Last week we wrote about the optimism of August. The first month of the racing season is the last month before the spring, when the real action begins. In this pre-season of sorts, hopes are high, from the trainers huts to the punters in their dungeons.
It is the new-season three-year-olds who are the cause for greatest optimism in 2021/22 after a deplorable season for the not-so-classic generation in 2020/21.
We can check back through to the Hyde Park days of 1810 without finding an August where the three-year-olds haven't been hailed as outstanding but, a couple of weeks out from the season proper, there are genuine reasons and results to be upbeat about.
Paulele, as we wrote last week, can be rated and considered one of the very best winners of the Rosebud and now the same can be said for the winners of the first Group races for the colts, the Vain and the Up And Coming, won by Ingratiating and Tiger Of Malay respectively.
Only Bivouac and Sepoy put up better performances winning the Vain in the 10 years preceding Ingratiating who is rated 115 and ran very close to that (113+) winning on Saturday.
Ingratiating is the first of the top ten two-year-olds from last season to step out and we could hardly have expected more. The pace up front was steady for colts of this calibre, certainly favouring those closest to it, and Ingratiating picked them up in a twinkling. The margins flattered those behind him, but that isn't to say there wasn't promise behind him.
Ingratiating advertised the quality of the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper, while at Kembla Grange, Tiger Of Malay tipped the hat to the Sires, Champagne and Atkins.
That has been the theme of this crop - heirarchy. The best have beaten the best and the also rans have been left to also run.
Tiger Of Malay was no match for the 115-rated Converge, and no match at all for the 120-rated Anamoe in the Sires, but he was a lot better than these second (third?) stringers.
The margin in lengths was narrow but Tiger Of Malay wasn't a nose better better than Coastwatch - he was a nose and eight kilos better than the 95-rated Coastwatch. 18lbs split them at the finish on Timeform's scale handing Tiger Of Malay a rating of 113; up 3lbs on his prior best. No winner has had a bigger margin to second in.... 12 months. North Pacific beat Bazooka by 24lbs in a swamp last year. Tiger Of Malay now holds the second biggest margin over second in the Up And Coming going back to 1982. Of course, the conditions and grandeur of the race have vastly changed in the decade since the advent of the Run To The Rose and the Golden Rose itself.
In that last decade there have been eleven horses have run to a Timeform rating of 110 or better in the Up And Coming. Everyone loves lists, so here's a list of them:
North Pacific - Trapeze Artist - Divine Prophet - Derryn - Thronum - Prized Icon - Valentia - Drago - Toydini - Tatra - Manawanui
Eight of those eleven went on to win subsequent Group races - four at Group One level. 88 runners in the Up And Coming in that timespan have produced six to go on and win a Group One in that season, and four of them come from that 110+ set of eleven.
Two thirds of the Group One winners from just eleven of 88 runners. 12.5% winning at ~5x the rate of a typical Up And Coming runner.
The Vain hasn't been as productive as the Up And Coming in that time. 91 runners in the last ten years of the Vain have produced four Group One winners, two of those four from the subset of six that ran to 110 or higher in the Vain itself. They are:
Bivouac - Long Leaf - Safeguard - Fast 'n' Rocking - Sepoy - Golden Archer
So that sextet represents 6.6% of all Vain runners and 50% of the subsequent Group One winners; around 7.5 times the rate of a typical Vain runner.
Of course, this doesn't mean a whole lot to the punter. We can hardly extrapolate from this that Ingratiating is a 50% chance of winning a Group One or Tiger Of Malay a 36% chance. As famed investor Bill Miller wrote in is 2Q market letter in July:
"There are, of course, analogies that can be drawn about how the current environment maps onto previous historical data, but success in that depends crucially on how the future will, in fact, resemble the past."
A conundrum that investors and punters have pondered for centuries.
We don't know what the future holds for Ingratiating and Tiger Of Malay, or the three-year-old crop at large, but mapping them over the past can give us some meaningful clues. And at this stage, those clues are pointing to this group being a strong one.
There was plenty of other action around the grounds on Saturday.
- Behemoth won the Spring Stakes for the second year running and he did it with an identical Timeform rating of 113. He stepped up on that to run 122-122 winning the Memsie and the Rupert Clarke last year and must have a great shot at winning the former again. The latter might be a better target for the runner up, Beau Rossa, who only lost this in the steward's room and also ran to a rating of 113.
- King Of Sparta was another to throw up a positive clue around the three-year-old group with a clock-busting win at Kembla Grange. He is now rated 109+ and surely returns to Group races now.
- Gimme Par ran to 99 winning the Quezette which is in line with the other three-year-old trend at present. The fillies are slower than the colts, and by some way. Why? No idea. Will it change? No idea.
- Not a single four-year-old showed up for the Lawrence Stakes and Sierra Sue was able to win a slightly below average edition with a rating of 112. The promising run in the race was Superstorm who looks on track after a season where he never really got into a spot to show his best. If there is one from the Lawrence set to make a mark in better races this spring it's likely him.