Equinox’s figure has him nine points superior to the next best Do Deuce’s 120 rating, which is the same number the latter ran to in the Derby last year when Equinox posted a 119. But it is pretty unlikely that Do Deuce’s rating represents his peak: as mentioned above, forget his runs in France and that leaves his easy Group 2 win, a tune-up for his planned Dubai test, in which he was not asked to run full tilt yet earned a 120 rating again. Natural maturity would surely bring about improvement. Whether he can lift to Equinox’s level, time will tell, but the sense is he’s better than his official mark.
The rest are rated 119 down to 112, for an overall average rating for the field of almost 118. But ratings, fixed to a specific performance, are a narrow measurement and do not quantify improvement that is still to come.
Any others with 120+ potential?
In a word, Prognosis. The Sapporo Kinen winner is a late bloomer, a five-year-old with six wins on the board from just 10 starts and he shapes as a danger to the big two. He has evolved into a high-class racehorse and in only three runs this term he has won two from three, all at the Tenno Sho Autumn’s 2000m distance.
His G2 Kinko Sho victory in March signalled a horse on the up, and he confirmed that when second behind this weekend’s G1 Cox Plate favourite Romantic Warrior in the G1 QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April.
The latter effort saw him turning for home almost four lengths behind Romantic Warrior and trapped in a pocket, but he closed in a race-fastest 11.26s for the final 200m, to finish two lengths second.
His Sapporo Kinen win suggested another step forward as he powered clear down the home straight to earn a peak rating of 118.
Danon Beluga and the Tenno Sho Spring winner Justin Palace have each earned 119 ratings and could nudge over the 120 mark, but both have been found to be below Equinox’s level enough times to know that a win for either here would be a turn up.
What about the return to 2000m for Equinox?
Equinox has a one from two record at the trip and in reeling in the tearaway Panthalassa in last year’s Tenno Sho Autumn he showed that he had a big heart and a lethal turn-of-pace.
Since then, his races have been at 2200m and beyond, and when he won the Arima Kinen over 2500m he was totally dominant and seemed to relish the extra ground. It was the same at 2410m in Dubai when a sublime blend of strength, stamina and acceleration demolished world class opposition.
The champ has such an impressively high cruising speed that most things he does look easy, but still, there has to be a smidgen of a concern that perhaps the shorter trip might reveal a chink in his armour against a specialist 2000m runner with a turn-of-foot like Prognosis.
Will Christophe Lemaire lead, like in Dubai?
When Lemaire took Equinox to the lead early in the Dubai Sheema Classic it revealed the colt’s tactical versatility. That option will always be there, but the Frenchman will only resort to that option if the circumstances of the race require it.
JRA Group 1 races usually have the pace on, and it is unlikely that Equinox would be comfortable racing along on the lead over this trip, unless it was an unusually slow tempo. Besides, the field includes Jack d’Or, a proven front-runner, as he showed again when winning the G1 Osaka Hai in April.