishing so close you have to wonder whether a repeat performance from either Nathaniel or Danedream will suffice in the Arc.
There are only two championship-level races in the European calendar over 1m4f: the Arc and the King George. These are the only two races where the elite battle the elite.
But with the King George winner posting an RPR of 124 under her mare’s allowance and Nathaniel running to 127, there is a chance that this year a horse who is yet to run against this smart yet similarly-able bunch of middle-distance horses might come in and sweep past the lot of them in the Arc.
The average winning RPR for the Arc is 130. That’s a figure Camelot and Orfevre have both looked capable of and a figure none of Saturday’s King George line-up has achieved.
Nathaniel is still lightly raced and has got close to 130, so he may yet get there in the Arc, while Danedream will carry a mares’ allowance, so a repeat of last year’s winning figure of 128 would be equivalent to a 131 performance from a colt.
But the winners of the Arc are often outstanding and nothing in the King George was outstanding, by definition, because they all finished in a heap.
You could throw in excuses for him or her, say he might’ve been closer, he might’ve won. But in finishing so close together, you couldn’t be confident in selecting any one of the King George runners to definitely come out best in a rematch.
If you can, is it also likely that either horse could see off the two top-class horses who have not yet dipped their toe into the all-age championship races of Europe?
I have a feeling that either Camelot or Orfevre will bang out a 130+ on Arc day, thus proving himself the truly outstanding middle-distance performer of the world.
Orfevre has had his problems this season, but most of those will be solved by the swapping of jockey Kenichi Ikezoe for Christophe Soumillon, who won the Arc on Zarkava in 2008.
Japan has an excellent team of older horses who now regularly make their mark around the world over middle-distances. They have won in Hong Kong and Dubai and even a Melbourne Cup. They’ve already placed in the Arc and King George and trainers have learned from their international journeys.
Since Deep Impact’s defeat in the 2006 Arc, their recent travellers have all taken preparations much more seriously. Arc raiders now always take in a prep race in France and that is the plan for Orfevre later this year.
Camelot could still be anything, but with a nagging question mark over the three-year-olds, and with his main target being the St Leger (three weeks before the Arc), the bet in the race has to be Orfevre (16-1). He has just one aim this season and will arrive as the best horse Japan has produced since Deep Impact.
El Condor Pasa, Deep Impact, Nakayama Festa. It’s been a long time brewing, but perhaps the one with the French name, Orfevre, (meaning ‘goldsmith’) could finally seize the big one for Japan.
Looking back on the King George itself and Nathaniel and Danedream come out of the race with another great result for their CVs.
Nathaniel is a King George and Eclipse winner who went down in a thrilling finish, while Danedream joined an even more exclusive club in having now won both of Europe’s premier middle-distance races.
As a mare she’s a rare find at this level. She has won races that star mares like Ouija Board and Snow Fairy were outclassed in.
With Danedream beating Nathaniel, the four-year-olds continued their domination of the all-age racing scene. Four-year-olds also ran 1-2 in the Grosser Pries von Berlin on Sunday, when live Arc outsider Meandre beat Earl of Tinsdal.
The Group 1 at Hoppegarten was won by Danedream last year en route to Arc success and Meandre looks an interesting each-way option in the big one for Andre Fabre.
He ran below his best with an RPR of just 119+ on Sunday, but it was another cosy win off a muddling pace, just like in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on his previous start.
He has a nice change of gears which should see him go well in October. He’s another one from outside the main bundle of King George form and he could build on last year’s six-placed effort.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Nathaniel 127 John Gosden (GB) (King George, Ascot, 1m4f, July 21)
|Name (country trained)||Race||Rating|
|1||Frankel (GB)||Queen Anne Stakes||142T|
||Black Caviar (Aus)||Lightning Stakes||130T|
|Hay List (Aus)||Newmarket Handicap||129T|
|Orfevre (Jap)||Takarazuka Kinen||129T|
|Wise Dan (US)||Ben Ali/Stephen Foster||128A/D|
|10||Excelebration (Ire)||Lockinge Stakes||127T|
|So You Think (Ire)||Tattersalls Gold Cup||127T|
TOP TURF PERFORMERS