Handicapper defends Britain's Classic crop

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The Independent Online
The British Horseracing Board handicapper Nigel Gray yesterday defended Britain's Classic crop after yet another defeat at the Curragh. The eclipse of Yashmak and Etoile in Sunday's Irish Oaks means that not one of the first four Irish Classics, often dominated by overseas raiders in the past, has fallen to a runner from Britain.

Gray, responsible for assessing three-year-olds, stressed: "I don't think that means ours is a poor Classic crop. If you look at the performance of the Derby winner Benny the Dip in the Eclipse they can't be that bad. You can only really tell when the three-year-olds run against the older horses, as that's the true benchmark.

"And I don't think you can say that the Irish three-year-olds are better than ours at this stage. We haven't won any of their Classics, but their horses haven't come across and won ours."

A total of 15 British-trained horses have contested the four Irish Classics this year, including the favourites for each race, and mustered only two places between them. Notable flops include the Derby runner-up, Silver Patriarch, and the 1,000 Guineas-placed Oh Nellie and Dazzle. But Gray said: "Some of our horses have just run below form. When Silver Patriarch and The Fly were well beaten at the Curragh people said the Derby form is awful, but they were obviously below form so it didn't tell anyone anything."

No horse from Britain has won an Irish Classic since Matiya landed the Irish 1,000 Guineas for Ben Hanbury last spring. The only hope of avoiding a whitewash lies in the Irish St Leger on 21 September.