Xaar earns elite rating
The brilliant French-trained colt Xaar is set to head the International Classification in the juvenile category with such an impressive rating that he is certain to be compared with some of the greats of the past. He is already even-money favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas with one bookmaker, writes Jim McGrath.
Breathtaking and unquestionably exciting he undoubtedly was in taking the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last month, but in reality how did his deeply impressive seven-length victory rank alongside others recorded on the famous Rowley Mile in the modern era? After all, this is a race of champions and potential stars and such an emphatic win cannot fail to set the pulse racing and raise expectations.
The Dewhurst was first run in 1875, and has been won in recent years by such as Nijinksy, Mill Reef, Grundy, Wollow, The Minstrel, Try My Best, Storm Bird, Diesis, El Gran Senor, Generous, Dr Devious, Zafonic, Grand Lodge and Pennekamp.
It would be impossible to find a better collection of outstanding juveniles, who went on to better things at three.
According to official figures, the two best winners of the Dewhurst, since ratings were introduced just on 20 years ago, were Storm Bird and El Gran Senor, colts both owned by Robert Sangster and trained by Vincent O'Brien. They were both rated at 128 in the International Classifications at the end of their respective two-year-old seasons.
Zafonic, the sire of Xaar, won the 1992 Dewhurst to crown a successful season; he was allotted 125 after defeating the clearly inferior Inchinor by four lengths. But despite the reputation of the Dewhurst for uncovering the year's champion juvenile, the two highest-rated two-year-olds since classifications were introduced, Arazi and Celtic Swing - who both received a rating of 130 - never won the coveted Newmarket race.
Arazi was voted the champion juvenile of 1991 following a staggering near-last-to-first victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, Kentucky, while Celtic Swing collected a similar figure for recording a 12-length victory in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in 1994.