A Cheltenham Festival adorned with stunning visual displays has received the handicapper's seal of approval, with Vautour and Coneygree rated among the best novices this century.
In 2000, Gloria Victis, which was fatally injured in the Gold Cup, was rewarded with a figure of 166. That remained the highest rating attained by a novice chaser until Sprinter Sacre destroyed the 2012 Arkle Trophy field, a performance that commanded a mark of 169.
Last Thursday, Vautour demolished the JLT line-up. Willie Mullins' rising star's breathtaking 15-length rout prompted the British handicapper to elevate him to 171, which the assessors deem to have been trumped only by Coneygree's flawless Gold Cup exhibition on softer ground a day later, a jaw-dropping triumph that earned him an official mark of 172.
That means that two of the four most highly regarded displays by novice chasers in more than 15 years occurred on successive days in the Cotswolds.
For winning the Champion and Ryanair Chase, both of which are confined to the senior ranks, Dodging Bullets and Uxizandre were awarded ratings of 167 and 169, respectively. A mark of 168 for Mullins' Un De Sceaux means that his polished Arkle victory has been adjudicated to be superior to that of Dodging Bullets in the championship event over the same two-mile trip.
Don Poli, so authoritative in winning the RSA for Mullins, wasn't discussed in a blog published yesterday by the British Horse Racing Authority's chief handicapper Phil Smith, who went some way to corroborating the prominence of the champion trainer's elite team at the head of the betting for next year's championship events.
"Surprisingly, Sprinter Sacre's record novice rating only lasted three years as Vautour's romp has been assessed at 171 by my colleague Mark Olley," Smith wrote. "Vautour was the easiest of all of the Mullins victories and looks a fantastic prospect.
"Amazingly, Vautour was only 'King for a Day' as Coneygree posted a remarkable mark of 172 when winning the Gold Cup, making him the highest-rated novice over any distance this century. As in his previous wins, Coneygree's time was particularly quick and he never saw another horse."
Meanwhile, Jim Dreaper says that Goonyella, an emphatic winner of Uttoxeter's Midlands National under Jonathan Burke on Saturday, will be aimed at the original version at Aintree on Aprill 11, though he needs 30 forfeits to make the final field of 40.
"He's going to be prepared for the Grand National," Dreaper said. "He is unlikely to get in, but we have to prepare him just in case."
The Scottish equivalent at Ayr is among Dreaper's alternative options.