Sixty-six years of Racehorses
With the publication of the annual Racehorses publication from the sport's form analysis experts at Timeform, we know that the Flat season is really underway.
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First published in 1947, the year that The Queen and The Duke Of Edinburgh were married, Her Majesty remains to the fore in the latest publication with her Gold Cup winner Estimate pictured on the front cover.
But Timeform's Racehorses of 2013 is no ductile flagwaver and carries the usual punchy opinions we have come to expect.
We asked Jamie Lynch, chief correspondent for Timeform, to guide us through some of the highlights of the book.
1) "We start our introduction to the book with the phrase 'Nothing to see here, move along please' because it was hard not to feel that way about the whole Mahmood Al Zarooni and Godolphin drugs case. Among the things covered is the 'mystery' as to how Al Zarooni came to be both spending much of the period covered by the investigation in Dubai, while also being solely responsible - according to the BHA - for the doping which was taking place in Newmarket. We say that the damage will take 'years to repair' and urge the BHA to widen the scope of their testing programme and seek greater control over vets involved with racing stables. To be honest, the whole episode still leaves a very sour taste in the mouth now. From an analytical point of view it's unsatisfactory in terms of trusting the achievements and ratings achieved and it certainly has the potential to undermine the ratings of the horses involved."
2) "Undoubtedly one of the most controversial finishes to any race last year came in the Falmouth Stakes, when connections of Sky Lantern failed to persuade the stewards on the day or subsequently at the BHA to reverse the placings despite meeting interference from the winner Elusive Kate. We deal with the race extensively in the essay on Elusive Kate, essentially concluding that with the rules the way they are there was no way that the result could be changed. What we do think is wrong though is the number of pattern races - the quality control for the pattern seems to have completely fallen out of the window and we even propose a possible temporary star-system to distinguish between the Group Ones that are genuine major championship races and those that clearly aren't. There were 243 pattern races in total when it was launched in 1971 and that number had become 406 last year. However you won't be surprised to know that we conclude that the pattern 'will never take the place of ratings as a clear, precise and accurate measure of racing merit and quality of performance'."
3) "During Sky Lantern's essay we look at the different formats for the jockeys' and trainers' championships. The issue is both whether switching the format of the trainers' title is an accurate reflection of the year as a whole, and also whether it's even worth tinkering with. At the end of the day, it's a bit of a sideshow, and there are a lot of things in racing that seem to present more pressing problems to deal with than worrying too much about the championships - especially when messing about with them is disrupting the continuity of something that is part of the heritage of British racing."
4) "Hot Streak could be a rare three-year-old contender for some of the big sprints this year. At Timeform, we take the evidence of the clock very seriously and that was a big performance when he won the Cornwallis at Ascot last season. A time-figure of 125 was comfortably the best recorded by a two-year-old last year and the only horse to match it in recent years was Frankel, when he won the Dewhurst. Hot Streak went on to finish second in the Middle Park, but no horse will be able to run in both races this year now that the authorities have re-shuffled the races around again so that the Cornwallis is moved from Ascot and added to the new Future Champions' Day card at Newmarket the day before Champions Day at Ascot. As we say, 'Seemingly constant changes to the fixture list can be an irritation in the short-term and it does not reflect well on the architects of Britain's revamped autumn programme that a race like the Cornwallis Stakes will have had three different positions in the calendar and have been run on two different courses in the space of five years'. We've even more to say on Future Champions' Day... but you'll have to buy the book!"
5) "One of the regular themes throughout this year's Racehorses is the internationalisation of racing and no horse encapsulates that as much as Red Cadeaux. HIs trainer Ed Dunlop earned over £2.5million on foreign soil last year - three times as much as his earnings in Britain. Dunlop said that Red Cadeaux was on his 'zimmer frame tour' last year, but he's a horse who is still going strong and long may he continue. Marco Botti was another to do well overseas and he won his only Group One when Tac De Boistron took the French St Leger - although that in itself begs the question of whether that race's Group One status is open to question."
6) "We had another 'Duel On The Downs' in 2013 when Toronado got the better of Dawn Approach to win the Sussex Stakes and effectively decide that he was Europe's top three-year-old miler, indeed the top miler in Europe of any age. The form of that race really was rock-solid and it was backed up by the time figures clocked by the first two - in fact they produced the two fastest time-figures by any three-year-olds over any distance. But the essay on Toronado is as much about Richard Hannon as the horse and his amazing achievements in 43 years as a trainer. But there's some dispute as to whether he was champion trainer four or five times due to contention over how the trainers' championship was settled in 1993, something we go into as well. There's no dispute though, that from fairly humble beginnings, Hannon went on to set a remarkable total tally of 4,145 - according to our figures - winners."
Racehorses of 2013 costs £79 and can be ordered postage-free in the UK from www.timeform.com.