After being handed a mark of 128, the Charlie Appleby horse Pinatubo is – according to the handicapper – the most gifted two-year-old to emerge in the past 25 years.
January’s publication of the 2019 European Classifications for two-year-olds raised plenty of eyebrows, not least the news that Pinatubo is rated the best horse of his age group since Celtic Swing in the nineties.
It’s perhaps no surprise that he is so highly regarded. Bred from Shamardal, who himself was a European champion two-year-old, Pinatubo shares a blood line with the likes of Blue Point and Able Friend, who both won multiple Grade 1 races around the world.
Pinatubo has been given his mark on the back of a peerless 2019 campaign in which he went unbeaten through six demanding races.
Opening up with a couple of straightforward victories at a lower class, the Charlie Appleby speedster joined Class 1 company in the summer and immediately took to the higher grade, triumphing in the Chesham Stakes and Qatar Vintage Stakes – the latter by a stiff five lengths to the field.
The Vincent O’Brien followed in which Pinatubo took the spoils by an extraordinary nine lengths, and he capped an incredible season – and showed his versatility – by winning on the soft ground of Newmarket in the Dewhurst Stakes.
Perfect Pinatubo extends his unbeaten sequence to six with a determined display in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes for William Buick and Charlie Appleby 👏 pic.twitter.com/h0xi1uOBla
— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) October 12, 2019
That all led to his mark of 128, which is the highest in more than two decades and some 10lb higher than his nearest challengers Earthlight and Kameko.
Explaining his reasoning, the BHA’s lead handicapper for two-year-olds, Graeme Smith, said:
“Pinatubo looked a potentially outstanding two-year-old when thrashing a competitive field in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, and his next performance in the National Stakes at the Curragh was breathtaking – the kind you rarely see in top company – as he powered nine lengths clear of Armory and Arizona in a top-class time.
“This was one of the great two-year-old performances, and the best by any two-year-old in the last 25 years.”
However, Smith was quick to suggest caution for those punters rushing out to back the horse at 11/10 in the 2,000 Guineas ante post market.
“In terms of weight for age, to be the same horse in the Guineas as he was in the Dewhurst he has to mature by 10lb, and you’ve got to ask yourself whether you can really see that happening.”
Punters should also note that while Appleby has confirmed that his star wintered well, he does not plan on giving him a prep race prior to the Newmarket showpiece.
So, 2020 could be a huge year for Pinatubo, where he either emerges as one of the greatest flat horses in history or completely flops in the face of outrageous expectations.
Highest Rated 2-Y-O Horses – 1978 to 2019
|Horse||Rating||Year Born (Country)||Trainer||Career Earnings|
|Celtic Swing||130||1992 (GB)||Lady Herries||£469k|
|Arazi||130||1989 (USA)||Francois Boutin||£670k|
|Tromos||129||1976 (GB)||Bruce Hobbs||Unknown|
|Pinatubo||128||2017 (IRE)||Charlie Appleby||£715k|
|Frankel||126||2008 (GB)||Sir Henry Cecil||£3m|
|Too Darn Hot||126||2016 (GB)||John Gosden||£1.3m|
How did other similarly highly-rated two-year-olds fare in their follow-up season?
Celtic Swing (130)
Like Pinatubo, it was one performance in particular that had the handicappers frothing at the mouth.
A 12-length victory in the Racing Post Trophy of 1994 was the catalyst for that joint all-time leading mark of 130 for a two-year-old, an much was expected when he joined the bigger boys.
On this day 25 years ago Celtic Swing produced this jaw-dropping performance at @DoncasterRaces and subsequently became two-year-old Horse of the Year… Roll on the @vertemam Futurity Trophy this weekend! pic.twitter.com/kLVcNitXeR
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 22, 2019
It didn’t quite work out for the Lady Herries trained stallion, and he lost as an odds-on favourite in the 2,000 Guineas.
Some redemption came with victory in the Prix du Jockey, but a disappointing run in the Irish Derby ultimately ended the career of Celtic Swing – a fine two-year-old who simply could not cope with the expectation of being the world’s best.
He did, however, sire two outstanding horses in Takeover Target, who won eight Group One races around the world, and Six Perfections, winner of the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Mile.
If rumours are to be believed, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum made an offer to Allen Paulson of $9 million for a 50% stake in Arazi after a phenomenal two-year-old campaign.
He won six of the seven races he entered, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile from the unfavourable outside post, and was blessed with extraordinary ‘from behind’ pace that would have punters on the edge of their seats.
Arazi took on an almost mythical reputation ahead of the Kentucky Derby, where he was expected to announce himself as the best horse on the planet.
But it didn’t work out: he made up huge ground in the final straight, but lacked his usual sixth gear to finish a woeful eighth. The myth was shattered.
Despite a few more good wins in France, Arazi was another who failed to live up to the billing.
As if to confirm the theme, Tromos was another who failed to build on a stellar career as a two-year-old.
To be fair, that’s because he caught a viral infection that essentially wiped out his three-year-old campaign, and ensured he was never the same horse again.
— Palace House Newmarket (@palacehouse_nkt) October 14, 2017
But at the age of two, Tromos had the world at his hooves. He won the Clarence House Stakes by some thirteen lengths and followed up with an electric showing in victory in the Dewhurst Stakes, but sadly this was as good as it got for George Cambanis’ stallion.
For the sake of balance, let’s include a two-year-old who well and truly kicked on the following season.
Frankel spent his two-year-old season beating plenty of high-quality horses, and it was his unstoppable win in the Dewhurst Stakes on unsuitable ground that ultimately earned him his lofty rating.
Did he stop there? Not a bit of it. Frankel demolished the field in the 2,000 Guineas, and went on to win a further nine Group One races in a 14-outing unbeaten career.
His DNA is still very much part of elite-level racing to this day, and he has won more prize money as a sire than any other contemporary horse.
Too Darn Hot (126)
And finally, we end on a sad note with Too Darn Hot.
He was the highest rated two-year-old since Frankel after winning the Solario, Champagne and Dewhurst Stakes, and much was expected with Frankie Dettori in the saddle.
Victories in the Sussex Stakes and the Prix Jean Prat salvaged a hit-and-miss three-year-old season, and sadly his win in the former would prove to e the final run of his career after suffering a hairline fracture in his leg.
So, as far as Pinatubo is concerned, it’s something of a mixed bag from other two-year-olds rated on a par with this exciting horse.