If the point of rating racehorses is to engender controversy and heated debate, then the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Ratings is a success.
If, on the other hand, the point of such exercises is to inform or to educate, then the WBRR would be something else again.
I confess to be confounded and more than confused about the rankings issued this week, more so if the WBRR wish to be considered “official.”
For that to be so, the logic and consistency of the rankings needs to hold together better.
The WBRR certainly didn’t jibe with my own ratings of the international stars and major performers. That’s not a great issue because few handicappers will rank horses exactly the same, but we ought to be somewhat closer than I felt was the case with the WBRR.
So it was a relief to read the annual rankings just announced by Timeform and to assess some of the rationale for their weights and rankings, which Timeform’s Simon Rowlands commented on in today’s Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
The peculiar consistency of the WBRR was that winners of certain races seemed to rank highly, while others found no traction. Clearly, someone in the handicapping panel, perhaps more than one, was viewing the racing results through a prism denied the rest of us.
The chief beneficiary of this slanted appreciation was the high-class Japanese horse Just a Way, winner of the G1 Dubai Duty Free by 6 1/4 lengths over Vercingetorix and the G1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo. Those were the horse’s sole victories at the top level, and reportedly, the sectional times of his performance at Meydan in the DDF were a principal reason for Just a Way’s elevation to “best horse” in the world.
If we accept that, then where is Vercingetorix in the rankings? Given an approximate 10 pound beating in the DDF, the South African is nowhere to be found on the list, but Grand Prix Boss, beaten a nose in the Yasuda Kinen, is found far down the list at 118, the same as Gentildonna.
This is the same star of racing in Japan who won the G1 Sheema Classic at Meydan and the G1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama, beating both Just a Way and WBRR second-ranked Epiphaneia by a length and a length and a quarter into fourth and fifth place.
To my eye and to my own assessments of the horses, the rankings just don’t add up. Racing in different environments requires somewhat different ability, and assessing the differences is naturally difficult. But even allowing for the difficulty, the variations among horses based in the same country, like Gentildonna, Just a Way, and Epiphaneia, do not make sense.
As an example, why are Just a Way and Epiphaneia rated first and second on the WBRR, 12 and 11 pounds higher than Gentildonna, who defeated both in their final start, the Arima Kinen? Although Just a Way did not have the simplest trip in that race, Epiphaneia had the lead a quarter-mile out. What could be the excuse to rate the mare so far below them?
The WBRR handicappers can offer any rationale to come up with the hodge-podge selection of which horse outranks another, but in instance after instance, the reality of the racetrack trumps the “handicapper’s” magic. I’d gladly take Treve, or Gentildonna, at the weights they assign against the top horses.
And I won’t even begin to get into the differential of California Chrome to Bayern … Kingman, Australia, Treve, and dozens of others.