Time for a revolution in racehorse rankings – but Enable’s still number one (for now)

Horse Racing Ghaiyyath and Enable top of racehorse rankings
Ghaiyyath beats Enable in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. Photo: racingfotos.com for IFHA

Horse Racing Planet Chris Smith

Thoroughbred Racing Commentary editor CHRIS SMITH introduces the new Global Horse Rankings, which will form the basis of our weekly Top 20 and join TRC’s established charts for jockeys, trainers, owners and sires


Admirable though they undoubtedly are, the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings – formerly the International Classifications – have never really done what it says on the tin. Indeed, as an order of merit of horses worldwide, they represent a flawed exercise.

It would be a different matter if they were called the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Performances. That is, after all, what they represent: an ordered list of horses based solely on the runs the international handicappers consider the most meritorious.

However, there are many reasons why a horse can look fairly spectacular once or twice but not actually be able to show that level of ability in different circumstances. And still more why another may win by only relatively narrow margins but be able to do it time and again, no matter what fate may throw at him or her.

Which is why we have introduced the TRC Global Horse Rankings. 

We are taking a different, more mathematical approach to establish a hierarchy of the best horses around the world, and we believe the result is a fairer and more accurate assessment than the traditional method of classifying a horse purely according to what the handicappers decide is its best performance.

It’s not about one run – it’s about all of them

Using the algorithm that drives the existing categories in the TRC Global Rankings (sires, jockeys, owners and trainers), based on consistent quality of performance in Group and Graded races, a horse’s complete body of work is taken into account before it achieves its position in the hierarchy. 

We take a modified version of all its Racing Post Ratings in Group and Graded races, and consider also the strength of the opposition it has faced each time, with field size as well as the quality of the other runners significant factors. 

The algorithm may prefer a horse that has been given a rating of 128 twice over one whose best runs have been assessed at 130 and 116. The more recent a run, the more important it is to the horse’s overall performance index (points total) – so, while races two or three years ago still play a part, their significance diminishes over time.

TRC will update the rankings every week, but only horses seen on the track within the previous 200 days are included in current standings.

We are using a database of results that goes back to 2014, meaning we know how any horse that has run in Group/Graded races since then would have fared had the TRC Global Horse Rankings been published during that time. There are many big differences with the Longines WBRR figures.

Here are just three recent examples …

Just A Way

The Japanese son of Heart’s Cry was rated world champion for 2014 because of a spectacular 6¼-length victory over the South African runner Vercingetorix in the Dubai Duty Free (now the Dubai Turf) on World Cup day at Meydan that March.

Just A Way was given a rating of 130 for that, but he never recorded a mark remotely close to it before or after that race and was soundly beaten in his final three runs of 2014, including when finishing a distant eighth behind Treve in the Arc.

Yet, despite such flimsy evidence, he was rated the best horse in the world, 4lb ahead of Treve, 3lb ahead of European champions Kingman and Australia and no less than 6lb ahead of the US Horse of the Year California Chrome, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

A Shin Hikari

The Japanese son of Deep Impact left all previous form well behind when an all-the-way winner of the Hong Kong Cup in December 2015. That earned him a lifetime best RPR of 121.

His next race was the following May, when he began what was to be a short-lived European campaign with a mighty display in the G1 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly on very heavy ground.

He was so dominant there that he started odds-on favourite for his next run, in the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. He finished last of six there, then closed out his career with two more poor efforts in the Far East, both times behind Japan’s outstanding six-time G1 winner Maurice.

Yet in the year-end WBRR, A Shin Hikari was awarded a mark of 127, making him the fifth-best horse of 2016, level with Maurice and behind only Arrogate, California Chrome, Winx and Almanzor. It put him 3lb ahead of the wonderfully consistent Arc winner Found, and 5lb clear of the outstanding American fillies Beholder and Songbird and the Cartier European Horse of the Year Minding. 

Not to mention the remarkable Highland Reel, who that season won the King George and the Breeders’ Cup Turf and ran second in the Juddmonte International, the Hong Kong Vase and the Arc. He was supposedly 4lb inferior to the one-hit wonder from Japan. 

Cracksman

In 2018, the John Gosden-trained Cracksman was rated joint world #1 (with Winx). His rating (130) was due to one performance – a wide-margin win in the Champion Stakes ahead of worthy but tired opponents past their best for the year and uncomfortable on the deep ground at Ascot.

He had earned the same mark for a remarkably similar dominant win in soft ground in the same race the year before (which meant he was classed as world #3 with Winx and Gun Runner, behind Arrogate and California Chrome).

But, those two outlying performances aside, Cracksman’s best rating was 124, achieved twice in 2018, once when easily winning the G1 Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp and later when a well-held runner-up to Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Yet Cracksman’s world-end rating was 4lb better than Poet’s Word (who also won the King George) and 3lb better than his stablemate Roaring Lion, who beat Poet’s Word in the Juddmonte International at York as well as winning the Eclipse, the Irish Champion and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in a campaign that ended with Cartier European Horse of the Year honours. Cracksman was also considered to be superior to two Triple Crown winners – Justify in the US and the Japanese filly Almond Eye.

There has to be another way

Because of these and many other anomalies, we resolved to find another way – using the mathematics behind TRC Global Rankings. The development of the horse rankings has taken us almost two years, but now we have a realistic and robust set of rankings we are proud of.

Our algorithm has the great Enable as our first published world number one, in contrast to most single-ratings-based lists, which have the 2020 powerhouse Ghaiyyath at the top.

While the Godolphin flag-bearer has been superb so far this year – beating Enable in her first run of the season in the Eclipse, as well as winning the Coronation Cup and the Juddmonte International – the algorithm has it that the Juddmonte mare’s stature still entitles her to a narrow lead, based on a body of work that features two Arcs, three King Georges, an Eclipse, an Oaks, an Irish Oaks, two Yorkshire Oaks and a Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Of course, Ghaiyyath, or the US dirt stars Maximum Security or Tiz The Law (or even the magnificent Stradivarius or the outstanding Japanese Derby winner Contrail, or the exciting UK three-year-olds Love or Palace Pier) could threaten Enable’s status in the coming weeks. We will find out soon enough.

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