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

Matt Russell Roar Rookie

By Matt Russell, Matt Russell is a Roar Rookie


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    Should Winx come back for number 26? (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.


    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.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • November 15th 2017 @ 2:52pm
      Jim Pettyjohn said | November 15th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

      Totally agree. Longines just rates the greatest race. The greatest horse should be decided by their resume

    • Editor

      November 15th 2017 @ 4:23pm
      Tristan Rayner said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

      Good piece! Arrogate, we all know, isn’t going as good as he was.

    • Roar Guru

      November 15th 2017 @ 6:14pm
      kv joef said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

      Competent article Matt and i feel your pain.

      Recently, i have seen a few ‘local’ articles criticising the IFHA. but UNDERSTAND HOW THEY DO … the ratings that are released each month identify the single highest racing performance rating for target animal usually in an international G1 contest during the NH racing year.

      if the target horse races well below that high rating … then probably a bit-of-debate and an agreed figure usually less then that high mark – doesn’t happen often..

      Arrogate’s 134 came in this year’s Dubai Cup. as you have pointed out matt – no confirmation this year. that rating is wrong now – it was always wrong. there , Arrogate deserves a high number. Always thought a WR130 was his number.

      any horse that rates above WR125 is an absolutely outstanding animal and Arrogate was that (for 5 months) but his uncorrected high number insults many truly great horses.

      Incidentally, Greg Carpenter, our ihfa rep, argues that Winx replicated her 132 in the Turnbull. the best performance of any horse world-wide this year. it was pretty close i reckon, particularly if Gun Runner supposedly rated 129 in the 2017 Breeders Classic – another joke from the americans …

      i absolutely support Carpenter’s proposition that Winx is the world’s best horse and has been for some time … probably since last year’s Cox.

      the cunning behind these U.S ratings is they get to justify both numbers at once. Arrogate beat home Gun Runner in the Dubai Cup. and now, gun runner has only slightly improved his rating to win this year’s classic. What a surprise they have both been retired to stud and can’t be tested any further..

      i cannot think of a situation where Gun Runner could beat Winx, Enable, Cracksman or Ulysses or 2000m … and there are a couple of really nice Japanese horses ready to loosen up next month.

      Anyway, the finalised ‘world rankings’ order is based on their overall best performances throughout the year decided during the pzzz-up when all the rep handicappers gather … used to be at HK’s international week and officially after released after.the Arima Kinen (24/12) … the last major of the year.

      Do i think Winx will get the nod? … yes or at worst share it.

      PS Hugh Bowman is hanging on to the world’s top jockey lead – Ryan Moore 12pts behind. Like to see him last but still a few races to go.

    • November 15th 2017 @ 10:01pm
      johnny nevin is a legend said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

      It’s the best racing performance rating all year as opposed to best horse around right now. Winx is a better horse than Arrogate on recent form but Dubai cup still best performance of the year according to international ratings

      • Roar Guru

        November 15th 2017 @ 10:55pm
        kv joef said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:55pm | ! Report

        they review all contentious RACE ratings at the end of the year … they may decide that Arrogate’s Dubai Cup was too high as i said – they should – it was.

        Example …
        After last years Cox Plate the Nov 6th Winx was given a WR130 … she didn’t race again.

        Final end-of-year ratings gave Winx a WR132

        Winx has received her first 132 this year for defeating Le Romain (WR120) by 7.3L in the Geo. Ryder, arguably her second defeating Hartnell (122) by 5.3L in the QEII and her 3rd defeating Humidor (122) by 7.3L in the Turnbull. Basically 3 confirmations within a year.

        You will notice other adjustments as well.

        • November 16th 2017 @ 12:23am
          Scuba said | November 16th 2017 @ 12:23am | ! Report

          You can’t use Humidor as a measuring stick. The difference between his best and his worst (for a very very good horse) is outrageous. How does the “confirmation” go if you use the “good” Humidor’s Cox Plate run as opposed to the “bad” Humidor who was beaten by Ventura Storm in the Turnbull?

          • Roar Guru

            November 16th 2017 @ 9:26am
            kv joef said | November 16th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

            i didn’t use humidor – greg carpenter did … and I TOTALLY AGREE. you may think there are two humidors, i don’t.

            the ‘good’ humidor ran in the Cox plate – Winx ran a course record after covering a mountain of ground and racing totally different to her normal modus operandi. If she would have been mine i wouldn’t have been afraid to force the pace and wind-it-up from the 1000m. they would have been scattered at the end like the turnbull.

            the cox was her second record of the spring campaign. The first breaking the 35 yea-old G.Main Stks record of All Our Mob – a pretty serious G1 racehorse.

            anyway, back to the ‘good’ humidor – he beat Jameka (WR121) in the Aust. Cup so his mark WR122 is already established.

            The race-pattern of the turnbull helped Ventura Storm (WR111) hold on against a tired humidor, coming from second last, but still trying in the Turnbull. he never quit or dog’d it. watch him.

            the turnbull could be viewed as a match race between humidor and winx … the only two WR120+ horses in the race and the rest were in their own race.

            Weir’s horse always had the sit on her on at the pace she was running. he tried to make a race but couldn’t and eventually busted at the 250m. it was a fair defeat and the 7 lens a confirmed margin in true match-up style. horse against horse.

            if there is no winx … does humidor win the turnbull? maybe it was the ‘good’ humidor in the turnbull afterall..

            • November 16th 2017 @ 10:39am
              no one in particular said | November 16th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              For the record, Winx beat Humidor by 7.25l in the Turnbull and ran 1m less. In the Cox Plate Winx beat Humidor by 0.4l and ran 8m more. Given the way both races were run the difference is marginal

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