THE International Classification, published today in Europe, offers further confirmation of the growing prestige of the territory's invitational races. Both Soviet Line and Red Bishop enter the Classification on ratings achieved when winning the Bowl and Vase respectively. Soviet Line ranks the higher of the pair having been assessed on a figure of 117 and the performance is rated the eighth best by an older horse trained in Europe for the 1,400-metre to 1,800-metre category. Red Bishop fares only marginally worse on a rating of 116 in the 2,200-metre to 2,700-metre division and the assessment is sure to help promote the Vase to international Group status. That said, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Red Bishop should have been rated a good deal higher and the race serves as an ideal example of the limitations of collateral form ratings, especially when bringing together relatively unknown quantities. In assessing the Vase, the International Ratings Committee made the assumption that Urgent Request failed to reproduce his top European form, basing their observation on the fact that they had already rated him below his best in his previous run in the Rothmans International. With local hero Wonderful Way finishing third, the Japanese-trained Eishin Tennessee fourth and New Zealand raider Hear That Bell fifth, the European handicappers had little to work on other than the front pair and opted to rate the race through Red Bishop on his previous outing in North America, which they had already gauged as superior to his European form. Topspeed, and speed figures in general, have no such inherent drawback - collateral form lines are simply not needed. The quality of a race between total unknown entities can be assessed as long as a day's racing includes races involving horses of clear and proven ability. At the other end of the scale speed figures are also the only realistic measure of the early griffin races. Form handicappers can make only educated estimates as to the merit of initial griffin exchanges and they are merely laying down the foundations of a handicap that will develop as the season progresses. Only when the horses race against each other can the form handicapper assess the relative merits of the early griffin races. And by then it can be too late to capitalise on the tote. So what of the the first couple of griffin races? The first griffin race of the season on New Year's day was won by Double Expresso, but it was a very moderate affair on the clock with Patrick Biancone's youngster earning a rating of only 11. A figure that more than suggests it is a race to treat with caution. However, the Lowenbrau Plate is definitely a race to keep close tabs on, with Diamond Fortune trotting in to clock a classy first-up figure of 58. Sometimes early griffin winners are simply more forward than their rivals and pre-race gallop reports suggested that Stephen Yeung's youngster was indeed very forward in his work. But, the clock doesn't lie and, even if he fails to progress from this as much as some of the others, it will take a smart one to beat him in the near future. A horse to follow blind until beaten.