Is this a golden era in Australian racing?
Black-Caviar wins Diamond Jubilee to earn greatness (AFP)
The Spring Carnival is on the horizon and it promises to be a fantastic couple of months of racing. This year we could be greeted by the best international contingent to have ever travelled to Melbourne, but the locals look to be equally as strong.
Timeform has five Australian-trained gallopers ranked inside the top 25 in the world. It’s some achievement because Timeform is an English organisation that is often criticised for its European bias.
With that in mind, it makes you wonder whether Australian racing is currently enjoying a golden period.
To try and shed some more light on where the best Australian gallopers stand, I’ve compiled my own rankings. Complete objectivity is unattainable but I’ve tried to be as impartial as possible in this exercise.
It’s an incredibly difficult task to line-up form over varying distances from across the globe. While the whole of a horse’s career has been factored, recent form was the major consideration.
Here are my rankings for the top 15 racehorses in the world:
1. Frankel (England, Timeform ranking as at three July 2012 is 1)
2. Black Caviar (Australia, 2)
3. Cirrus Des Aigles (France, =3)
4. Hay List (Australia, 5)
5. St Nicholas Abbey (Ireland, =6)
6. Danedream (Germany, =6)
7. So You Think (Ireland, =6) (retired)
8. Orfevre (Japan, =6)
9. Nathaniel (England, =25)
10. Atlantic Jewel (Australia, =22)
11. Camelot (Ireland, 11)
12. I’ll Have Another (USA, =12) (retired)
13. Golden Lilac (France, =25)
14. More Joyous (Australia, =24)
15. Excelebration (Ireland, =3)
Frankel picks himself at one and no-one can begrudge Black Caviar of her place at two. French star Cirrus Des Aigles heads the best of the middle-distance horses at three while Hay List’s close-up second-place finishes against a flying Black Caviar make him easy to pick at four.
St Nicholas Abbey’s performances in England (three-time Group One winner), Dubai (second to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Sheema Classic) and America (Breeder’s Cup Turf winner) get him to a ranking of five.
German mare Danedream has won since last year’s five length Arc de Triomphe success, So You Think’s feats are well publicised and Orfevre remains at the head of the very strong Japanese staying ranks after building off his 2011 Japanese three-year old Triple Crown success this season.
Nathaniel bursts into the top ten after his win in the Eclipse Stakes (2018 metres) at the weekend. Along with Saturday’s length success, he boasts a half-length second to Frankel over 1407 metres and a three-length romp over former English Derby winner Workforce and St Nicholas Abbey over 2414 metres at Group One level as a three-year old last season.
It was hard to split leading three-year olds Camelot, I’ll Have Another and Atlantic Jewel.
The undefeated dual-Group One winner Atlantic Jewel has never been tested and is the only one of the three to have been victorious against open age gallopers, but Camelot and I’ll Have Another – who was retired in May after suffering a leg injury – have won three Group Ones each.
Golden Lilac was the best French three-year old filly last season and has recorded a victory over Cirrus Des Aigles in 2012, while eight-time Group One winner More Joyous comes in at 14 after an undefeated Sydney Carnival.
Excelebration rounds out the 15. I don’t think there’s much depth in the European mile ranks and Excelebration is the best of them after Frankel.
Four Australians – Black Caviar (ranked second), Hay List (fourth), Atlantic Jewel (tenth) and More Joyous (14th) make my top 15. Even though none of these horses have performed past a distance of 2000 metres, it’s a fantastic show of strength for the Australian racing industry.
While we’re not quite there yet, I think Australian racing is on the cusp of a golden era at the present moment. The shift in breeding focus – towards producing sprinters and early-performing two-year olds – has only been a recent one in Australia and perhaps, after a few decades of tinkering, the industry has once again figured out how to breed a champion.
Black Caviar’s career is almost a race-by-race proposition after her injury-prone frame once again came under sufferance at Royal Ascot, while Hay List is recovering from a serious leg injury that may force his retirement.
Whenever these two sprinters take to the track from now it should be viewed as a bonus.
But there is still plenty of improvement in some of the nation’s other stars. Atlantic Jewel and More Joyous will head the Australian contingent in October’s Cox Plate. They are two fantastic horses but may not have it their own way in the spring and that is because there is growing depth in the Australian mile and middle-distance ranks.
Pierro and Mosheen are brilliant younger horses that have been dominant against their own age and show all the signs of being able to make the step-up to open age Group Ones.
Make good note of Atlantic Jewel, Pierro and Mosheen because that trio could dominate Australian racing for the next few seasons. All three of them have the ability to take it to the world should their owners harbour global ambitions.
And of the older brigade, former Europeans Lucas Cranach (also recovering from a leg injury), Manighar and Mawingo add plenty of depth.
The last time Australian racing had so many good gallopers at the middle distances was probably in the early 1990s when Better Loosen Up, Super Impose and Let’s Elope headlined a fantastic time for racing in Australia.
I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many Aussie-bred Melbourne Cup winners in the near future, but with so many exciting horses coming through over shorter distances it doesn’t matter.
Good horses make good racing regardless of the distance. And Australian racing fans should be preparing themselves one of the best spring carnivals in years.
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