Standout came into his second campaign with one of the most promising profiles among the three-year-old group - rated 111p after just four starts - and put that 'p' to work immediately, posting a rating of 119 straight out of the blocks, and became just the sixth three-year-old to win the Expressway in the last thirty years. Three of the other five (Trapeze Artist, Mentality and Saintly) went on to win at Group 1 level in that campaign and win at the highest level multiple times thereafter.
A rating of 119 for his Expressway success has seen Standout confirm himself as one of the stars of a strong three-year-old group that is already trending above average at the top end judged on Timeform ratings.
At the halfway point of the season the current three-year-old crop is shaping well judged by Timeform ratings, with the group bettering relevant recent benchmarks and trending well ahead of end-of-season pars at the top end.
The current crop has some star power at the top with Exceedance and Yes Yes Yes heading the ratings at 125 apiece. Both returned those ratings at their most recent runs having been behind third-ranked 124-rated Bivouac in a strong Golden Rose that featured all four of the current three-year-olds rated above 120 – the fourth being the 124-rated Castelvecchio.
Four three-year-olds rated higher than 120 at the halfway point of the season is up on a total of two in each of the past two seasons and sits above the recent weighted average of 2.9. The peak of that range was 2016/17 season when Flying Artie sat atop a group of six rated higher than 120.
That season was also the last time that there were two horses rated 125 or higher at the halfway mark of the season where the recent weighted average sits just below one.
Further highlighting the current crops position ahead of the curve is the average number of three-year-olds rated >120 by the end of season. This sits at just five in recent times with a rate of change from halfway of 1.90. In other words, there is typically 1.9 three-year-olds rated higher than 120 at the end of the season for every one at halfway.
If the current group follows along this average rate of change than we can expect to end the season with between seven and eight three-year-olds rated higher than 120 – trending towards a 52% increase on the recent average.
Median values for the group overall continue to hold steady year-on-year, evidence of a well-structured ratings set, but the count of horses rated 100 or higher is another key marker that sits up on recent averages – up 3.9%.
Of course, things don't always go so smoothly, and regression to the mean is hard to escape. The Flying Artie group we mentioned had six horses rated above 120 at the halfway mark, the highest in recent times, but couldn't build on that at all in the second half of the year.
By already uncovering four 120+ rated colts at halfway the current group may have made the task of doubling up in the second half of the season much tougher, but they have some strong candidates waiting in the 120-wings, now headed by Standout and the Caulfield Guineas 1-2 Alligator Blood and Super Seth (both rated 118).
Castelvecchio shared Timeform Champion Two-Year-Old honours with Microphone last season, both boasting ratings of 121. Microphone isn't in our three-year-old group, having disappointed in two outings this season, and is looking unlikely to join the 120+ club at three, but Spring Champion Stakes winner Shadow Hero (117) earned his peak rating by knocking off Castelvecchio and must be a strong candidate to break the 120 barrier in the autumn.
There are also the fillies to consider. Marks higher than 120 are rare air for fillies but Funstar (rated 117+) and Libertini (115+) shape as two strong candidates off high spring figures. Both have ratings underpinned by strong times and plenty of sectional substance to go with it.
One thing is for sure, this crop is a strong one, and the older horses, already looking vulnerable in the PWE (Post Winx Era) should be quaking in their boots heading into the autumn.