So now its official- Frankel is the top rated horse since the beginning of the international rankings. So how did he achieve this feat? Well his stunning performances in the Queen Anne and Juddmonte International certainly played a part, but they were not in themselves sufficient to garner him that accolade. The fact that the handicappers strangely rated his 11 length Queen Anne victory as being akin to 12.5 lengths and his 7 length Juddmonte victory as being akin to 9.25 lengths also helped, but was still not enough to give him the top honours. No he achieved the top spot by virtue of the handicappers rewriting history.
At the end of his three year old career, Frankel was rated 136, a long way short of Dancing Brave’s 141. At the time Phil Smith, the British Horseracing Authority’s senior handicapper was quoted as saying “I don’t believe that Dancing Brave would get that rating now, but it’s in the book and that’s what [Frankel] has got to aim for, because we are not going to rewrite history.” Fast forward twelve months and rewriting history is exactly what Phil and his colleagues have done. I can’t find a suitable antonym for nostalgia but it is clear that the handicappers don’t think much of the greats of the past and they don’t trust their predecessors. When Phil Smith explained that Shergar’s rating was a retirement ‘gift’ to a former handicapper it hardly counted as an endorsement of his predecessors and somewhat undermined a statement in their explanatory piece see link that “the purpose of this paper is absolutely NOT to say that the current Handicappers are right and those who compiled the ratings between 1977 and 1991 were wrong”. Some of the other arguments in their justification are also odd as for instance “Much easier travel coupled with an increase in valuable International races enabled connections of the better horses to avoid each other” could just as easily be an argument supporting the thesis that we have more competition not less between the best horses of the world. Also the statement that “The ownership of so many of the top horses in just a few hands meant competition and higher ratings suffered.” is as valid now as ever before. The statement that ” The extension of the Classification to 115 and above in 1985, to 112 and above in 1989 and to 110 in 1990 had a depressant effect as there was now a safety net in which to include the type of horse that had been overly promoted in the past”, again seems to imply that past handicappers were assigning ratings for reasons other than merit. Finally I’m not sure there is a solid basis to the statement that the increase in the number of handicappers means “It is much more likely that horses will be downgraded with a larger Committee” unless larger groups are somehow assumed to be more negative in mindset, and a strong voice is somehow incapable of swaying a committee.
In Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry for Truth was responsible for updating records to ensure that the recorded ‘facts’ of history matched the current needs of the regime. History was rewritten on a daily basis and documentation was destroyed or updated as required. To be fair to the handicappers they probably won’t resort to destroying my books containing old ratings. There were three slogans outside the Ministry for Truth namely “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”, perhaps if there was a section dealing with sport, a fourth slogan “FRANKEL IS THE GREATEST” would have been included?