THE senior handicappers on both sides of the Irish Sea admit they are unsure just what the record-breaking Sea The Stars could have achieved after allocating the colt a mark of 136 in the 2009 World Thoroughbred Rankings.
The cream of the handicapping ranks gathered in London yesterday to unveil the ratings, marking the previous 12 months as 'a year of exceptional racehorses'. And top of the pile is John Oxx's Guineas, Derby, Eclipse, International, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner.
Sea The Stars' mark of 136 is the highest since Peintre Celebre was awarded a rating of 137 under the old international classifications in 1997.
Ireland's senior Flat handicapper Garry O'Gorman said of the now-retired son of Cape Cross: "Sea The Stars has been given 136 but we don't know what he could have achieved.
"If Zarkava had stayed in training into this year or if he had gone to the Breeders' Cup, that would have been illuminating.
"We have some exceptional horses in this generation and if Sea The Stars had met Zarkava or Breeders' Cup winner Zenyatta, then the implications for those horses' ratings are obvious.
"That is somewhat frustrating to us: the ratings are only based on what they achieved rather than a finite expression of their ability.
"The fact he remained unbeaten through his three-year-old career is down to his style of running and that he never did more than was necessary.
"Wide-margin winners will always get a higher rating as it is easier to give them a mark.
"It is important not to concentrate on the rating alone but to look at a horse's overall CV. We're not saying to people who say Sea The Stars is the best they've seen that they are wrong."
Dancing Brave destroyed an Arc field full of Group One winners in 1986 to be awarded an end-of-season rating of 141, 5lb higher than that given to Sea The Stars.
"I am not confident that Dancing Brave would be 141 today," continued O'Gorman. "He was given that rating in 1986 when rankings were given at a higher level than presently.
"Sea The Stars didn't achieve what Brigadier Gerard or Mill Reef did in their two-year-old careers and he didn't do it for three seasons back-to-back so he does have something to prove.
"The failure to keep the horse in training has been reflected in the level of rating. He got 8lb off Youmzain in the Arc and it would have been interesting to see if he could do it off level weights next year.
"It was commercially imperative that he went to stud, but to say he had nothing left to prove is a misnomer."