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Grand Armee is poised to become the first horse since Super Impose (1991) to win the Doncaster-Epsom Handicap double in the same year, according to respected form analyst Gary Crispe.
After Grand Armee's good second behind Lonhro in last week's George Main Stakes, Crispe says the Timeform ratings suggest the five-year-old is the horse to beat in tomorrow's big race at Randwick.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph Racing Editor Ray Thomas, Crispe reveals his Timeform rating selections for all three Group One races tomorrow -- the Epsom, Spring Champion Stakes and Flight Stakes.
Q: What do you make of this year's Epsom Handicap field?
A: It's certainly not a real top-quality Epsom and I think there are a lot of "ifs and buts'' about some of the runners getting a strong 1600m, notably Thorn Park, Zabarra and Sportsman.
Q: Who is the Timeform rating selection for the Epsom Handicap?
A: Grand Armee is the horse to beat. His effort to split the nation's two best racehorses, Lonhro and Defier, in last week's George Main Stakes was a very good. He rated 121 last Saturday, which was higher than his Doncaster Handicap win last autumn when he went to 118.
The George Main Stakes was a strong form race and I feel Grand Armee has scope for further improvement, particularly now he has drawn so well in barrier three. He was having only his third run from a spell so he should be near his peak for the Epsom.
Q: What are the dangers to Grand Armee?
A: Galante is a horse on the up. He's had a good preparation for the race and has been rating around the 113 mark. He needs to find an extra length and a half, he needs to go to 118 to be a chance. With his light weight, he's capable of getting there.
I'm prepared to give Zabarra one more chance to show he can run a mile. He is going into the race in very good form and is rating around 114. He's got to lift on that figure to be in the finish.
The best value runner in the Epsom could be Stoway. He's run some excellent races this time in and goes up to a distance more suitable to him.
Excellerator, last year's Epsom winner, rounds off my top five. He's rating about 118 at the moment but needs to go to the figure he attained winning last year of 124 to be a chance of going back-to-back. The concern I have with him is he is coming back in distance, back from 1900m in the Hill Stakes. I've found over the years few horses have been able to win the Epsom doing that.
Q: You have left out some of the more high-profile Epsom horses such as Clangalang, Thorn Park and Sportsman. How do you regard their chances?
A: Clangalang has rated 121 at his best but he's had a setback and I don't know if he can reproduce that figure.
It's the same for Thorn Park, who on his day has gone as high as 122. Thorn Park has the ability to win the Epsom, there's no doubt about it, but I question whether he can reproduce his best ratings after the setback and from his wide barrier (18). I just feel Sportsman might struggle at 1600m.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Spring Champion Stakes?
A: I think Allgunadoit will beat Tsuimai and Niello. I was very impressed with Allgunadoit's win in the Spring Stakes at Newcastle.
That is always a strong form race and he rated 120, one of the highest Spring Stakes winners.
Tsuimai went to 117 winning the Gloaming Stakes and he might be very hard to run down.
Niello, Lonhro's younger brother, is a horse who has scope for improvement.
Q: Is Shamekha unbeatable in the Flight Stakes?
A: Well, she does look the winner. She has rated 122 winning her last two starts and that is a very high rating for a filly.
Classy Dane and Santissima are the other chances.
Article taken from The Daily Telegraph, published on Friday, 3rd October 2003, Author, Ray Thomas, Page 46.