Ratings, the metamorphosis of the beauty of a galloping horse into dry statistics, generally largely confirm only what gut feeling tells. Flat racing's annual anorakfest is the World Thoroughbred Rankings, by which the senior handicappers from Britain, Ireland and beyond grade the top performers. The latest edition, the judgements on the classes of 2007, were revealed yesterday and made official what most knew already: that Manduro was the best performer in the world, Authorized and Curlin the best three-year-olds, and New Approach the best juvenile.
Such assessments and their establishment of championship status have a certain value in their own right, particularly for those marketing potential stallions, but are thrown into proper relief only when placed on time's pantheon. And although Manduro's mark of 131 makes him an exceptional performer, and the best world champion since Hawk Wing earned 133 in 2004, it should be remembered that the very best of the bests – a Sea-Bird or Secretariat – have a four as their middle number.
Mighty Manduro, unbeaten in five runs for André Fabre, starts his second career next month at Sheikh Mohammed's Kildangan Stud in Ireland. He was rated 2lb clear at the top of the pile, ahead of European runners Authorized and Dylan Thomas and the dirt-performing Stateside-based pair Curlin and Invasor, all on 129.
But although the top quintet were way above average, those beneath came up short. "It's rare to have as many as five that good," said the senior Irish Flat handicapper, Garry O'Gorman. "but there was a bit of a soft underbelly."
Of Derby winners in the last 10 years, only Sinndar, 132 in 2000, ended the season rated higher than Authorized, who equalled 2001 hero Galileo. But never has the gulf between Classic winners at Epsom and Doncaster been greater. St Leger winner Lucarno was judged worthy of only 115.
The head of handicapping in Britain, Phil Smith, said: "Authorized was a tip-top horse and really good to see the winner of the Derby win another race afterwards. I was sorry not to be able to get Lucarno higher but I'm sure he is far better than his rating and that he will be a real good mile-and-a-half horse this year."
Unusually, the four top performances on turf were judged to have been in Britain: Manduro's defeat of Dylan Thomas in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, Authorized's Derby and his defeat of Dylan Thomas in the York International, and Dylan Thomas's King George rout at Ascot.
The progress shown by Manduro – probably the best athlete bred in Germany since Boris Becker – from four to five was exceptional, his 11lb improvement exceeded only by Daylami's 12lb rise in recent decades. And although injury robbed him of the chance of a showdown with the Arc winner, Dylan Thomas, in Paris, he had done enough and his display in the Prix Jacques le Marois gave him the European mile title, ahead of consistent Ramonti.
Last year's world champion, Invasor, raced only once, winning the Dubai World Cup. But he maintained his rating, matched by his young successor, Curlin, in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Other vignettes from the lists are that the best sprinter was Hong Kong's Sacred Kingdom on 123; the best stayer was not Gold Cup winner Yeats but his Doncaster Cup-winning stablemate Septimus (122); and that girl power is something to look out for, with the best three-year-old fillies for some years– Peeping Fawn (122), Darjina (122) and US heroine Rags To Riches (123) – staying in training.
Most of that, though, is the past. What most want to know is what to follow in the Classics. Last year O'Gorman described top juvenile Teofilo as "a monster" and said he would never be beaten. This time he has accorded New Approach, from the same Jim Bolger yard, 126, last exceeded by Xaar 10 years ago.
"I'm not going to use the m-word this time," he said, "but he has a pedigree background that says he'll make a better three-year-old. If he is vulnerable it will be over the mile of the Guineas, like Grundy or The Minstrel."
Britain's juvenile handicapper, Matthew Tester, pointed to New Approach's half-length Dewhurst victim, Fast Company, now with Godolphin. "He's got only a 10th of a second to find," he said, "and at 8-1 he's the each-way value for the Guineas. And if Zarkava comes over from France for the Oaks, it's game over."
For darker horses, O'Gorman picks Navan winner Kingdom Of Naples from Ballydoyle and Tester feels the maiden at Ascot in which Atlantic Sport beat Skadrak a short-head, will reward close scrutiny.
Nap: Money Trix
NB: Prince Of Medina