Form has Winx as the best racehorse in the world – even if the rankings don’t

Matt Russell Roar Rookie

By , Matt Russell is a Roar Rookie

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    Winx is already one of Australia's best horses. (AAP Image/David Moir)

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    In the past fortnight, the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings have been updated, with American horse Arrogate rated two points higher than Winx from Australia, who is two clear again of Cracksman from Great Britain.

    The rankings are compiled by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) with the input of officials and handicappers from five continents.

    However, the clichéd term ‘horses for courses’ was coined for a reason. How can you possibly compare horses from different ages, distances, tracks, weather conditions, quality of competitors?

    A trainer trains a horse to win a race, no matter the opposition, the weight he is carrying, the prize money or by the winning margin.

    The latest rankings show some serious flaws in the system, based on the form – the facts.

    Arrogate has had five runs all year, four of them at Group 1 level, the other at Group 2. He won races in January and March, but then ran fourth, second and fifth respectively in the next three starts.

    Every one of those, the four-year-old colt jumped favourite between 1700-2000 metres. Although he won five straight between June and November last year, with two of those at Group level.

    Compare that to Winx.

    The six-year-old mare has had nine starts throughout 2017, winning every single race, on a range of different tracks and conditions, between 1400-2040 metres, with six at Group 1 level and two at Group 2.

    That takes her winning streak to 22 straight – beating horses the calibre of Hartnell, Humidor and Happy Clapper – and two of those victories were in the Cox Plate, the best weight-for-age race in Australasia.

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    AAP Image/Joe Castro

    Even Cracksman has won four races from six starts at Group level, with the other two being placings.

    Gun Runner, ranked fourth, from the USA has won five out of six with the other second to Arrogate.

    Based on form alone, Winx is a better horse than Arrogate over the 12 months the rankings claim to cover. The Australian has done everything that has been asked of her – win races.

    She cannot control the opposition that she is up against – she has beaten everyone that has been entered against her, which is nine times this year without fail. Only twice the winning margin was under a length.

    If not Winx, a case could even be made for Cracksman and Gun Runner.

    Even if you argue that Arrogate was up against better opposition, his fourth and fifth did not even challenge the winner, finishing more than six and 15 lengths behind the winner.

    It is really hard to justify the IFHA’s decision.

    A horse is not trained to finish on top of the rankings at the end of a season or year, unlike a golf or tennis player, it is trained to win each race it is entered, regardless of the other factors.

    Just like a football team playing at home, a horse is always going to perform better in conditions that it is accustomed. Just look at Black Caviar at Ascot. She won, to remain unbeaten, but did it much tougher than in Australia.

    Another way to prove my point is, hypothetically, if the top ten horses came together at a random track, over an average distance, carrying the same weight scale (factoring in age and sex) – how would the best horse be determined after the race?

    Would it be by who had the best run, how the rest of the field performed, who had the luck in running, or by the opinions of the stewards or officials?

    Of course not. It will be by first past the post. That is the nature of horse racing.