Sprinter Sacre – ready to better Kauto?

Sprinter Sacre - rated within 2lb of Kauto Star

Sprinter Sacre - rated within 2lb of Kauto Star

The publication of the Anglo-Irish National Hunt classifications on 21 May confirmed Bobs Worth, Sprinter Sacre, Big Buck’s, Hurricane Fly, The New One and Simonsig as the top horses across the seven categories. There were no major surprises, and with the exception of top novice chaser Simonsig, all the winners were rated four pounds or more ahead of their nearest rival.

In the 2-mile hurdle division, Hurricane Fly gained a mark of 175 after he became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. It’s the third year in a row Hurricane Fly has topped this division, and his improved rating, up five pounds from last year, means he now stands second to Istabraq (176) in the all time rankings.

Yet Noel O’Brien, senior Turf Club handicapper, reckoned Cheltenham was not the place where the Fly shows his best. He said, “Despite winning two Champion Hurdles, Cheltenham is not necessarily his track compared to the Hurricane Fly we see in Ireland. To win 15 Grade 1s in a relatively short time is astonishing – 175 is his top rating and justified he was improving even at the age of nine.”

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Although Big Buck’s ran only once last season, his win in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last December was enough to maintain his dominance of the staying hurdle division, which he has now led for the past five years. Big Buck’s may have only lent his World Hurdle crown to Solwhit, and on the ratings he need not worry about grabbing it back; Solwhit is rated eight pounds lower, one pound behind Quevega and Zarkandar.

The novices The New One (hurdlers) and Simonsig (chasers) have their big times ahead of them, and in the weeks to come I’ll look back on their season along with those of the other winners.

That leaves us with the chase categories. There was a vacancy at the head of the staying chase (3m+) division following the retirement of Kauto Star. Bobs Worth progressed from top novice of 2012 to win the Gold Cup and record a mark of 180.

The star of the chasing season was Sprinter Sacre, and he led the field in both the 2m and 2m 4f divisions. A mark of 188 is the highest ever awarded in the each category, and only 2lbs below the 190 that Kauto Star achieved three years ago. As Sprinter Sacre is just a seven year old, you can only wonder at what heights he might attain in the next few years.

Commenting on the rating BHA handicapper John de Moraville said, “He was the highest rated novice last year on 169, which was a record, and has more than lived up to expectations and is now the highest rated chaser at two miles in the history of the classifications. He pulled off the Cheltenham – Aintree – Punchestown treble. He was breathtaking at Cheltenham and Aintree, and while less so at Punchestown he still ran to a mark of 178, which in the majority of seasons would be enough to make him champion.”

Whether Sprinter Sacre surpasses the achievements of Kauto Star depends very much on who he races against next season according to Phil Smith, head of handicapping at the BHA. If he continues to scare off meaningful opposition it will be difficult, and Smith suggested that a race against Simonsig, with the two of them 15 or 20 lengths ahead of anything else would be one way of increasing his rating in the future. An alternative would be a step up to three miles. Smith said, “One year Kauto Star was champion at all three distances. There’s almost a view among racing enthusiasts that you don’t really show how great you are until you do it at three miles in a chase. Perhaps we should say this horse is damn good.”

I don’t agree. I think he’s a great horse already. Do you? Can he beat Kauto Star's rating in the next year or two?

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