World Class: True ability of brilliant Kingman remains hidden

Kingman winning the Jacques le Marois

Kingman: his rating is anchored by his running style

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

THE Prix Jacques Le Marois is a race of champions. Superstars like Dubai Millennium, Goldikova and Spinning World have all secured the Deauville championship en route to taking the European mile crown and after Sunday we can probably add Kingman to that list.

After recording his fourth straight Group 1 success of the season, his second in all-age company, Kingman should have set the seal on the mile championship this weekend, although with a peak RPR of 128 he still hasn’t quite hit the usual standard for that accolade.

If we look at winners of the European mile crown over the last ten years their average RPR stands at 131.4. Even if we ignore the Frankel years the average is still 129 and Kingman’s figure of 128 would only have topped the list in two of the last ten years.

There are valid reasons Kingman has not quite hit the mark just yet. Firstly from a form point of view the mile division needs to establish a solid hierarchy from which to promote a champion and at the moment that hierarchy simply isn’t there.

Taking an extreme case, the hierarchy behind Frankel included stacks of multiple Group 1 winners like Excelebration, Farhh, St Nicholas Abbey, Cirrus Des Aigles and Canford Cliffs. All of whom helped establish his legacy.

Kingman has managed to beat Olympic Glory and Toronado, although neither have looked at their best so far this year and he was only a length ahead of Toronado in a tactical running of the Sussex Stakes.

That brings us on to the second point. Pace. Kingman has not had the privilege of running at a furious pace this year, which has impacted his ratings.

If he employed his trademark, whippet-like sprint finish off a strong pace and against an opponent who could push him all the way to the line, he would undoubtedly rate higher – so far as his ability allows.

But until he gets those circumstances he could continue to suffered from this mild-case of ‘Sea The Stars-itis’, also known as ‘Zenyatta syndrome’, because his wait and pounce tactics only allow him to win by limited distances and as such his ratings are limited by his opponents.

We never found out the upper-limit of Sea The Stars’s ability. The 2009 world champion enjoyed the best European three-year-old campaign for over 100-years but never won by more than two-and-a-half lengths.

Likewise US legend Zenyatta was ridden with such extreme hold-up tactics that 12 of her 19 utterly dominant wins were secured by less than two lengths. She had a peak RPR of 128 and it wasn’t until her galling final start defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that we actually caught sight of her limits.

Finding Kingman’s limit may prove equally elusive. He is set to follow in some mighty hoofprints and is already drawing the hugest of comparisons, but given his run style and the lack of opportunity to post a big figure he may struggle to match the RPRs of recent mile champions.

On Sunday he gave a typical Kingman performance. Settled in last, he sped past the small field in the closing stages to score a shade cosily.

A steady pace ensured just four-lengths covered the whole field at the line, which means this was not his best performance on the figures. He earned an RPR of 125+, which was his sixth straight mid-120s RPR.

Off a stronger pace and against an outstanding opponent he might have rated higher, but that’s all for the future. Let’s hope one day everything falls right and we get an answer to the peak ability question.

Until then we’ll just have to marvel at his superior change of gears and that wonderful reliability.

The Europeans were out in force at Arlington on Saturday night, but it was a local hero who bagged the big prize of the night, the Arlington Million.

Armed with a delightful back story, including a serious operation and ambitions trained more on jumps racing than a Grade 1 on the level, Hardest Core stayed on late to down hot favourite Magician in the Chicago feature, posting a career best RPR of 118.

The crowd roared like crazy as the aptly named four-year-old swept past the big gun from Ballydoyle, although defeating the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner may not have been as difficult as many expected.

Magician has had plenty of chances this year, but his only win has come at Group 3 level. He’s posted RPRs of 117 or less in five of his six starts and it would be optimistic to expect him to break 117 on any of his remaining starts.

Connections have blamed the going for some of his defeats (fast ground preferred) but there were no excuses after his handy-sit second on firm ground on Saturday. He was beaten fair and square.

Indeed, he was actually better placed than the winner off steady opening fractions (73.69 to the 6f) in a race where the hold-ups never got involved and front runner Side Glance held on for third.

Aidan O’Brien’s team did have a winner on the night when Cox Plate entry Adelaide won the Secretariat Stakes with an RPR of 112. Marco Botti’s Euro Charline also posted a 112 when winning the Beverly D Stakes.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Kingman 125 John Gosden (GB) (Prix Jacques Le Marois, Deauville, 1m, 17 August)

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