Having ended a losing run with an impressive victory in a handicap at Wetherby last month, the nine-year-old faced a huge step up in class in Saturday’s Ascot Grade One – and was priced up accordingly as the 66-1 outsider of five runners.
But having been ridden with restraint, he came home strongly to pick up minor honours – finishing only seven and a half lengths behind the winner Defi Du Seuil and just under five off the runner-up Un De Sceaux.
Marracudja was given a revised rating of 154 on Tuesday morning – 11lb higher than before the race and a stone above his highest winning mark.
A clearly frustrated Skelton said: “They want to know why we don’t run in these big races for the good prize-money on offer – and then this happens.
“Marracudja went 12 races without a win before he won at Wetherby, and the handicapper reacted to that by putting him up 9lb. He’s now been put up another 11lb after the run at Ascot.
“It’s an unpalatable decision, and I think the court of public opinion would agree.”
The Alcester trainer is adamant Marracudja managed to get so close to the chasing stars only because the pace of the race was so slow.
He added: “Everyone can see it was a very slowly-run race. I think they analysed the sectionals on TV afterwards, which confirmed it.
“Marracudja has come through and picked up the pieces, after Janika and Capeland tried to go with two multiple Grade One winners in Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux.
“The owners were delighted to see him run so well, and he did pick up a lot of prize-money – but at the end of the day it is about winning, and unfortunately I don’t think you’ll hear Marracudja’s name mentioned in a finish again for a long time.”
After the Clarence House, the veterinary officer reported Skelton’s charge had bled from the nose, but the trainer said: “I think it was something that happened post race – it obviously didn’t affect his performance.”
Marracudja is likely to make his next appearance in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on February 8 – a Grade Two contest better known as the Game Spirit, in which he is likely to meet Nicky Henderson’s dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Altior.
“We’ll probably run him in the Game Spirit – and he’ll finish third, fourth or fifth,” said Skelton.
“Make no mistake, if they go quick he’ll finish out the back.”
Explaining the reasoning behind Marracudja’s new rating, a BHA spokesperson said: “Marracudja’s mark was due to be revised to 146 following his recent win at Wetherby – because the horse that had finished second to him, Hawk High, had subsequently run to a higher rating.
“In relation to the race at Ascot, the handicapper assessed Defi Du Seuil to have run to a bare figure of 167, Un De Sceaux to 164 and Marracudja to 159. Given the easy manner of the Defi Du Seuil’s victory, his revised his mark was put up to 170.
“Marracudja’s defeat of Janika, rated 165, and Capeland, rated 153, left the handicapper with the view that Marracudja should, as a minimum, be rated higher than Capeland should the two meet again on handicap terms.
“As such, it was felt the appropriate rating for the horse was 154. Mr Skelton does have the opportunity to appeal the horse’s handicap rating to an independent panel should he so wish.”
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