Timeform recap the 2018 C.F Orr Stakes won by Hartnell for trainer James Cummings and jockey Craig Williams.
The story of the 2018 C.F Orr Stakes is one of hard luck. There were tales of woe everywhere you looked in a desperately tight finish with the first seven across the line separated by less than a length.
In Hartnell, the highest rated horse in the field won the race, but he didn't have to be anywhere near his best to do so. He did show some of his best qualities, digging in to win the scrap, but a winning rating of 118 is below his 12-month best of 124 and a full ten pounds shy of his career-high 128 from the spring of 2016.
This is the story of the Orr Stakes overall. It has an honour roll loaded with horses that could/would/should be identified with the very ambiguous label 'Group 1 horse' but it has been won by far fewer 'Group 1' performances.
In the past 25 years, 'Group 1 horses' such as Jeune, Saintly, Lonhro, Typhoon Tracy and All Too Hard have all won the Orr, but have done so running well below their peak rating.
Just three - Redoute's Choice (2000), Black Caviar (2012) and Black Heart Bart (2017) - have run a rating above 125 on the Timeform scale - a number that could be used as an appropriate measure of that ambiguous 'Group 1' tag.
The 2018 edition was, in raw terms, the slowest Orr Stakes in the 22 years that the race has been run at Caulfield and on top of that produced the third slowest last 600m in that time.
That speaks as much to the conditions under which the race was run (those calculating speed figures will have used a track variant more in line with a Soft 5 track than the posted Good 3) than the race itself.
Hartnell (GB) and Craig Williams keep a wall of runners at bay, picture Quentinjlang.com
After designated leader Lord Of The Sky bungled the start Plan A was out the window for the jockeys - many seemingly had Plan A listed as simply 'The Plan'- and it ultimately led to a messy race.
Sectional times show as much, and they probably speak to another long term Orr Stakes trend, one connected with good horses winning despite running below their peak. Just three (2009, 2013, 2016) of the past ten runnings of the Orr Stakes could be considered truly run.
Maldivian's 2009 Orr Stakes was run closest to what we would consider optimal in that period and of course it resulted in a very strong overall time.
Typhoon Tracy, Black Caviar and Dissident all won editions of the Orr that could be described as high-class barrier trials but it's well worth noting that they all had Group 1 success deeper into the autumn.
So despite looking a messy, even unsatisfactory race, the 2018 Orr Stakes is likely to prove a key pointer to the weeks ahead.
The key takeaways being :
- Hartnell is still Hartnell. A whipping boy for Winx but a force in her absence.
- Brave Smash is back on track and is going to prove at least as effective over 1400m and a mile. His big 1200m runs to this point have come with the pressure gauge marked high which probably hints at him wanting races that test not top speed but the ability to sustain it.
- Mighty Boss's Guineas was no fluke. He ran to 117 when winning the Guineas but the 100-1 SP hung over that rating. A return at 115 here at 10-1 gives him a much more solid look in the form guide.