01/13/2009 12:00AM

Curlin, New Approach on top of world


Curlin and New Approach share championship honors on the 2008 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Ratings. Both horses were pegged at 130 by the worldwide panel of national handicappers and racing secretaries, Curlin landing the older horse championship while New Approach took the 3-year-old title.

The World Thoroughbred Racehorse Ratings, which include horses running in all jurisdictions save South America, also serve as the official European championship classification. The ratings committee includes representatives from Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and South Africa.

Both Curlin and New Approach were repeat winners. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Curlin had been named co-champion 3-year-old in 2007, while the Jim Bolger-trained New Approach was last year's champion European 2-year-old.

Curlin won his title despite finishing only fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, earning his high mark for a 7 3/4-length triumph in the Dubai World Cup. New Approach, beaten by the BC Classic runner-up Henrythenavigator in both the 2000 Guineas and the Irish 2000 Guineas, bounced back with a big win in the Epsom Derby, but earned his 130 in the Intermediate category by taking both the Champion Stakes at Newmarket and the Irish Champion Stakes.

The Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass was rated the best 3-year-old in the world on dirt or synthetics at 129, while the undefeated Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Zarkava was the world's highest rated filly or mare at 128. Raven's Pass was also rated the world's best miler on turf at 127 by dint of his victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown was rated the best 3-year-old in North America at 125, while Conduit, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf for which he received a 125 long-distance rating, was ranked the world's best stayer with the same mark for his victory in the St. Leger Stakes. The Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova was pronounced the best female miler in the world on turf at 125, a mark that also made her the highest-rated 3-year-old filly to have raced in North America.

Hungarian sensation Overdose was rated the world's best 3-year-old turf sprinter at 120, while the Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Fatal Bullet took honors as the best 3-year-old sprinter on dirt or synthetics at 119.

Curlin, a four-time Grade 1 winner in 2008, was a clear winner in the older horse division, his 130 being three pounds better than five-time Group 1 winner Duke of Marmalade. Youmzain, second in the Arc for the second time in 2008, was rated at 125 along with the remarkable Zenyatta. A four-time Grade 1 winner herself, the undefeated John Shirreffs-trained Zenyatta was by far the world's best older filly or mare, outpointing Sun Classique, winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic, and Vodka, winner of the Yasuda Kinen and Autumn Tenno Sho, by five pounds.

Good Ba Ba was rated the best horse in Hong Kong at 125, courtesy of his repeat score in the Hong Kong Mile. Screen Hero's 40-1 upset of the Japan Cup earned the highweight mark among all Japanese horses at 122.

Midnight Lute was rated the best sprinter in the world for the second year in a row at 123. The winner of the last two Breeders' Cup Sprints, he had earned the same accolade last year with a 121 rating. From Hong Kong, Sacred Kingdom was ranked the best turf sprinter in the world at 123, one pound better than Australian champ Weekend Hussler and two pounds better than the European champ Marchand d'Or.

The handicappers couldn't separate Music Note and Proud Spell, whose 118 ratings made them the highest-rated North American-trained 3-year-old fillies, 10 pounds behind world champion 3-year-old filly Zarkava.

Despite international form lines through Bushranger, Square Eddie, Donativum, Westphalia, and Heart Shaped, the world ratings classification for 2-year-olds remains exclusively European. The highweight mark of 122 went to Mastercraftsman, the Aidan O'Brien-trained winner of the Phoenix Stakes and National Stakes. Naaqoos, who beat Mastercraftsman by 2 1/2 lengths into fourth in the Prix Jean Luc-Lagardere, was rated only fourth at 119. The undefeated John Gosden-trained Rainbow View, the 2 1/2-length winner of the Fillies Mile, took the European juvenile filly crown at 118.

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