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world rankings in this year’s lists. Arrogate rightfully got top spot on 134 over California Chrome (133), who he beat narrowly but seemingly fairly in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November. It should not be forgotten that Arrogate had an exceptional wide-margin and record-breaking win in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in August to his name also. California Chrome had more top-class efforts than two in his locker during the year, of course, including wins in the Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan in March and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. That was presumably what prompted his Eclipse award as Horse of the Year. But handicappers (in the non-US sense) rate horses on the best of their recent efforts, and the evidence, though not indisputable, suggests that Arrogate was marginally the better horse, at least at 10f by the season’s end. In historical terms, Arrogate’s 134 is a good but not exceptional rating for a world leader.

It places him alongside American Pharoah in 2015 and ahead of three other of the WBRR leaders in a previous eight years, which had twice been dominated by the peerless Frankel. There is a bit more room for disagreement about the rating of the Australian mare Winx (132), if not so much about her position in third. That figure, which comes from her 8l win in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, places her alongside the same country’s Black Caviar at her best. Timeform ratings – which predate the WBRR and their predecessor the International Classifications, and which are standardised to maintain a consistent level and a consistent approach – are 4lb to 5lb ahead of the official figures on average for the top horses. They had Black Caviar 3lb superior to Winx at their respective peaks and effectively regard Winx as over-rated by about that much.

That is the biggest discrepancy in that direction among the top horses, with the exception of Jet Setting (120 in WBRRs and on Timeform), who sectionals show got the run of things rather more than Minding (122 WBRRs, 127 Timeform) when beating her narrowly in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at The Curragh in May. There had been plenty of talk about timing and sectional analysis at previous WBRR press conferences, but there is still no evidence that they are taken into account in a formalised and consistent manner. Elsewhere, it is difficult to see how Postponed (124 WBRR) and, in particular, Mecca’s Angel (121 WBRR) could have been rated quite so lowly when they had run so fast against the clock at York in winning the International Stakes and the Nunthorpe Stakes respectively. The result is that Postponed’s figure is the lowest for the leading British performer since the current scale was adopted in 1986 (though the “recalibration” exercise undertaken in 2012, which reduced some historical ratings, muddies the waters somewhat). That seems a bit harsh for a horse who beat Highland Reel (123) and Found (124) on merit when required, with the latter (who ended up her country’s highest-rated performer) receiving a sex allowance to boot. It is easy to quibble with individual ratings, but the WBRR potentially come into their own when used to measure wider effects in which individual volatility tends to cancel itself out. In this context, the news for British Flat racing in 2016 is discouraging in a more obvious way. Britain had 40 representatives in the WBRRs, which was both its second-lowest haul in the last nine years and saw it drop below Australia (50) once more and below Japan (41) for the first time. There was a tie between Maurice and A Shin Hikari for top place in Japan on 127, incidentally. The country leading the way was, of course, the US, though this was not the spectacular season that might be imagined from the positioning and achievements of the aforementioned superstars. With a total of 62 representatives, the US Connections of the Longines three World’s Best Racehorses – Winx, California Chrome and Arrogate – with their awards, alongside hosts Longines and IFHA, at Claridge's in January

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Profile for Thoroughbred Publishing

ITB_March_April 2017  

We speak to champion UAE trainer Doug Watson ahead of the Dubai World Cup, we put some data behind the Jockey Club's Kempton Park proposals,...

ITB_March_April 2017  

We speak to champion UAE trainer Doug Watson ahead of the Dubai World Cup, we put some data behind the Jockey Club's Kempton Park proposals,...