Celebration restores Classic year's esteem

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The Independent Online
Generations of horses vary little in standard from one another according to Geoffrey Gibbs, the British Horseracing Board's senior handicapper. Gibbs, who has responsibility for assessing juvenile form, shrugs off criticism from some trainers and private handicappers that he has rated this year's junior crop too highly by pointing to median average ratings which have "hardly altered for generations". The last discernable upward shift came, he believes, with the impact of Arab involvement in British racing in the early 1980s.

The disparities between the medians of two-, three- and four-year-olds also remain steady, with the two-year-olds appearing higher, only to converge with their elders in the heat of competition.

This year's Classic generation has fared no worse than its immediate predecessors in terms of Pattern and Listed prizes captured in open contest with its elders - except at the highest level, where the three-year-olds have not so much converged as been submerged.

Mark Of Esteem's victory in the Group Two Celebration Mile last weekend went some way to restoring a measure of self-respect for the Classic form, in one of the few inter-generational Pattern races this year in which the three-year-olds turned out in relative strength.

In giving a 6lb penalty and a three-and-a-half-length beating to the dependable Bishop Of Cahel (114), Mark Of Esteem confirmed his Independent rating of 126, while the third, Alhaarth, sank back to the low ebb of his form, on 113.

But it is symbolic that the best three-year-old performance of the season in Britain came in defeat, Shaamit's third to Pentire in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a race whose form is working out extremely well.

Ratings for the leading three-year-olds of 1996 to have raced in Britain:

133 Shaamit, 126 Lady Carla, Mark Of Esteem, 125 Bijou D'Inde, 123 Ashkalani, Grape Tree Road, 122 Dushyantor, 121 Mons, Pivotal, 120 Atraf, Glory Of Dancer, Sorbie Tower, 119 Royal Court, 118 Bosra Sham, Farasan, 117 Lucayan Prince, 116 Even Top, Rambling Bear, 115 Pricket.