Britain and Ireland's senior handicappers 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 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 the rankings were established in their current format in 2004 -- and the highest since Peintre Celebre was awarded a rating of 137 under the former 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 then that would have been illuminating.
"We have some exceptional horses in this generation -- both this year and last -- 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 and 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 are not saying to people who say Sea The Stars is the best they have seen that they are wrong."
O'Gorman also points out that Sea The Star's retirement to stud denied the racing community the chance to compare him to other greats such as Brigadier Gerard and Mill Reef, who both raced on as four-year-olds.
"On his overall CV he didn't do it for three seasons back-to-back so he does have something to prove," he said.
"It was commercially imperative that he went to stud but to say he had nothing left to prove is a misnomer."