New Approach is best in world
The world's best horse on turf last season was trained in Coolcullen, Co Carlow.
That was verdict from yesterday's 2008 World Thoroughbred Rankings, which rated Jim Bolger's New Approach alongside American dirt specialist Curlin as the equine leaders on a mark of 130.
New Approach justified his lofty rating as a juvenile by lifting the Epsom Derby but he only earned his end-of-year mark from his final race in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.
Garry O'Gorman -- senior Irish handicapper and co-chairman of the group of handicappers who form the World Rankings Supervisory Committee -- explained the thinking behind the assessment which put Bolger's stable star above French wonder-filly Zarkava.
"New Approach fulfilled his potential in the Champion Stakes. Until then, he wasn't quite as dominant as we would have hoped, but he proved himself at Newmarket," said O'Gorman.
Curlin joined him at the top by taking the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster Handicap before coming up short in the Breeders' Cup Classic behind John Gosden's Raven's Pass.
While the champions fell just short of the top mark of 131 achieved in 2007 by Manduro, the strength-in-depth at the top of the tree remained about the same, with five horses again ranked over 126.
Fourth was the Aga Khan's Zarkava (128), who will go down as one of the best fillies of recent times as she retired unbeaten after the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova and the unbeaten American filly Zenyatta were not far away on 125.
"Zarkava has been rated the best French filly since Miesque, Goldikova is the best female miler in 10 years and Zenyatta is the best filly in North America this century," said O'Gorman.
"While I would have loved to see Zarkava race again, her antics in the stalls towards the end of her career suggests the right decision was made to retire her.
"One school of thought is Zarkava would be in receipt of the female allowance if running against Curlin and New Approach, which would see her finish in front of them. But that's a philosophical discussion."
Not to be forgotten in fifth was Aidan O'Brien's Duke Of Marmalade.
In a gruelling campaign he followed home Zarkava in France and Raven's Pass in America but won the King George and Prince Of Wales's Stakes as well as defeating New Approach in the Juddmonte International.
Big Brown, who took the first two legs of the American Triple Crown, was another next best on 125 along with Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit, Guineas champion Henrythenavigator, two-time Arc runner-up Youmzain and the unknown French quantity Montmartre.
O'Brien's Mastercraftsman was rated last year's top two-year-old in Europe but his mark of 122 was considerably lower than the one achieved by 2007 champion New Approach in the European Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings.
Mastercraftsman attained his rating from his Group One victory in the Phoenix Stakes and was ranked 3lb higher than Freddy Head's Naaqoos (119), despite a two-and-a-half-length beating in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last October.
Another Irish horse was second on 121 in the shape of David Wachman's Bushranger, who landed the Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes.