In part one of a series examining the state of affairs in each division, Tony McFadden outlines how the two-year-olds are performing based on timeform ratings.
The first Group 1 of the youth season was held at the Curragh on Saturday and it would be a surprise if we saw a better performance in the division than that this year Little Big Bear set out to win the Phoenix Stakes.
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Little Big Bear earned a Timeform rating of 126p for his impressive seven-length win over the July Stakes winner Persian power (109), and few youngsters in this century have recorded higher end-of-season ratings.
Pinatubo earned a season-ending 134 rating, making him Timeform’s highest-rated youngster since Celtic Swing in 1994 when he won the 2019 National Stakes by nine lengths.
Frankel (133p), Dream Ahead (129), Air Force Blue (128p), New Approach (127), Johannesburg (127), Lady Aurelia (127) and Too Darn Hot (127) are the only other European-trained youngsters In This century saw a season-ending rating of over 126, while for broader context, last year’s juvenile Native Trail champion was rated at 122p.
Of course, Little Big Bear, who was Aidan O’Brien’s 17th winner of the Phoenix Stakes, will have an opportunity to further increase his rating before the end of the season. One not to be seen again this season is the Coventry Stakes winner Bradsel (114p), who was ruled out of the campaign after suffering an injury in the Phoenix.
Bradsell was only fourth in the Phoenix, but given that he came back injured and was immediately on his backfoot after a stumble at the start, it’s not hard to overlook that effort. His Coventry Stakes form worked well – second, third and fourth all won Group 2.
The top-scoring two-year-old filly is Queen Mary Winner dramatized (110p). She had made a superb impression on her debut at Newmarket in April and built on that at Royal Ascot to become a decisive winner and put on her best performance in the race since Lady Aurelia in 2016.
The only fillies to achieve a higher Timeform performance rating in Queen Mary this century are three of the US winners – Jealous Again, Acapulco and Lady Aurelia – and Attraction, a subsequent multiple Group 1 winner.
A valuation of 110p is shared by two unexposed stallions in the care of Charlie Appleby, the man who has been in charge of the champion youngster for two of the last three seasons.
Noble style was forced to miss Royal Ascot after tests showed some unsatisfactory blood results but he would have been a leading contender for the Coventry Stakes based on the form of his debut success at Ascot as he defeated three winners at next time including Royal Scot (110) Fourth.
After improving to get off the mark in a Goodwood freshman, Royal Scotsman finished third at Coventry before returning to Goodwood to land the Richmond Stakes and establishing himself in the upper ranks of the division.
Noble Style received a lower order during Goodwood week and reappeared in a Newmarket newcomer but he still faced a promising type in Mill Stream and was impressed at how he managed to keep this close rival of his home, albeit somewhat lacking in sharpness.
Appleby has also taken a quiet approach sea power who won novices at Yarmouth and Leicester before tackling the listed level at the King George meeting at Ascot a few weeks ago. He won at Ascot by six and a half lengths and put on a performance that propelled him to the top of the 2000 Guinea market before Little Big Bear passed him to that position.
Aidan O’Brien has done particularly well with his youngsters so far this season, operating at a 36% strike rate, and he’s done that alongside Little Big Bear as well black beard (109+) and meditate (106p) rank high in the division.
Blackbeard had to settle for fourth place in the Coventry Stakes (he went on to win the Prix Robert Papin), but Meditate won the Albany Stakes to take her unbeaten record to three and beat the subsequent Duchess of Cambridge Stakes winner Mawj (105).
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