By Will Hayler
Crystal Ocean produced the best performance of the season so far when taking the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, according to the British Horseracing Authority handicappers.
With the updated official ratings being published on Tuesday, Crystal Ocean was shifted up 2lb to a mark of 127 - however, that rating is still a further 2lb below the mark of 129 he was initially given for chasing home stablemate Poet's Word in the King George 11 months ago.
Conceding the 3lb sex allowance to Magical, Crystal Ocean had a length and a quarter in hand of Aidan O'Brien's filly at the winning post.
Writing in the BHA's handicappers blog, Head of Handicapping Dominic Gardiner-Hill said: "Magical ended 2018 with a mark of 122 and nothing she had done in notching three straight wins this year prior to Ascot suggested that level was incorrect.
"In beating her fair and square I have Crystal Ocean running to 127, with French challenger Waldgeist 3lb below his best at 119 in third – no great surprise given that he has yet to reproduce his domestic level in five starts outside of France. The only slight question mark over the form is the relative closeness of the front-running Hunting Horn in fourth. He has never previously been higher than 114 but appears to have run to 115 on this occasion.
"From a historical perspective the winning performance is at the top end, bettering Poet’s Word last year by a pound and being the highest rated in the last eight runnings."
One possible surprise from the handicappers was the decision to rate Blue Point and Battaash equally on a mark of 123, despite Blue Point confirming his 2018 verdict over his rival in the King's Stand Stakes.
Handicapper Chris Nash wrote: "In 2018 Blue Point beat Battaash by one and three quarter lengths with a further neck back to Mabs Cross in third. This time around Blue Point again took the prize but on this occasion there was one and a quarter lengths back to Battaash in second, with a further one and a half lengths to Soldier’s Call in third. Mabs Cross was just a nose behind him in fourth.
"The last ten winners of this race range from 113 to 125 (the stunning effort of Lady Aurelia in 2017 with her fillies allowance added back in) and the average winner comes out at 118.
Applying race standards to the 2019 renewal suggests a figure between 117 and 119 for Blue Point. However, I’m happy to be plenty above that range as those figures are held back by a couple of moderate renewals in 2015 and 2016 where the winners (Goldream and Profitable) only recorded figures of 113. I’m sure that we are in a far better age of five-furlong sprinting at the minute.
"I decided to rate Blue Point 123 which equates to a career best. This has Battaash running to 119, Soldier’s Call running to 114 (which matches his previous career best) and Mabs Cross running to 111 (a few pounds below her very best).
"Blue Point went into the King’s Stand rated 120, 3lb behind the 123-rated Battaash. However, given that Blue Point has now come out on top the last three times that they have met, that differential can no longer be supported.
"Some people might suggest that I’m slightly sitting on the fence in rating them both 123 after this race but I can’t pick the one that is the best. Battaash can be electric on his day and he looks best over a sharp five furlongs – if the pair met at (say) Goodwood I’d want him on my side. Stage the race at Ascot over a stiffer five furlongs and Blue Point would definitely appear to hold the aces."
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, it was the Chesham Stakes - a contest sometimes maligned in recent years - that threw up the juvenile performance of the week with winner Pinatubo impressing both in style and on the clock.
In doing so, he earned a rating of 110, the best performance produce by a two-year-old in Europe so far this season.
Lead Two-Year-Old Handicapper Graeme Smith commented: "Pinatubo lowered the two-year-old track record by no less than 0.82 seconds, which translates to nearly five lengths. That’s the headline, but those of us who take these things seriously will know that more important in terms of context is how the time stood up against other races under that day’s conditions – drying ground and tailwind – and again the answer was positive.
"In a soundly-run race the match-up with the much-hyped Lope Y Fernandez duly materialized as the market leaders were played together approaching the final 1f, and Pinatubo ran right away from him to score by more than three lengths.
"The striking thing on the sectionals was that the other principals largely kept going through the last two furlongs but Pinatubo actually quickened off that pace, earning himself extra credit into the bargain. Lope Y Fernandez ran to 101 on my figures, although, as with all the Irish horses, a final decision on their handicap marks lies with my Irish counterpart."
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