01/18/2008 12:00AM

World rankings have some puzzlers


NEW YORK - The World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings, recognized throughout the world save North America as the definitive ordering of Thoroughbred meritocracy, threw up the usual number of surprises when revealed this past Tuesday.

While arguing with Manduro's selection as the highest-rated horse in the world would be a risky project in light of his perfect season, with Group 1 victories at a mile, 1 1/8 miles, and 1 1/4 miles, plus a Group 2 score at 1 1/2 miles, there is plenty of room for debate below the champion's rating of 131.

Dylan Thomas and Invasor dead-heated for second in the older-horse category at 129. Invasor's mark made him the world's highest-rated older horse on dirt by a healthy five-pound difference over Lawyer Ron. The winner of the Donn Handicap and the Dubai World Cup, Invasor deserves that kind of margin over Lawyer Ron, the big winner of both the Whitney and the Woodward over an inferior bunch of older horses. That surmise is confirmed by the 129 rating for Curlin, the presumed American 3-year-old champion who beat Lawyer Ron by a neck in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and by 28 1/2 lengths in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

It will be interesting to see if Invasor can maintain his edge over Lawyer Ron in the Eclipse Award voting for best older horse. It will be even more interesting to see if Invasor can edge out Curlin for Eclipse Horse of the Year honors. That is unlikely to happen, although it is difficult to make a case for Curlin being a better horse than Invasor. Curlin began to fulfill his potential only when he won the Classic, yet how much can be said for defeating a sprinter like Hard Spun at 1 1/4 miles?

The intricacies of the world rankings have produced Any Given Saturday as the best 3-year-old miler in the world on any surface, even though he did not run at that distance in 2007. The world rankings include races at 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles in its mile category, and awarded Any Given Saturday high marks for his victories in the Dwyer, Haskell, and Brooklyn. He may have been the beneficiary of an anti-French bias that the rankings frequently manifest. In this case, the victims were the very accomplished trio of Lawman, Literato, and Darjina.

Lawman was "awarded" a rating of just 120 at a mile for his three-length victory over his fellow 3-year-olds in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, but was inexplicably not given an Intermediate category rating for his 1 1/2-length score in the 1 5/16-mile French Derby. That race didn't seem to be very strong when it was run on June 3, but not only did Lawman himself win the Jean Prat a month later, the race also produced three other big-race Group 1 winners. Runner-up Literato went from strength to strength with three straight victories, culminating in the Group 1 Champion Stakes. Third-place Shamdinan won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. And fourth-place Zambezi Sun was later an easy winner of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris.

Why was Lawman rated nine pounds below Authorized, whose win in the Epsom Derby was had at the expense of the St. Leger winner Lucarno and the Irish Derby winner Soldier of Fortune? Even Authorized's 129 in the Intermediate category for his one-length Juddmonte International victory over Dylan Thomas, a horse who was markedly better going 1 1/2 miles, seems generous. Lawman is no worse that three or four pounds worse than Authorized, while Literato, who was rated just 123, may well have been Authorized's equal at season's end.

By any stretch of the imagination, Darjina was the best 3-year-old miler in the world in 2007. The winner of the French 1000 Guineas, she stepped up to beat older females in the Prix d'Astarte, then beat older horses, among them three-time Group 1 mile winner Ramonti, in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. Her 122 rating is a little low, especially in light of Rags to Riches's 123, garnered for a Belmont Stakes victory over 3-year-old colts. The rankings panel seems to think that a filly victory over older horses, like Darjina's in the Moulin, is worth less than a filly victory over colts of the same age, like Rags to Riches's in the Belmont. Timeform's ratings of Darjina and Any Given Saturday at 128 with Rags to Riches at 125 seem closer to reality.

The rankings did place a pair of French trainees one-two amongst European juvenile fillies. They were the Prix Marcel Boussac winner Zarkava at 119 and the Cheveley Park Stakes winner Natagora at 118, but they may have underestimated the progressive 2-year-old colt Thewayyouare. A son of Kingmambo trained by Andre Fabre, he garnered just a 118 rating for his win in the Criterium International, a race that has produced Arc winners Dalakhani and Bago in recent years. It is difficult to believe that Thewayyouare is rated eight pounds below the rankings' highly accomplished juvenile colt champion, New Approach, or merely the equal of Natagora.