Racing: Dato fails to convince the handicapper

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The Independent Online
The British Horseracing Board's handicapper of hurdlers, Phil Judge, yesterday poured cold water on the euphoria following Dato Star's runaway victory in the Haydock Park Champion Hurdle Trial on Saturday.

While admitting that the seven-year-old has "emerged as a Champion Hurdle contender", he warned those tempted to back the ante-post second favourite that "there are question marks over the value of the form".

Judge is reluctant to issue a rating for Dato Star, who scored by 20 lengths from Collier Bay on Saturday. "It is difficult to assess," he said. "Looking at it on the positive side it is nice to see the horse fulfil the potential Malcolm Jefferson always said he had and obviously he has emerged as a major contender for the Champion Hurdle.

"But on the downbeat side there is Blowing Wind who was beaten only 21 lengths and was giving 7lb. That horse has been beaten in a handicap and a claimer in France and if he was put in a handicap I would not rate him above 130. So there have to be question marks over the value of the form."

Judge also admits that the Champion favourite, Istabraq, is difficult to rate, despite gaining his ninth straight win on Sunday. "He keeps doing it but unfortunately there is nothing in Ireland, and nothing has been sent across from Britain, to test him," he said.