A Shin Hikari currently leads the world with an RPR of 131
PICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
A Shin Hikari, the world’s highest-rated racehorse, rolls into Royal Ascot this week and he should face a straight-forward task in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
The five-year-old posted an RPR of 131 when running away with the Prix d’Ispahan last month and that figure gives him a huge class edge in Wednesday’s race.
Three-year-olds are not eligible to run in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and with no Postponed, Solow or Fascinating Rock in the field this could prove one of his easier assignments in Europe this season.
The Japanese haven’t won a Group 1 in Britain since Agnes World landed the July Cup in 2000, but that lack of success is because they simply haven’t tried that hard and A Shin Hikari clearly has the class to get them back in the groove.
Success at Ascot would make the son of Deep Impact the first horse trained outside Europe to land the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the first Japanese winner at Royal Ascot, but those shouldn’t be read as a statistic against his chance of success, as no horse of his ability from outside Europe has ever tried.
A real honour
His key rivals at Ascot include Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Found, The Grey Gatsby and impressive Group 2 winner Time Test. They are all talented individuals but their records in open Group/Grade 1 company will not strike fear into the Japanese.
Found is one from six in open Group 1s, The Grey Gatsby is one from eight and Time Test has failed to hit the frame in two starts at the top level. A Shin Hikari, on the other hand, is two from three, with an overall career record of ten wins from 12 starts.
His top-level wins came under polar-opposite circumstances in France and Hong Kong. At Sha Tin he won from the front, setting fast splits on fast ground, while at Chantilly he was tucked in behind the leader on heavy ground off a steadier pace before bursting clear to win by daylight.
He has twice completely bombed out, finishing ninth at odds-on in a Grade 3 handicap in December 2014 and ninth in the Tenno Sho Autumn in November. But while he’s clearly beatable on an off day, on a going day he will undoubtedly be the one to beat.
Japan has the highest prize-money levels in the world, which means they tend not to travel to Europe other than in preparation for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. As the highest rated Japanese horse since Deep Impact, it is a real honour to have the Japanese visitor at Royal Ascot this year. Let’s hope he arrives a going day and puts on a show.
St George’s day
Another horse in the running to put up the performance of the week is Order Of St George in the Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday.
His trainer Aidan O’Brien has won six of the last ten runnings of the Ladies’ Day feature and if this four-year-old gets anywhere near his best for he will be near-impossible to beat.
Order Of St George ranks as one of the highest-rated horses O’Brien has ever sent over for the Ascot endurance test, having run to an RPR of 125 when winning the Irish St Leger in September by an easy 11 lengths.
The average RPR across the last four Gold Cup winners stands at around 116, with a low of just 113, but that recent vacuum at the top of the staying division looks ready to be filled, as Order Of St George has the quality to stamp himself the best stayer in the world.
If he runs to his best (125) he would match Yeats with the highest figure achieved in the Gold Cup in the last ten years – and considering the utter dominance he has shown in winning his last four starts by daylight that level may not prove his limit.
Yeats won the Gold Cup four times for O’Brien between 2006 and 2009. His biggest winning margin was five-lengths and that sort of margin could be on the cards if all that promise Order Of St George has shown over shorter trips can bear fruit on the biggest day of his career to date.
It’s a toss up for the third most likely candidate to produce a big figure at Ascot this week, but Exosphere clearly has the chance to do something special in the Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday.
Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old slammed St Leger-winner Simpler Verse by four lengths in the Jockey Club Stakes on his return to action last month, posting an RPR of 123.
History tells us these Stoute’s middle-distance horses can make giant strides at four and the trainer won four of the last six runnings of the Hardwicke with four horses popped from the very same mould. You can get 3-1 for an Exosphere win.
Frosted was no match for American Pharoah last year, but he finally came of age with a jaw-dropping 14-length success in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday.
It was a remarkable turnaround from the colt who was beaten in his last five starts at the top level, yet proved absolutely unstoppable on the weekend. He posted an RPR of 130 which ranks him among the top ten dirt performers of the last decade (based on this single performance).
The bare form is impossible to rate using conventional pounds-per-length methods alone, but the clock gives us a solid guide to what he achieved and after breaking the stakes-record for 1m at Belmont he moved up to second on the global RPR list.
Considering his previous form was a much lower standard than this there is a valid question mark over whether he will be able to repeat it at another track, or ever again.
He wouldn’t be the first horse to find another gear at the Big Sandy and save his best for that track, but what we can’t question is what a monster performance it was on the day – one-off or otherwise.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Frosted 130 Kiaran McLaughlin (US) (Metropolitan Handicap, Belmont Park, 1m, 11 June)
var $facebookBlock = $(‘#facebook’);