Updated on 09/17/2011 9:44AM

2002 was weak year worldwide


Rock of Gibraltar is the highweight at just 128 pounds, the lowest highweight rating in the Classification's 25-year history. Marienbard, Azeri, and Volponi are the other big winners of 2002, but with similarly low ratings, an indication that it was perhaps the weakest year for Thoroughbreds worldwide in the last quarter century.

The annual rankings, compiled by a panel of international handicappers, include horses from throughout the world, except Africa and South America, and determine Europe's official champions.

Rock of Gibraltar's 128 rating makes him not only the International Classification highweight, but the leading 3-year-old as well. Despite his five Group 1 victories at a mile, Rock of Gibraltar's number does not compare well with that of the 2001 highweight, Sakhee, who was pegged at 133, or of last year's 3-year-old champion, Point Given, who was rated at 130. The previous lowest-rated Classification highweights were Zafonic in 1993 and Balanchine in 1994, both of whom received 130.

Marienbard, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner for Godolphin Racing, is the highest rated older horse at 127, two pounds ahead of both the Laura de Seroux-trained Azeri and the Phil Johnson-trained Volponi, whose 125 marks make them co-champions in North America as well as co-highweights in the world on dirt. The ratings earned by the two Americans were awarded for their outstanding performances in the Breeders' Cup. The International Classification rating is not based on a horse's overall performance for the season, but on the horse's best performance of the year.

War Emblem, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is rated the best 3-year-old in the United States with a mark of 124, two pounds behind the sophomore runners-up, High Chaparral, the winner of the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, and the Breeders' Cup Turf, and French Derby winner Sulamani.

The versatile Came Home is named in no fewer than three distance categories. A Gone West 3-year-old, Came Home was rated at 121 in both the Intermediate division and in the Mile division, as well as 120 in the Sprint division. Bright Sky, winner of the French Oaks and Prix de l'Opera, tied for 3-year-old filly honors with Islington, winner of the Nassau Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks, at 120, one pound ahead of Kazzia and Pearly Shells, and two pounds ahead of the Paulo Lobo-trained Farda Amiga, who at 118 is the leading 3-year-old filly in North America.

The 120 rating of Sarava for his victory in the Belmont Stakes is an example of the generally low ratings given by the International Classification Committee this year, especially at longer distances. By comparison, the Belmont runner-up Medaglia d'Oro was rated at 121 in both the Mile and Intermediate categories for his victories in the Jim Dandy and the Travers.

Came Home's 120 mark in the Sprint division leaves him tied with Gygistar and Thunderello as the top 3-year-old sprinters in the world, but the overall sprint championship belongs to Orientate at 124. The 4-year-old Orientate won five graded sprints in 2002, capped by his victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Xtra Heat is the world's leading filly or mare sprinter at 120. The weakness of European sprinters is illustrated in the 119 grade awarded to leading speedster Kyllachy, winner of the Nunthorpe Stakes.

The Dermot Weld-trained Vinnie Roe is the world's highest ranking stayer at 119.

Azeri, in addition to tying with Volponi as highweight among all horses trained in North America and best dirt horse in the world, is also the world's highest rated filly or mare at 125. This places her three pounds ahead of Starine, the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner who rates as the world's highweight filly or mare on turf, and four pounds ahead of Astra (121). The first European-trained older fillies, Aquarelliste and Banks Hill, are both ranked at 119, along with Golden Apples.

Marienbard's 127 rating is the second-lowest mark awarded the highweight older horse in the history of the International Classification. Not since Priolo was pegged at 126 in 1991 has the champion older horse been rated so dismally. Marienbard's 127 rating is even one pound lower than that given to 1994's questionable best older horse, Maroof.

Marienbard is rated one pound ahead of the trio of King George winner Golan; Irish Champion Stakes winner Grandera; and Lockinge Stakes winner Keltos, the French miler whose career was cut short by injury in midsummer. Breeders' Cup Mile champ Domedriver is at 124, the same as the Australian highweight Northerly. Domedriver's trainer, Pascal Bary, whose Sulamani is the co-second highweight 3-year-old, also holds the distinction of training the leading European juvenile filly, Six Perfections, whose 121 rating is two pounds behind Oasis Dream, the champion European juvenile colt.

Oasis Dream, trained by John Gosden for Khalid Abdullah, earned a 123 for his victory over Tomahawk in a fast-run Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. By comparison, Johannesburg received a 126 rating in 2001, while 2000 juvenile champ Minardi was also rated at 123.

Tomahawk was also runner-up to Dewhurst Stakes winner Tout Seul, whose 122 makes him the second highest ranked juvenile colt. In fact, Tomahawk is rated two pounds higher than his Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate, Hold That Tiger (117), whose last-to-first heroics in the Grand Criterium failed to impress the Classification Committee. Dalakhani, a half-brother to 1999 Classification co-highweight Daylami and winner of the Criterium International for the Aga Khan, is the leading French-trained juvenile colt at 118.

Only 2-year-olds trained in Europe qualify for International Classification rankings on the basis there are not enough comparable form lines to include American-trained juveniles. One 2-year-old filly to note on the list is Luvah Girl. Rated at 112 for her Group 2 Rockfel Stakes victory, she is owned by Team Valor and is already a winner on dirt in England. She will continue her career in the United States this year.

Of the 214 3-year-olds named on the Classification, 88 were trained in the United States. Of the 407 older horses named, 191 were trained in the United States or Canada. A complete International Classification list can be found on Daily Racing Form's website www.drf.com.