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International classifications: Deserving of more credit.

THIS is the division to which we turn for the next superstar and on which each season is, perhaps mistakenly, judged. So it is hardly surprising that 1998 has failed to match the highs of recent years.

Lack of an outstanding three-year-old in the Peintre Celebre or Helissio mould certainly has a downbeat effect on the International Classifications. It should be remembered, though, that we are dealing with horses still short of full maturity and, although accepted weight-for-age scales allow direct comparison between generations, there is no guarantee that a horse is not, as can often be the case among juveniles, exploiting its advanced maturity.

Below the top level, things were not quite so bad, with both mean and median ratings falling only slightly. Those for the colts actually improved on last year, highlighting just how important Peintre Celebre's rating of 137 was to last year's crop.

Desert Prince heads the division, achieving a rating of 128 for his Queen Elizabeth II Stakes defeat of Dr Fong (127). As is the case with Queen Anne Stakes winner Intikhab, Postmark figures suggest the committee has been a little harsh on last year's milers. Our figures for the QEII principals are 131 and 129.

Even so, Desert Prince is up with the recent average, but we doubt that he was really 5lb inferior to 1996 champion Mark Of Esteem.

Continuing this downbeat official view of the milers, neither Guineas winner seems to have been given full credit for what were quality performances. Neither King Of Kings nor Cape Verdi, both rated 120, were given the chance to prove themselves under similar conditions subsequently and, although their form did not work out fantastically well, it was surely better than this. Postmark figures of 124 and 125 respectively, suggest they can both be regarded as good Guineas winners.

This tendency to underrate early- season form is also evident in the treatment of Oaks winner Shahtoush (117). Although both she and runner- up Bahr (116) failed by some way to match that form subsequently, their performances on the day were rated 3lb higher on Postmark figures.

This puts them on a par with mud-loving Arc runner-up Leggera, whose official mark of 122 suggests the Arc may have been given favourable treatment. A Postmark of 124 for unbeaten winner Sagamix (126) is on the low side, but it is hard to justify anything higher.

The Derby could be viewed in a favourable light, with High-Rise offcially rated 127, but he owes that mark to his King George second to Swain. Derby runner-up City Honours' rating of 122 confirms our view that it was a poor renewal. The rating of High-Rise mirrors the figures of Lammtarra and Shaamit in recent years, both of whom owed their end- of-year mark to performances subsequent to the Derby.

The sprinters continue to disappoint. Tamarisk (120) upheld the trend of three-year-old speedsters only scraping through the 120-barrier, while Nedawi's rating of 117, the same as that accredited to Silver Patriarch for his St Leger victory, is 1lb below the recent average and seems to confirm that the three-year-old staying division is the weakest of them all.

DESERT PRINCE'S 1998 TRACK RECORD

3 b c 1995 by Green Desert (USA)-Flying Fairy (Bustino)

Owner: Lucayan Stud

Trainer: David Loder

PERFORMANCES

Apr 15, Newmarket, NGK Spark Plugs European Free Handicap, won

May 10, Longchamp, Dubai Poule d'Essai des Poulains (Group 1), 3rd

May 23, The Curragh, Hibernia Foods Irish 2,000 Guineas (Group 1), won

Jun 16, Ascot, St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1), 2nd

Sep 6, Longchamp, Emirates Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Group 1), won

Sep 26, Ascot, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1), won

Nov 7, Churchill Downs, Breeders' Cup Mile (Grade 1), 14th
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Curtis, Paul
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 13, 1999
Words:624
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