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The dilemma of Boban and Guelph

The Sires Produce Stakes will be raced at Randwick today (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Roar Guru
15th November, 2013
6

A really interesting statement was posed by Scuba in Justin’s article on Boban by suggesting that “Guelph (amongst others) will thrash him (Boban)”.

This got me thinking – what can we expect of Boban and Guelph and ‘others’ come the autumn? Are there any clues present now?

In the same conversation, I theorised that Boban might get a mid-distance mainly because his physicality and colour traits lends themselves to the sire-line, particularly to Bernardini and Seattle Slew.

My prospectus suggests that the speed already displayed by Boban could only come from there.

Bernardini, with a record of six wins from eight starts, including three Group 1 wins between 1600/2000m, featuring the Preakness and him being acclaimed World Champion three-year-old; Eclipse Champion three-year-old colt.

Great-grand-daddy was Seattle Slew, one of the world’s greatest horses with 14 wins from starts, a triple crown winner having twice started at 2400m for a Belmont win and a nose second in the Group 1 Jockey Club.

Mostly his dominant efforts were between 1400 and 2000m and here dominant means panels of fence. He wasn’t hidden away either and raced at four years before retiring to stud.

Grand-dad was A.P. Indy, a US Hall-of-Famer with Group 1s including the Breeders’ Classic and Belmont.

But theory counts for nought; it’s cold hard facts we are after and luckily we do have some comparison data.

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During the spring Guelph and Boban raced twice on the same day, and three days apart at the Caulfield meet.

Some cold hard facts:

Sept 21: Guelph 1st x 1.8L (G2 3F Tea Rose) 1400m D4 1:22.1. Boban 1st x 4L (G3 Bill Ritchie – open aged) 1400m 1:21.93

Oct 5: Guelph 1st x 1.8L (G1 3F coolmore) 1600m G3 1:36.23. Boban 1st x 0.1L (G1 Epsom – open aged) 1600m 1:34.43 (2nd fastest in a decade).

Oct 19: Guelph 1st x 1.8L (G1 3F 1000G) 1600m G3 1:37.78 (av200m 24.45). Three days later (Oct 22) Boban 1st x 0.2L (G3 Moonga – open aged) 1400m 1:23.88 (av200m 23.97).

Nov 9: Boban 1st x 0.2L (G1 Emirates – open aged) 1600m D4 1:36.58 (av200m 24.15) allowing an acceptable ‘Track Condition’ adjustment of 0.7 brings it to the same split as the Moonga.

So nothing there to suggest a thrashing implied elsewhere but there is something in Guelph’s favour – age improvement, being only a spring three-year-old.

At this point in time, Guelph has an Official Rating of a 110, a little high for my liking but we will stick with VicRacing’s Handicapping team OTR (Official Thoroughbred Rating).

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The same team have given Boban an OTR of 116!

This means if they were to match-race today, even with the 2kg female allowance … Boban has two points to spare (1L).

Come the autumn and using WFA scale as reference for age improvement representing the maturing physicality of the horse, Guelph may improve as much as eight to 11 points compared to Boban’s two points. This gives Guelph maybe 120 to Boban’s 118.

Can we qualify the age improvement any further?

Guelph, from her two-year-old dominant wins and again using the WFA scale as reference, should have improved eight to nine points to her 1000 guineas win rating of 110. She did, going from 102 (Champagne) to 110 (1000 Guineas).

Question is, will this big lump of a thing continue to mature to scale?

So how about Boban?

We can’t get a line on Boban other than this spring preparation where he jumped a stunning 25 points. Leaping up the scale like an equine Steve Hooker.

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But how much improvement is left in him? Will he come back? Is he a one-hit wonder?

What we know is that Boban, right now, is in the top couple of horses in the country. Doing this without a WFA start.

He is among the fastest in his distance range and certainly producing times that Guelph is yet to display.

In fact, her times are pretty ordinary but she has been belting fillies so maybe she can find two seconds required for the top shelf.

How good has the competition been?

Guelph has beaten some interesting types but is hardly a proven Group 1 horse among them – although that may change.

But to-date, Shamus Award is the only three-year-old to have competed successfully at open-age Group 1 company.

A few have tried including Guelph’s stablemate, Sidestep, and he finished in front of Guelph in the Golden Slipper.

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Boban has beaten all comers. The beaten have formlines through Group 1 races all over the place including Streama (the Guelph of her time) and noted performers Sizzling (twice), Sacred Falls (twice), Toydini (twice) but like Guelph ‘you are only beating what’s put in front of you’.

I agree they are not great Group 1 horses, but more than competent.

I’m old school. I like to see budding champs put at least one group quality time on the board. At the moment it is Boban two, Guelph 0.

Guelph will have as much to prove as Boban come the autumn. Beating this crop of fillies is no wrap. And the male horses that finished behind her in the Sires and Champagne are equally uninspiring.

Of course, there is another question. Where do we put Shamus Award in all this?

Currently Shamus has an OTR of 115 and if he follows the age improvement afforded the WFA Scale he should be around 125 come autumn. This would make him one of the world’s best horses.

Now, I like Shamus and think he will prove a worthy Cox Plate winner but that skyscraper rating doesn’t sit well. Then again who knows? Stranger things have happen like a maiden winning the Cox Plate.

Let’s ponder Shamus Award for a minute and suggest he only returned 110 when winning the Cox, consistent with a ‘high’ Caulfield Guineas OTR of 109.

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There are a few other performances from the Cox Plate race that might support this appraisal. This rating of 110 is still very impressive.

If the lower rating for Shamus was true, it would mean a global readjustment seeing Guelph’s proposed autumn figure drops by five points, causing the argument about supremacy to rage on.

If Greg Carpenter, the head of VicRacing’s handicapping team is right – and more times than not he is (remember his weighting of Sea Moon in the Cup or pushing for Shamus’ inclusion in the Cox Plate) – maybe we should be asking whether Shamus Award beats Guelph?

Carpenter currently thinks he has the edge.

Another piece in the puzzle is that Darley have clearly chosen to protect Guelph for the autumn even though the rest of the spring filly classics looked a mere formality.

What will her autumn target be? All the rich fillies races where she can continue to ooze invincibility or a crack at the Doncaster or Queen Elizabeth?

Maybe Guelph’s aura will not be risked in the open-aged races?

On the other hand, Waller is already talking WFA campaigns for Boban eventually ending at the Cox Plate.

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Sydney’s top trainer is proving a reasonable judge and has a plenty of capable measuring sticks in his stable, so why bother to exaggerate as Boban’s only value is on the racecourse?

Waller was spoke in considered words, that if wrong may make him look foolish.

What a can of worms awaits in the autumn.