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Talking Points - Saturday

All the Group 1 ratings from Day 1 of The Championships.

Sires

Tough race to get a read on given the slow tempo, but Manaal has done well considering that to come from back in the field and win, running to 115 with Timeform. That's a clear new peak, up from 108 which she ran to win the Sweet Embrace before going 107 in the Golden Slipper when strong late.

In terms of previous Sires winners, this is on the low side. The past three fillies to win the race are (Fireburn 2022), El Dorado Dreaming (2018) and Yankee Rose (2016).

Fireburn ran to 118+, the same rating as her Slipper win, before dipping slightly to 116 when beaten in the Champagne.

El Dorado Dreaming only needed to run to 112 before also regressing in the Champange and finishing third, running to 108.

Yankee Rose was the clear benchmark at 120 in the Sires after running 116+ in the Slipper first-up from a spell. She didn't run in the Champagne.

In terms of the Champagne Stakes pecking order, it's Manaal and Linebacker at the top of the market. Manaal is rated eight pounds higher (12 when account for the 2kg weight difference) which makes her the horse to beat in what will likely be a weak edition.

T J Smith

Another tricky race to assess with a very bunched finish. The fact a horse like Willinga Beast at 200-1 has finished just 2.6 lengths away says plenty, and this race will need dissecting.

Chain Of Lightning was given a great ride by Damian Lane and has run to a new peak of 119. She did run to 115 the start prior so it wasn't the biggest improvement with a few horses running well below their best. That 115 was already her equal peak which came over 1400m on wet ground (with Pride Of Jenni in 3rd).

I'm convinced if I Wish I Win was deeper into his preparation that he'd have won this. First-up last campaign he resumed in the C F Orr over 1400m and loomed up before just peaking very late. He then ran 2nd in The Everest when arguably unlucky not to win, improving his rating six pounds.

He's run 122 here, slightly better than his 120 first-up last time in but again, he's loomed up and just peaked on the run, beaten a neck. Espiona was unlucky and arguably should've won, but this slow pace doesn't reveal anything. All it did was show that she has a good turn of foot, which we already knew.

Imperatriz has basically run to her William Reid rating here, which was her equal lowest rating since her Canterbury Stakes second last year. Any of her runs between the Canterbury and William Reid would've won this, and probably won it quite well. She did get very worked up pre-race so whether that's travel related, end of prep or just a coincidence we don't know. Hopefully she gets back to her absolute best in the Spring.

Doncaster

Great ride aboard Celestial Legend who got in with 49kg which proved the difference. He's run to 117 which is a very low rating Doncaster winner. The key point of reference is fellow three-year-old Militarize, who gave him 5kg at WFA and finished third, beaten 0.7 lengths.

Militarize has run a new peak on the Timeform scale at 124 which is a very good effort and not far off some of the top three-year-old winners of the race. He's paid for his Group 1 wins as a younger horse here. It'll be interesting to see if the pair meet again in the Spring.

The last three-year-old to win the Doncaster also carried 49kg and that was Brutal in 2019, who ran to 120 and actually rated down on his George Ryder second to Winx which rated 122.

Celestial Legend has only improved one pound on the Timeform scale so I'd temper expectations somewhat- it's a big step to go to weight-for-age company next season.

Derby

Dual Derbies for Riff Rocket and connections can thank James McDonald for it. He copped a big bump out of the gates and probably settled a bit further back than they would've liked because of it, but McDonald's decision to try and slice through the field rather than circle them was ultimately the difference.

The raw time is comfortably the worst on the card, and I found it interesting that the Group 3 Chairman's Stakes (2600m) actually ran a faster tempo per 200m. The ones up front have mostly dropped off, with Riff Rocket ended up with a finishing speed of 105.6%, meaning he was sprinting quickly late.

The margins, even for a young staying race on heavy ground, are significant which doesn't suggest a slow early pace. I think they've gone fairly quickly early and dropped off late whereas a horse like Riff Rocket was travelling a long way off the pace early and able to sprint home.

He run to 119 here which is the same rating he ran to win the Rosehill Guineas, and four pounds ahead of his Victoria Derby win.

It still fully remains to be seen if he'll end up a 2400m+ horse but I doubt Waller will target him at a Caulfield Cup. I hope at least he targets a Cox Plate and not a Golden Eagle, but we'll see…

Riff Rocket and James McDonald, picture Stevehart.com.au

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