Obviously, the many imponderables dictating the outcome of any horse race mean that picking a winner is not altogether straightforward. Indeed, even successful punters cannot expect to correctly predict the result of every horse race on which they place a bet and losing runs are inevitable.
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the importance of luck in running, picking a winner essentially boils down to a handful of factors, most, if not all, of which can be determined by analysing the form book. You can often make an educated guess about ability or, in the case of unraced, promising or progressive horses, potential ability by reference to the pedigree of the horse in question and its recent recent performances on the racecourse. Furthermore, certain organisations, including Racing Post and Timeform, publish ratings that express, in Imperial pounds, the ability of each horse in the eyes of their private handicappers, which can be extremely useful for comparison purposes. Recent form, say, within the last six weeks or so, indicates that a horse is likely to fit and ready to do itself justice.
Beyond that, the fact remains that most horse races are won by horses that are attempting little, or nothing, more than they have achieved in the past. Beware of any marked disparity in class, distance, going, value and weight; winning horses inevitably rise in the weights, according to official ratings allocated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), but the weight a horse carries ultimately affects the speed at which it can gallop.
On October 15, 2011, on the final start of his three-year-old campaign, Frankel ran on powerfully to beat Excelebration by 4 lengths in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, over the straight mile at Ascot, as a result of which he was awarded a Timeform rating of 143+. At that stage of his career, Frankel was rated just 2lb inferior to Sea-Bird, awarded a Timeform rating of 145 after winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by six lengths, although the ‘+’ attached to his rating indicated that he ‘may be be better than rated’. Indeed, Timeform hailed the ‘bold and refreshing decision’ by owner Khalid Abdulla to keep Frankel in training as a four-year-old.
So it proved, because on June 19, 2012, on the second start of his four-year-old campaign and his eleventh start in all, Frankel recorded an extremely impressive 11-length victory over his old rival Excelebration in the Queen Anne Stakes, over the same course and distance, to achieve a Timeform rating of 147+. Frankel did not better that rating when stepped up to a mile and a quarter, and beyond, in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York and the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, but nonetheless remains the highest-rated horse in the history of Timeform.
On June 19, 2012, Frankel recorded what the Racing Post reported as an ‘extremely impressive’ 11-length victory over Excelebration in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and, in so doing, became the highest-rated horse in the history of Timeform, which first published ratings in ‘Racehorses of 1948’. As confirmed in ‘Racehorses of 2012’, Frankel was awarded a rating of 147, 2lb superior to Sea-Bird, who was beaten just once in an eight-race career in 1964 and 1965 and awarded a rating of 145 after winning all five starts as a three-year-old. Sea-Bird raced just once in Britain, effortlessly beating Meadow Court and twenty other rivals by two lengths in the Derby without coming off the bridle.
Later in 1965, Sea-Bird was sent off 6/5 favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, despite facing the strongest field of middle-distance talent ever assembled, including the hitherto unbeaten Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, winner Reliance. Despite sweating profusely in the preliminaries, Sea-Bird was travelling well in fifth place approaching the home straight and, thereafter, came clear of his rivals along with the eventual runner-up, Reliance. Sea-Bird veered alarmingly across the track in the last half a furlong or so, but still won by an official margin of six lengths, with Australian-born jockey Pat Glennon patting him down the neck in the closing stages.
Timeform, which was founded by the late Phil Bull in 1948, but is now part of the Paddy Power Betfair Group, is a highly-respected sports data provider. Timeform, as a company, is well-known for its various publications, including its ‘Racehorses’ and ‘Chasers & Hurdlers’ annuals, ‘Black Books’ and daily racecards, but is probably most famous for its private handicapping, or performance rating, system, also known as ‘Timeform’.
Timeform ratings, which have been available on the Flat since the late Forties and over Jumps since the early Sixties, express, in Imperial pounds, the calibre of each horse, so that the runners in any given race can easily be compared. In fact, such is the credibility of Timeform ratings that they are considered, by many industry professionals, to be the definitive, if unofficial, measure of thoroughbred performance in Britain and beyond.