Timeform's Gary Crispe reviews the interesting outcome of the weekend's Australian Guineas, which sadly became 'all too hard' for the favourite...
Saturday's Group one Australian Guineas for three-year-olds over 1600m at Flemington looked a formality until race morning when short-priced favourite All Too Hard was sensationally withdrawn when found to be suffering an elevated temperature.
All of a sudden, the race was thrown wide open with progressive restricted-class galloper Ajeeb installed as favourite ahead of Philippi and Albrecht.
The gloss had suddenly gone off what was originally shaping up as a vintage guineas renewal.
All Too Hard, which had already dominated older horses under group one weight-for-age conditions with a Timeform rating of 128, was going to be the highest rated three-year-old to ever contest the race.
Instead, the Jim Conlan-trained Ferlax came off a Sale restricted class 68 handicap to take one of his age groups most coveted prizes and remain unbeaten after four race starts.
The colt defeated Vanity Stakes runner-up You're So Good and C S Hayes Stakes winner Sheer Talent after securing a rails hugging ride by Stephen Baster.
Assessing the race was not a straightforward process.
Several horses ran above form, while others ran below.
However, after careful consideration of all the factors, Ferlax was assessed to have run to a Timeform rating of 112p.
In reaching this value, the rating form profiles of the runners were considered along with the recent form of Ferlax, race standardisation and time-figure analysis.
While the 112 figure is consistent with the Time-figure returned by Ferlax, it is some pounds below what could have been expected from historical race analysis.
There is little more Ferlax could have achieved in his four career starts to date, becoming one of the few horses in history to have taken a group one race without ever previously running in the metropolitan area, improving 17 pounds in performance.
For the time being, the collateral form from the Australian Guineas will continue to be monitored and the race back-handicapped at some later date if justified.
All the same, it would not surprise if the race proved a nursery for handy four-year-olds, many of the runners being only lightly raced and open to considerable improvement.
Runner-up You're So Good almost provided a treble of wins for fillies in the feature, Shamrocker (Timeform rated 114) and Mosheen (124) having taken the race in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
In a change of riding tactics, she was ridden off the speed and they seemed to suit her much better as the filly, under Vlad Duric, rushed home late out wide, just failing to overhaul Ferlax. She improved he rating to 106, a jump of 10 pounds, with more to come.
Third-placed Sheer Talent improved again off his last start win in the C S Hayes Stakes at Caulfield over 1400m, lacking that turn of foot required to "put a field away". No doubt this fellow will be even better suited by longer distances.
Fourth-placed Hvasstan and sixth-placed Philippi ran to Timeform ratings of 105 and 101 respectively, but still below form. Both are looking for 2000m and further, and neither had the best of luck last Saturday.
While Hvasstan was forced to cover a considerable amount of additional ground when making his run from back in the field, Philippi had a impeded passage when looking for runs inside other runners.
Hvasstan has scope to improve nine pounds (his current master Timeform rating 114) on this performance and I expect him to do that next time out.
Once All Too Hard was scratched, Albrecht was the highest-rated Timeform horse in the race, running to 120 when just beaten in the G1 Golden Rose last year. However, he has failed to reproduce anything like that form in three starts in Melbourne, finishing 10th in the Guineas. He now heads back to Sydney.
At this juncture it is clear the 2013 Australian Guineas renewal was well below group one standard.
Ultimately how much below will be monitored in the weeks ahead.
Don't forget to check Betting@Betfair tomorrow for Gary's preview of Race 3 @ Sandown...