Timeform experts rate Harbinger among all-time greats – for now

Ratings, whereby the art of a thoroughbred in full glorious flight is translated to the science of a mathematical formula, may seem the work of an anorak-clad devil to those who revel in the beauty of the beast. But it's figures, in the form of assessments for handicaps, that keep the rank-and-file game going and, at the highest levels, provide a yardstick by which champions of different eras can be meaningfully and dispassionately compared.

Racing's way of assessing the ability of its protagonists over the years on an unvarying scale makes it perhaps unique among sports. Gut feeling counts for nothing, neither does the prestige or number of races won, nor earnings, track records, being unbeaten or being a public favourite. Quality of racecourse performance is what is measured; the aim being to put a figure on that ephemeral quality, class.

Yesterday, in the wake of Harbinger's visually extraordinary 11-length success under one-off rider Olivier Peslier in the country's top all-aged contest, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the boffins at Timeform, regarded as the "bible" of its field, put their necks on the line with a provisional rating of 142 for the colt. To put that in perspective, that is below only Sea-Bird, Brigadier Gerard and Tudor Minstrel since the firm's first annual volume was published in 1948, and the equal of, or above, the likes of Ribot, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave, Dubai Millennium, Shergar, Vaguely Noble and last year's celebrity, Sea The Stars.

It is possible for one outstanding performance to define a horse's career, but rare, and the Timeform spokesman Kieran Packman stressed that Harbinger's rating was a mid-season provisional one, perfectly capable of being adjusted downwards after a longer, more reflective view at the end of the season. "It remains to be seen," he said, "if Harbinger can repeat such a stunning effort and he won't be adjudged a 'true' 142 horse until the season's out. But such a wide-margin victory at the highest level is obviously extremely rare and, assessed as a one-off performance on the day, it really was a run of outstanding merit."

The last horse to win a Group One race by 11 lengths could be held up as a salutary lesson in too-hasty judgement. That was Hawk Wing, who produced a devastating performance in the Lockinge Stakes seven years ago but cannot be regarded as a champion. Harbinger's romp in Saturday's £1m Betfair-sponsored contest looked less flukey, though, even if this year's middle-distance Classic crop – the pro tem best of whom, Cape Blanco, chased him home – are beginning to look distinctly average.

The rapidly improving four-year-old has the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, one of the very few top prizes not yet taken by his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, pencilled in. He is already as short as evens but lying in wait will be such as Fame And Glory, Cape Blanco's older, better Ballydoyle stablemate, and locals such as Behkabad, Sarafina and Byword.

And King George winners, even easy ones, have a mixed record in Paris in the autumn; Dylan Thomas, Lammtarra, Dancing Brave, Mill Reef, Ballymoss and Ribot are the only six to have completed the double in the same campaign, and Montjeu, Daylami, Generous, Troy and Nijinsky are among those who failed.

Harbinger, who carries the pale blue silks of one of Highclere Racing's 12-share upmarket syndicates, emerged from his Ascot endeavours with a hair barely turned. His young stablemate Workforce, a brilliant-looking winner of last month's Derby but a sorry fifth of six on Saturday as 8-11 favourite, will undergo a thorough physical examination after his disappointing performance, for which too-fast ground

was blamed in the immediate aftermath.

"I think the ground will have been part of it," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to his owner, Khalid Abdullah, yesterday, "but not the only reason. He seemed fine this morning, but obviously we'll be checking him out to see if there is anything amiss." One consolation for the Abdullah camp is that Harbinger is a son of, and fine advertisement for, one of its star stallions, Dansili.

And yesterday's top-level winner, Lady Jane Digby, is a daughter of another of the Juddmonte sires, Oasis Dream. The Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich is not a race to challenge the status of the King George, but for a breeding prospect like Kirsten Rausing's five-year-old, who recovered from a broken hip last year, a Group One win of any kudos is invaluable, and full credit goes to her trainer, Mark Johnston, for identifying the opportunity.

But there was disappointment for Britain's raiders in France yesterday. The Royal Ascot winner Approve, owned by another Highclere syndicate, finished only third, as favourite, in the Prix Robert Papin and the best of the raiders in the Prix Eugene Adam was Xtension, in fourth.

Turf account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Wake Up Call (3.45 Yarmouth)

Scored a decisive success over course and distance in May on her sole run this term. That was only the fifth run of her career and she is surely open to further improvement.



Next best

Ambrogina (2.30 Wolverhampton)

Caught flat-footed in a small field over this trip on her handicap debut and should appreciate a faster pace today, off a lower mark.



One to Watch

Doric Lady (J A R Toller)

Finished last on her most recent run after missing the break and before that had nowhere to go in traffic. She is dropping down the ratings and remains unexposed on the all-weather.



Where the Money's Going

Hawkeyethenoo, formerly a 12-1 shot for next Saturday's Stewards' Cup, is now 6-1 favourite with Ladbrokes after his victory at York two days ago assured his place, under a penalty, in the Goodwood sprint.



Chris McGrath's Nap

On Khee (8.40 Windsor)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
News
George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010
peopleChancellor accused of reneging on pre-election promise
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
News
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern