The European Classifications: Peerless Pinatubo in a league of his own

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Wed 22 Jan 2020
 Pinatubo romped home by nine lengths at the Curragh (Focusonracing)
Pinatubo romped home by nine lengths at the Curragh (Focusonracing)

Pinatubo first, the rest nowhere. It became a familiar refrain last year and was recognised on Wednesday when he was awarded a rating at least 10lb higher than any of his peers in the European Classifications.

Godolphin’s brilliant colt was allotted an end-of-season rating of 128, making Pinatubo the highest-rated juvenile for a quarter of a century and rated superior, at least as a two-year-old, too such as Frankel.

Pinatubo will have to improve another massive chunk to match that giant of the turf - 12lb to be precise - but he already has the bookmakers running scared.

The Charlie Appleby-trained son of Shamardal, himself a champion two-year-old, is trading about Evens for the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 2 and also heads the ante-post betting for the Invested Derby the following month.

The BHA's lead two-year-old Handicapper Graeme Smith said: "Pinatubo looked a potentially outstanding two-year-old when thrashing a competitive field in the Vintage Stakes and his next performance in the National Stakes was breathtaking - the kind you rarely see in top company - as he powered nine lengths clear of Armory and Arizona in a top-class time.

“This was one of the great two-year-old performances, and the best by any two-year-old in the last 25 years. I can't wait to see him as a three-year-old."

Regardless of what the future holds for him, nobody will ever be able to deny that the horse named after a volcano in the Philippines produced a string of explosive displays in 2019 when he won his six races by an aggregate of 24 lengths.

The highlight was his breathtaking nine-length romp in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh. In the closing stages it looked like he had jumped onto a travelator, helping him surge clear.

He was less dynamic on soft ground in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in October, having been on the go for most of the year, but still carved out victory by a couple of lengths.

Before achieving that Group one double, he had trounced his rivals in the Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood and breezed home in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Pinatubo’s flawless campaign delighted and surprised Appleby in equal measure; the trainer often repeating that at home the horse goes about his business in a non-flashy style.

 Pinatubo is out on his own at the Curragh (Focusonracing)
Pinatubo is out on his own at the Curragh (Focusonracing)

Appleby said: “We’re obviously delighted Pinatubo has been crowned European champion two-year-old. He’s wintering away here in the UK and we’re very happy with him.

“We’ve obviously had a fairly mild winter so far and his coat looks good.

“He’s just going through the motions at this stage. No serious questions have been asked yet, but his demeanour hasn’t changed – he’s still very relaxed and just goes about his business.”

Godolphin will take delight in the Classifications as they have five of top 17 colts, albeit that collectively last year's juveniles were a modest bunch.

The Andre Fabre-trained Earthlight, another unbeaten son of Shamardal, gives them a second powerful string to their 2000 Guineas bow – his rating of 118 being the equal of Qatar Racing’s Kameko, the runaway Vertem Futurity Trophy winner.

Earthlight won the Prix Morny and Middle Park last year, when he raced exclusively over six furlongs. Fabre is adamant he will be even better over a mile or more and racing fans can only hope that Sheikh Mohammed gives the French maetro the green light to line up against Pinatubo on the Rowley Mile in little more than three months’ time.

Millisle impressed in winning the Cheveley Park Stakes
Millisle impressed in winning the Cheveley Park Stakes

The Classifications also make pleasant reading for Jessica Harrington as the veteran trainer, better known for her exploits with National Hunt horses, has the highest-rated filly in Millisle, the Cheveley Park winner, and the joint second-highest in Albigna.

The champion filly was the Jessica Harrington-trained Millisle, who achieved a rating of 115 for her surprise 16-1 success in the Cheveley Park Stakes.

Harrington’s Prix Marcel Boussac victor Albigna, Mark Johnston’s Cheveley Park second Raffle Prize and Fillies’ Mile winner Quadrilateral, from Roger Charlton’s yard, are all just 1lb behind on 114.

Mark Bird, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handicapper, said: “Millisle’s position at the top of the two-year-old filly rankings is a fitting finale to a juvenile season that can only be described as sensational for handler Jessica Harrington, who trained an amazing 21 individual two-year-old fillies to success in 2019.

“Millisle’s victory at Newmarket, when she defeated three Group Two and two Group Three winners, was the most substantive piece of form produced by any two-year-old filly in Europe in 2019.

“She deservedly emerges as champion in the division following in the footsteps of a long list of fillies, including Marling, Queen’s Logic, Tiggy Wiggy and Clemmie, who were all crowned champion two-year-old filly after winning this race.”

Overall the number of horses rated at 110 or above dropped to the joint-lowest total in recent times, with 40 horses hitting that mark compared to an average of 50 this century.

However, Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore will have some food for thought as they have just two of the top 22 in the Classifications. And that pair, in Arizona and Wichita, were put in their place by a perhaps slightly below-par Pinatubo in the Dewhurst.


Date: May 10. Track: Wolverhampton. Distance: 6f.

Race: Free Tips Every Day Novice Stakes

Runners: 11. Going: standard. Price: 3-1.

This Friday evening maiden on the all-weather hardly seemed the most obvious starting point for a superstar two-year-old but the first prize of £4,787 clearly interested Godolphin as they fielded three runners.

Pinatubo was wide and only seventh turning for home – trading at 14-1 in-running on Betfair – but he quickened up smartly under James Doyle to win going away by three and a quarter lengths from the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Platinum Star.

Value of the form?: Platinum Star won next time out and also landed a Listed prize at Ripon. In between, he finished runner-up in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot plus the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket when beaten a short head. He won on his return in Dubai this year and has a rating of 106.

Date: May 31. Track: Epsom. Distance: 6f

Race: Investec Woodcote EBF Stakes (conditions)

Runners: 6. Going: good. Price: Evens.

James Willoughby and Angus McNae put the Woodcote under the microscope

A little restless in the stalls and awkward out of them, Pinatubo was left playing catch-up as Misty Grey zoomed into a clear lead.

Despite looking a little unbalanced on the track, Pinatubo overhauled Misty Grey about a furlong out and was then kept up to his work to keep the staying-on Oh Purple Reign at bay by a length and a half.

Value of the form?: Not a race to be getting carried away with, although Oh Purple Reign continued to run solidly. He won at York and Chester, plus finished runner-up in the Group Three Sirenia Stakes at Kempton.

Tom Stanley spoke to Charlie Appleby after Pinatubo's Epsom win

Date: June 22. Track: Ascot. Distance: 7f

Race: Chesham Stakes (Listed)

Runners: 14. Going: good to firm. Price: 3-1.

The day Pinatubo announced himself as potentially something out of the ordinary. His emphatic win here was the juvenile performance of the week at Royal Ascot with Timeform making him their highest-rated winner of the Chesham since at least 1992.

It looked like he and Lopey Y Fernandez, the favourite, trained by Aidan O’Brien, were in for quite a tussle when they locked horns a furlong out but Pinatubo stayed on much the strongest to score by three and a quarter lengths. The field finished well strung out.

Value of the form?: The runner-up had another crack at Pinatubo at Goodwood the following month (see next race) before landing the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh and then finishing sixth in the Middle Park. Harpocrates, the fifth, went on to finish a neck second in the Acomb Stakes at York., while the seventh, Year Of The Tiger (108), signed off the year by finishing third in the Veretm Futurity.

Date: July 30. Track: Goodwood. Distance: 7f

Race: Qatar Vintage Stakes (Group Two)

Runners: 11. Going: standard. Price: 6-4.

Martin Dixon and Angus McNae on the "performance at the week" at Glorious Goodwood

A dazzling display with Pinatubo moving smoothly into contention before forging away in the closing stages to win in an electric time. James Doyle gave him the smallest of flicks of the whip as he pulled five lengths clear of Positive.

There was the same distance back to Lopey Y Fernandez in third, with the rest left in another parish.

Above, Appleby tells Lydia Hislop that Pinatubo reseves his best for the racecourse. Below, James Doyle gives his view

Value of the form?: Positive landed the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown on his next start, when beating Kameko by a nose. Lopey Y Fernandez, beaten an aggregate of ten lengths, also subsequently won in Group Three company. Mystery Power (sixth) had previously won the Group Two July Stakes.

Date: September 15. Track: Curragh. Distance: 7f

Race: Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes (Group One)

Runners: 11. Going: good. Price: 1-3.

The Verdict: "One of the best performances we've ever analysed" says Angus McNae

A performance that had a wow factor – Pinatubo pummelling his opponents in a time only bettered by Hawk Wing in the race’s rich history.

It was a case of the further the better as Pinatubo crossed the line nine lengths clear. William Buick was grinning like a Cheshire cat by the finish.

Value of the form?: Aidan O’Brien often runs his leading 2000 Guineas hopes in the National Stakes and he was responsible for the next pair home in Armory and Arizona.

Armory had previously been successful in the Group Two Futurity Stakes and Group Three Tyros Stakes (by five lengths), while Arizona had scooped the Group Two Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Pinatubo went into the race with an official rating of 120, while the placed horses lined up with marks of 110 and 108 to their name. Armory went on to finish a length third in the Group One Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (behind Victor Ludorum).

Appleby reacts to Pinatubo's fabulous display in Ireland

Date: October 12. Track: Newmarket. Distance: 7f

Race: Darley Dewhurst Stakes(Group One)

Runners: 9. Going: good. Price: 1-3.

With the ground soft and Pinatubo having had a busy year, there was a niggle that this race might be one too many for him.

He did lack the brilliance he showed at the Curragh but, equally, displayed great determination when ridden to challenge over a furlong out and in the closing stages he pulled a couple of lengths clear.

Arizona, trained by Aidan O’Brien, filled the runner-up spot with three of his stablemates filling the next places.

Value of the form?: Arizona had finished nine lengths behind Pinatubo at the Curragh – this time he got seven lengths closer. Wichita had previously been a runaway winner of the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes, while Year Of The Tiger, who was fourth, went on to be third in the Group One Vertem Futurity.


Pinatubo clearly came to hand early and was Appleby’s fifth two-year-old to run when lining up at Wolverhampton in the second week of May.

But he improved in chunks with every run and those who suspect he may nothing more than just a precocious two-year-old are surely barking up the wrong tree.

His breeding points to him improving with time and, physically, while he’s not the biggest, there is some substance to him.

Perhaps he will not be open to masses of improvement in 2020, but he has already raised the bar incredibly high for those trying to get to his level.

William Buick tells Nick Luck that "it felt as good as it looked" at the Curragh


The two-year-old Classifications were introduced in 1978 and provide us with something of a measuring stick

The highest rating, of 130, was allocated to Arazi in 1991 and to Celtic Swing three years later. Xaar was awarded a mark of 127 and in the past decade Frankel, Dream Ahead, New Approach and Too Darn Hot have been bracketed on 126.

So what did the previous exalted juveniles go on to achieve?


He was unbeaten in six races and had already won three Group One race before his mesmerising performance in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he weaved around rivals as if they were mannequins before motoring five lengths clear

He also won easily on his return in America but then the wheels fell off. He trailed home eighth in the Kentucky Derby before finishing only fifth in the St James’s Palace Stakes when 10-11 favourite.

Another odds-on defeat, dropped to Group Three company at Longchamp, showed that the roaring flame of the monster two-year-old had all but been extinguished a year later.


His stunning 12-length victory in the 1994 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster followed an eight-length trouncing of Singspiel at Ascot.

Singspiel went on to scale the heights and achieve an official rating of 132, but it never quite happened for Celtic Swing in four starts as a three-year-old.

He won the Greenham with something to spare on his return but he found Pennekamp too strong in the 2000 Guineas. He went one better in the French Derby, when it was run over 1m4f, but ran well below his best when eighth in the Irish Derby and did not race again.


His seven-length romp in the 1997 Dewhurst promised much but he subsequently won just once, when a workmanlike winner of the Craven on his return the following year.

Sent off at 10-11 for the 2000 Guineas, he had to settle for fourth behind King Of Kings – a first winner in the race for Aidan O’Brien.

Later in the year he finished third in the Irish Champion Stakes and, kept in training, he was runner-up in the Coral Eclipse the following summer.


His exploits as a two-year-old included a ten-length win in the Royal Lodge Stakes and a decisive success in the Dewhurst.

He continued to carry all before him for the next two seasons, his all-the-way win in the 2000 Guineas on his return in 2011 getting the ball rolling.

Sir Henry Cecil, his trainer, was among those to hail him as the greatest thoroughbred there has been. Retired to the breeding sheds unbeaten in 14 starts and has quickly made a significant impact as a stallion.

Horses That Made History: Read our Frankel essay.


William Buick was aboard when he stormed to a nine-length victory in the 2010 Middle Park, having earlier won the Prix Morny.

The following year he confirmed himself a sprinter of the highest order, winning the July Cup and Sprint Cup before signing off with a head defeat of Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret.


New Approach was unbeaten in five starts as a two-year-old, capping his flawless campaign with successive victories in the National Stakes and Dewhurst.

He lost his unbeaten record when beaten a nose in the 2000 Guineas and he also had to settle for second in the Irish equivalent before scooping the Derby.

New Approach was a late withdrawal from the Irish Derby but returned later in the year to also scoop the Irish and English versions of the Champion Stakes.


Unbeaten in four starts as a two-year-old, with Advertise and Anthony Van Dyck chasing him home in the Dewhurst.

His three-year-old campaign begin with injury and defeats in the Dante, Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes but he then won successive Group One races – being impressive when scoring in the Sussex Stakes.

Unfortunately, a few days later it was revealed he had sustained a career-ending injury.

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