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Saturday, 17 March 2012

Time to retire Kauto Star

The 460th edition of the Wayward Lad blog.

What a day for horseracing and, thankfully, a safe return for KAUTO STAR to the stables at Ditcheat. I do not think I am alone in saying that the horse should not have been at Cheltenham today. Throughout his career, he has shown that he is vulnerable to injury whenever he takes a tumble, and the fall in training just 3-weeks ago (described as “horrendous”) clearly left its mark. Ever since he fell at Exeter in January 2005 and was re-mounted by Ruby Walsh to finish the race (an action that subsequently resulted in remounting being banned), KAUTO STAR has taken time to recover from a fall. Personally, I now feel that the horse should be honourably retired as he’s done enough for the sport to earn that retirement. I will likely never see another horse like Kauto Star in my lifetime - not just a good horse, but a brilliant and resilient horse too.

The Gold Cup turned into an exciting race, even so. You have to take your hat off to Jonjo O’Neill in producing SYNCRONISED here in the peak of form as this was only his 2nd chase race of the season (he ran in two hurdle races in the autumn, including an eye-catching 3rd in the “fixed-brush” at Haydock behind Dynaste). What I find unsettling is that Racing Post Ratings (RPR) have rated this Gold Cup win at RPR175 which is a 4lb improvement on what they rated his Lexus Chase win at on 28th December. Did Roberto Goldback (beaten 14-lengths into 4th) really equal his lifetime best performance that day? No, I don’t think he did; and I reckon SYNCRONISED ran to 168 in the Lexus. It's about time that those who rate racing (such as Racing Post Ratings) stop doing these knee-jerk uplifts every time a horse wins a decent race. SYNCRONISED is NOT racing at a level 10lb higher than when he won the Welsh National. What today's race showed was that too many trainers were running scared of LONG RUN last season, when they should not have been.

I’ve been saying for some time that LONG RUN is not an OR182 chaser, and that I had him at least 10lb lower than that. I reckon this Gold Cup result clearly demonstrates that LONG RUN is not the world-beater of a horse he was made out to be. He’s good, but he’s perhaps 14lb off the peaks achieved by the likes of Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander in their hey-day. So, where do I rate SYNCRONISED? According to my ratings assessment (and ratings are not the be all and end all, but they are a starting point) I have him at 168, as I reckon he matched his Lexus performance today. I was right in thinking that LONG RUN was within striking distance of a handful of other chasers, but I was mistaken in thinking the one to take advantage was WEIRD AL. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to be diverted from my own primary rules for Cheltenham, that Festival winners are most likely to be:-
(1) Last-time-out winners,
(2) Have run their previous race since 25th December 2011,
SYNCRONISED ticked both of those boxes, whereas Weird Al didn’t.

Burton Port, in 4th today, far from being 10lb better than before his injury (according to his trainer Nicky Henderson) is at about the same level he was as a novice; 160. He has already been overtaken by the rapidly improving THE GIANT BOLSTER, who has improved with every race (by about 20lb) this season. I thought he’d win the race when leading after the 2nd-last fence, but a mistake at the final fence cost him vital momentum. Had he jumped cleanly he may well have won as he had the stamina to pass LONG RUN on the run-in from the last.

Not the best of Festival’s for me, as I ended the meeting 5.5625pts down. It could have been so much different had Fruity O’Rooney – at 20/1 - held on to the lead on the opening day, or The Cockney Mackem – at 25/1 – had run on that bit earlier. But that’s racing.

Over the coming weeks I will be reviewing and rating the performances of the Festival and looking to find what the truly great efforts were, and by which horses.

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