Lankan Rupee, the horse with the white heart marking on his head, affirmed his title as the best sprinter in the world with a dominant victory on Day 1 of The Championships at Randwick.
A prize-money boost to the traditional Australian Derby Day card, the return of the Doncaster Mile (1600m, Group 1, handicap) to the meeting, and the new ‘Championships’ branding put the racing world’s focus on Sydney.
And those that made the effort to watch the racing from around the world were properly rewarded when four-year-old sprinter Lankan Rupee went to a new mark in recording another dominant victory, this time in the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age).
This was a flawless performance from the gelding. From the inside barrier, on a bottomless heavy track and in driving rain, Lankan Rupee was miles too good in his Group 1 weight-for-age debut.
He fired out of the barriers for jockey Craig Newitt and held a length advantage over the field before any proper order had been established. Then, importantly, he settled beautifully in the lead.
Lankan Rupee is a kind traveller, which will help him reach the summit of his unbounded potential. A horse like Boban may never capitalise on his great talent because of a tendency to pull for more rein in the middle stages of races. Whenever Boban pulls, his acceleration is blunted.
The ability to settle sweetly is important, but what really stamps Lankan Rupee as a super horse is his turn of foot and capacity to maintain his top speed for up to 400 metres. For a sprinter, it’s an incredible engine.
Approaching the famous Randwick rise, Lankan Rupee was asked to put the TJ Smith to rest with less than 400m to go. Within five strides, he had Buffering – a three time Group 1 weight-for-age winner at 1200m this season – disappearing quickly from his rear-view mirror.
Despite not being totally comfortable in the bog, Lankan Rupee was a mile too powerful for the best weight-for-age line-up seen in Australia this racing year. His two-length victory was decisive.
Lankan Rupee has now won three Group 1s in succession, is clearly the best Australian horse in training, and the best sprinter on the planet.
The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities made updates to their world rankings just in time for start of The Championships. On Saturday morning, Lankan Rupee sat in eighth position in the world with a ranking of 121 – some three points clear of the US sprinter Sahara Sky on 118, who has a ranking of 14 and is rated the second best at the caper in the world.
The world No. 1 is the Japanese middle-distance galloper Just A Way, who was awesome on Dubai World Cup night in March when destroying the Dubai Duty Free (1800m, Group 1, weight-for-age) field. Just A Way’s rating of 130 is the same rating that had Black Caviar in top spot last year.
There is, however, a lack of depth at the top of world racing right now. Lankan Rupee’s 121 rating would have had him ranked 22nd in the world 12 months ago, alongside Australian sprinter Mental and Pierro.
May 2012’s rankings tell a similar story. A rating of 121 would earn a horse a ranking of 22, which is where Atlantic Jewel was placed after a couple of stunning victories at Randwick that autumn.
The British immortal Frankel was the best horse in the world at that point with a rating of 138, Black Caviar second at 130 and the mighty Hay List at equal sixth, with So You Think, at 125.
Sepoy (123), Foxwedge (122) and More Joyous (122) were other Australians to be awarded ratings higher than Lankan Rupee’s current mark of 121.
These comparisons serve as a reality check for anyone wanting to place Lankan Rupee in the grade that would test Black Caviar. Only the likes of Todman, Vain and Manikato belong in that group.
I have Lankan Rupee at a very similar level to a five- or six-year-old Hay List.
I think the Hay List that was beaten three lengths as a five-year-old in that famous 2011 TJ Smith would probably beat Lankan Rupee right now. Hay List showed brilliant acceleration to have Black Caviar under rare pressure. In the end, Hay List beat third by five lengths but was beaten by three himself.
Hay List then won the All Aged (1400m, Group 1, weight-for-age) by nearly four lengths to showcase his quality at the sprint-mile caper.
His next start was in the 2011 BTC Cup (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age) in Brisbane and Hay List ran Black Caviar to two lengths while beating Buffering by almost five. In a race with the same conditions, Lankan Rupee had Buffering – much better in 2014 than 2011 – beaten by two lengths on Saturday.
Then there was Hay List’s Newmarket (1200m, Group 1, handicap) in 2012 when he carried 58.5kgs – four kilos more than Buffering – to a nose victory over the Queenslander.
Lankan Rupee’s 2014 Newmarket with 56.5kgs was far more destructive, taking the Victorian to the top of world sprinting. But Hay List beat a much better field (Foxwedge was a close third) carrying the biggest weight to Newmarket success since 1959.
It’s fantastic to know that Australian racing is home to the world’s best sprinter again. As an industry that prides itself on sprint racing, it’s important we do it well.
But it is equally disappointing to hear trainer Mick Price say that he wants to keep Lankan Rupee racing in Australia. There will be no Royal Ascot trip this year, if at all. I wouldn’t be counting on a trip to Hong Kong in December either.
Lankan Rupee will spell now. He’ll return in the Melbourne spring to be set for races like the Manikato (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age) on Cox Plate eve and the VRC Sprint Classic (1200m, Group 1, weight-for-age) on the final day of Melbourne Cup week.
The intention is to have Lankan Rupee at his top – a level I believe he is yet to reach – for as long as possible and to maximise the prize-money he earns on the track.
In that sense, we are lucky the TJ Smith is the richest sprint in the world. With some luck, Lankan Rupee may run in four or five.
And, after his brilliant display on Saturday, that’s sure to be exciting.