Harbinger, Good Or Great?

Guest post written by Darren Hudson-Wood

It‚Äôs a question that¬†now can¬†never be truly¬†answered but does Harbinger deserve to be called a “great”¬†after¬†his a scintillating King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory¬†and subsequent retirement through injury. Or was that a fluke/flattering performance¬†and how¬†does his¬†new rating compare with previous middle distance stars?

Going into the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes Harbinger was, without doubt, deemed Sir Michael Stoute’s second string. Stable jockey Ryan Moore had deserted him for the Derby winner Workforce and the betting public also with Harbinger¬†going off at 4/1 and¬†Workforce race favourite¬†at 8/11.

I’m also of the firm opinion that Sir Michael knows the pecking order at freemason lodge and the vibes before the race were that Workforce was the one, so even accounting for the race result Workforce must of been the better horse at home?!

However Harbinger won the race impressively by 11 lengths and visually it was hard not to be impressed. Even more so when you look at what he beat, Cape Blanco the Irish derby winner, Youmzain dual group 1 winner and perennial arc runner up, Daryakana a group 1 Hong Kong vase winner and then the 2010 derby winner Workforce.

On these form lines alone then you can confidently say Harbinger is one of the best horses in the world at present.

But let’s firstly look at the horses he beat that day. Cape Blanco probably ran to form but would not be up there with previous Ballydoyle middle distance horses, despite his Irish Derby win. Youmzain is a grand servant but Ascot does not play to his strengths and his best form is elsewhere and on easier ground. Daryakana is a group 1 winning filly but would struggle to be in the top 5 middle distance horses in France and Workforce, who plainly did not give his running. You just have to write off this performance.

So whilst visually impressive I would not take the form literally, yet the handicapper did!

Harbinger was given a rating of 135¬†post race, making him the highest rated horse in¬†the world¬†and just 1lb short of Sea the Stars final rating of 136, however I’m not going to compare him to¬†Sea the Stars.

But¬†I will argue that Harbinger does not deserve to be rated 135 and classed as a “great/world champion” by connections for frankly what was one group 1 victory.

My argument on top of my opinions regarding the race form at Ascot, is that of horses rated so inferior on ratings to Harbinger and the main one being from the same stable.

Conduit rated 125, fully 10lb lower than Harbinger, also winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2009. Conduit was a 4 time winner at the highest level including two back to back breeders cup turfs, and a St Ledger. I would also argue that the 2009 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes was a stronger renewal that this year’s race.

So with four group 1’s to his name¬†of which one¬†includes a classic, how can Conduit be rated 10lb inferior to a horse who won a sole¬†group 1 race in his whole career.

Other top class middle distance horse in recent years rated lower than Harbinger include:-

130 New Approach

129 Authorized

126 Dylan Thomas

125 Motivator

And last year’s world rankings:-


Sea the Stars (IRE)




Goldikova (IRE)




Rip Van Winkle (IRE)




Fame and Glory (GB)




Zenyatta (USA)




Rachel Alexandra (USA)




Cavalryman (GB)




Conduit (IRE)




Gio Ponti (USA)




Gladiatorus (USA)




Youmzain (IRE)



So my summary is simple. I’m personally of the opinion that Harbinger did not deserve to be rated so¬†superior to horses who achieved far more on the race track than he ever¬†did,¬†and whilst not putting the horse down in any way or crabbing his impressive King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes win, I just¬†do not think he¬†deserves to go down as a great. And you have to ask yourself¬†if there was a match race (at their peak ) between Conduit and Harbinger would you really¬†fancy Harbinger to¬†give lumps of weight away and come out on top?

I know I wouldn’t!

Darren Hudson-Wood is one of the leading tipsters in the UK. Having been around horses all his life Darren has a breeding background in the racing industry. All his selections are made through rigorous form and pedigree studies and can be found on his website

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. Hi
    well you say you do not want to crab the form of harginger but that sounds much
    to be the case, now i`m no expert on these things,but maybe i can give some food for you compair harbinger with conduit on many levels mainly being a 4 times winner at the highest level but as we have come to know horses progress in their own time
    so not every horse can win a certain calaber of race over a given period as meny get better with the passage of time
    you may well be right about the kneejurk reaction of the handicaper

    but the horses form cannot be belittled i dount think, although he might have been deemed sir Michael Stout`s second string this could simply have been due to workforce`s previous preformance as a youngster then comming on to win the derby not suprising then that he was the apple of his eye.that being said on the day of the race the horse being sent off at 4/1 it was still one of the most mentioned horse in the race witch means lots thought it was not with out a chance and might be the one to give workforce
    the most to do

    you mentioned youmzain and that Ascot may not have played to it strengths but conversly

    Ascot may well have played to the strengths of harbinger
    and although workforce may have not run to his best they all had good credenchals
    and when he excelerated he left them all for dead by 11 lengths cant be bad in anyones
    books it should also be rememberd that unlike Epsom or Goodwood ascot is one of the stifest /slowest track in briten i am not sure if he broke the course record
    it would be worth having a look at his finishing time compaired to standard Time
    bucause if he was close to or better than standard time giving weight away
    makes it an even better performance

    and going back to coduit well if hardenger had to give lumps of weight away well thats hardly fair and if you mean weight for age then if he was beten close up to conduit
    giving lumps of weight away to it then that would still make him the better horse

    as that would mean at levels he would always win.ok the age thing would be the spanner in the works but you see what i mean.

    further to your comment whos to say if not for his injurie he wouldent have got on to win more clasic races now he`s hit this level of performance

    so in conclusion yes maybe the handicaper ran away with his rating Not the horses fault
    but nothing can be taken away from the horse for puting up such a great performance



  2. Hi Glen,

    Thanks for your comments,

    In terms of the actual performance at Ascot it was visually and by time standards impressive i fully agree with that, however can you judge/rate a horse the best in the world from one race? yes he was unbeaten this season coming into Ascot, but the form was not top top class.

    Basically what I’m trying to put forward is I’m not in anyone doubting the horses ability, or even that he was a group 1 horse, more that was he really a great? which is what the handicapper has rated him as.

    I agree with comments regarding horses improving with time and racing, and I’m using conduit as an example to compare Harbinger with (there would be many others who I would argue were better than Harbinger and rated inferior-High Chaparral a dual derby and breeders cup winner, rated lower than him?)

    With regards to the match race, I meant if they had a match race off there handicap marks, Conduit and Harbinger were both aged 4 when retired so I know its mythical but lets assume you can race them both at there peak-there would be no weight for age allowance, they key question is would you fancy Harbinger to be able to carry 10lb and still beat Conduit as that’s what he Handicapper thinks and my personal opinion is Conduit would come out on top as would High Chaparral receiving weight from Harbinger.

    But at the end of the day, I do not claim I’m right, everyone is entitled to there own opinions and this is just mine.

  3. Hi Darren

    thanks for your reply to my comments
    having gone down to the bottom of your reply i now see what your saying
    and that being the same age harbinger would find it dificult to give away 10lb`s
    to Conduit and High Chaparral,And as i think i said in my comment i did agree with you
    in so much that the handicapper may well have ran away with his assesment of the proformance.i think this might have bin purely because of the manner in witch it was achieved when you see that one moment he was with the pack and the next he had excelerated from the bunch to the tune of 11. Lenght and nothing was able to follow him

    may well have been why the kneejurk reaction from the handicapper
    i dount know if you like looking things up Darren but it might be interesting to know
    how High Chaparral and Conduit got on in this race in turms of how meny Lengths
    won by and their times compaired to standared time for course and distance
    fistly seeing who had the better time and at what weight and then by doing some maths
    we could see were they would be in relation to each other
    and if harbinger was better than standard at 3.lengths per pound we can work out how far or near the others woulb be receiving 10lb
    if you have the inclenation to do this in your spear time of corse,it has been a very good chat though

    with regards


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