Cigar shows all that time always tells

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 1996, 12:00am

The world's best horses met in the desert and the inaugural Dubai World Cup couldn't have received a more unanimous verdict.

The richest race in the world was billed as a showdown, and it proved to be one of the most exhilarating championship races ever staged, with top American entry Cigar crowned as a true world champion.

It wasn't as easy as his Breeder's Cup Classic triumph, but Allen Paulson's entire was racing out of his own backyard for the first time with an interrupted preparation. In the post-race furore it was impossible to find anyone who didn't believe it was Cigar's finest hour.

The problem most pundits are having is quantifying just how good he was.

The traditional form handicappers seem to be running round in circles and those that are willing to put a figure to the win have come up with ratings ranging from 125 to around the 140 mark - an unprecedented spread for such a high-profile contest.

The problem is two-fold. Not only have the handicappers got to decide on which, if any, horses ran to form but on the surface they also have to choose what pounds per length conversion to employ.

A rate of 1.7lb-per-length is a commonly-used calculation for the 2,000-metre trip on good turf going but this was sand - and sand that was riding slow, according to the jockeys.

Melvin Day, official handicapper in the United Arab Emirates, explained that 'in normal circumstances I would use around 1.4lb-per-length for 10 furlongs at Nad Al Sheba but with the track riding so slow I opted for a pound-a-length.' Using that conversion and the performances of the runner-up, Soul Of The Matter, and the fifth-placed Tamayaz as limiting factors, Day has plumped for an initial rating of 128 for Cigar.

That figure rates four pounds inferior to his International Classification rating of 132, which suggests the view from the Gulf is that Cigar didn't even return his best performance in landing the 'world championship'.

With Jerry Bailey reporting 'he [Cigar] lost his hind legs on straightening and didn't act on the surface', Cigar's jockey clearly wouldn't put up too strong an argument with that view but it will be a bitter pill for many to swallow.

Theere is no official view from the handicappers of the British Horseracing Board who will be involved in assessing the race for the International Classification at the end of the year.

It is a far more clear-cut picture when it comes to time analysis.

There are no decisions to be made on which of the contestants ran to form and with the Topspeed calculations automatically adjusting for the slow nature of the track there is no guessing at the pounds-per-length conversion to be employed.

Indeed, on that last point, it is interesting to note that the times suggest the handicappers should be using Melvin Day's normal rate of 1.4lb-per-length and not the pound-a-length he ended up using, a conversion normally reserved for races over 2,600 metres plus.

The winning time and Topspeed rating of 133 also amply explode any theory that Cigar didn't produce his best.

Forget the futile arguments about which horses ran to form and which didn't.

Cigar acted on the surface, returned his best performance and achieved a figure worthy of a champion.