THE racing world has been blessed in the past couple of years with two great, unbeaten champions.
Britain's champion Frankel retired to stud unbeaten in his 14 starts and Black Caviar's race record has stretched to 22 wins from 22 races.
Unbeaten horses of such class are a rarity. Only the 1874 Hungarian filly Kincsem (54 wins) stands ahead of Black Caviar's sequence. In the 18th century, the great Eclipse won 18 from 18.
One of the great thoroughbreds of the past was the Italian, Ribot, foaled in 1952 and who won 16 races from as many starts from 1954-56. Federico Tesio had tried for 58 years to breed his superhorse. A stunning bay colt standing 16.1 hands with balanced temperament and textbook head, Ribot had a chest out of proportion to his body to go with a short back, compact torso and short distance between ribs and hips. This gave him a larger lung capacity than horses of his stature.
Ribot's greatest achievement, which won him the title of European Racehorse of the Year, was winning the 1955 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp by three lengths. In 1956, he cruised to his second Arc by six lengths. Ribot was given a Timeform rating of 142, second only to Sea Bird (145) among middle-distance horses.
Timeform has rated Mill Reef (141), Dancing Brave, Vaguely Noble and Shergar (all 140) and Nijinsky (138) as slightly inferior middle-distance horses. So when Timeform released its Global Rankings for 2012, confirming Frankel as the highest- rated horse in its history on 147, the world knew a true champion had been crowned. The Sir Henry Cecil-trained colt was awarded that rating after his breathtaking 11-length win in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in June, cementing his status as leading miler for a second successive year. Later victories in the Juddmonte International and Champion Stakes proved Frankel was just as great at 10 furlongs.
Australia's unbeaten mare Black Caviar stretched her winning sequence to 22 at Royal Ascot in 2012 and was given a Timeform rating of 136.
Timeform ratings on the flat go back to the first Racehorses annual in 1948. More recently, they have included all the best horses, not only those to have raced in Britain. On the flat, Timeform ratings range from below 30 for bad performers to over 130 for real top-notchers. Great care is taken to keep the level of ratings consistent season to season (after allowance for factors that may alter the overall picture), so comparisons between generations can be made.
Ahead of publication of their annual Racehorses of 2012 in March, Timeform's Global Rankings for 2012 confirmed Black Caviar as the joint highest-rated filly or mare aged three or above in Timeform's 64-year history, rated at 136.
The Wonder From Down Under stretched her sequence to 22 wins with success at Royal Ascot. It was not her victory over Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent there that earned her a rating of 136 - far from it, as Black Caviar ran to only 123. Better efforts had come on home turf, especially in the Coolmore Lightning Stakes at Flemington in February, when she accounted for Hay List by 1¾ lengths.
It was no surprise Black Caviar led in the sprint division again in 2012 and her 136 heads a transformation in the reputation of Australasian horses in the past 10 years or so, with the sprint division one in which they have had particular success. Five of the top six ratings for sprinters in Time- form's 2012 lists were for horses trained in Australia or originating from here.
Black Caviar is also exceptional in historical terms, on a par with Allez France (French- trained Arc winner in 1974) and Habibti (British-trained sprinter of 1983).
Black Caviar begins her last campaign next week at Flemington and will command movie star status wherever she appears, as the public realises she is the best sprint mare the world has ever seen.
- Kerrod Smyth is principal of Laurel Glen Equine Centre, Alton Downs, and a leading CQ thoroughbred breeder.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.