Racing / Class of '93: New breed slides into mediocrity: Opera House, Zafonic and Grand Lodge head the Flat ratings but the handicappers warn of a slump in standards: Richard Edmondson on a dearth of quality

THE Flat-racing class of 1993, like the team of 1992, have been assessed as a bad lot and there are signs that British racing is on a destructive path.

In defining last season an annus mediocris, the International Classification Committee, the body which rates Europe's top horses, yesterday identified lack of competition among two-year-olds and poor prize money as factors behind the decline in the standard of thoroughbred performance.

Modern belief among many of Britain's leading trainers is that potentially outstanding animals should be given a light campaign in their first season, but Geoffrey Gibbs, Britain's senior handicapper, believes this technique is stunting development of some horses.

'I totally understand that there are horses whose constitutions or stage of development preclude a career at two, but don't tell me that is true of the breed as a whole,' Gibbs said.

'In whatever field of sport you take, athletics, boxing, swimming or tennis, competition as you mature is a requirement of progression. These kids don't play at tennis at 13 for the fun of it, they're toughening themselves up for the real world of Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow for when they become adult players.

'On the evidence of our figures you have to ask if it is a sound idea that you cosset a potential mile and a half horse as a two-year-old for what he may do at three.'

The statistics make sad reading for those who cherish the improvement of the breed. In the top category (the 120-plus rated animals), the number of three-year-olds to qualify was the second lowest in the 17- year history of the Classifications. The previous year was the lowest.

The last two seasons have also been the worst for older horses (four-year-olds and up), a category headed this time by Opera House (129), while the top-rated juvenile of 1992, Grand Lodge (120), has attracted the lowest figure of any leading two-year-old.

'Present and future racing historians may well find it one of the more forgettable seasons since International Classifications began and it is being by no means ungenerous to label 1993 an annus mediocris,' Michael Byrne, chairman of the committee, said. 'Sadly to say, this applied to the majority of age groupings and no name emerged fit to enter the pantheon of equine champions.'

The one horse who could have made that leap, and the top-rated performer of 1993, was Zafonic, whose career ended before he could build on a brilliant 2,000 Guineas victory. The French colt earned a figure of 130, the lowest awarded to the top horse in the Classifications since their introduction in 1977.

Below him in the table stand White Muzzle (127) and Commander In Chief (127), who emerges as one of the poorer Derby winners of modern times.

The other factor which appears to be holding back British racing may be even harder to solve. Because here the band of folk who will have to change their ways is the bookmakers.

Gibbs considers that good horses improve only when matched against each other, and the scant prize money on offer in these islands is sending the cream of the crop in search of prizes elsewhere, to countries where racing finances are fuelled by Tote monopolies. 'You can go and win a Listed race in Italy which is worth more money than a Group Three here and they are not as fiercely contested,' Gibb said.

'And unless you can assemble the horses rated 110 and 115, you are not going to measure the true ability of the 120s,' he said. 'You require competition to be able to evaluate the racehorse. The facility by which you can travel horses from one country to another has diluted competition, and you would have to say the prize money on offer has some effect.'

AN abrupt about-turn by Ascot emerged last night when it was announced the Queen Alexandra Stakes is to be reinstated as a two-mile-six-furlong contest. Plans to turn it into a 10-furlong handicap are being shelved. The plans had aroused fierce protest. The Royal Ascot race, at 129 years old one of the oldest races in the calendar, is one of only five Flat races competed over a distance in excess of two and a half miles. Among those who protested were Peter O'Sullevan, Lord Howard de Walden and Dick Hern.

--------------------------------------------------- RATINGS FOR THE LEADING TWO-YEAR-OLDS --------------------------------------------------- 120 Grand Lodge 119 Stonehatch 118 Lemon Souffle Lost World (Fr) Nicolotte Sunshack (Fr) Turtle Island 117 Coup De Genie (Fr) First Trump 116 King's Theatre Owington Polish Laughter Signe Divin (Fr) 115 Colonel Collins Manntari (Irl) Mister Baileys Redoubtable 114 Carmot Concordial Las Meninas (Irl) Overbury Psychobabble (Fr) Sierra Madre (Fr) Velvet Moon Wessam Prince (Fr) 113 Bonash (Fr) Fadeyev (Fr) Flagbird (Fr) Prophecy Torrismondo 112 Celtic Arms (Fr) Chimes Band (Fr) Fumo Di Londra Mehthaaf Risky Ultimo Imperatore Unblest Zindari (Fr) 111 Alanees Fairy Heights Gothic Dream (Irl) River Deep State Performer Tatami The Deep --------------------------------------------------- GB-trained unless stated; figures represent lb ---------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own