There has been just the one Fast Track Qualifier - the winning of which guarantees a place on AW Finals Day at Lingfield on 14 April 2017 - since the last update: the 32Red.com Fillies’ Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton on Friday.
Thanks to Total Performance Data’s sectional times, and At The Races’s innovative interpretation and presentation of those times, it is possible to analyse how the race unfolded in the kind of detail that could only have been dreamt of previously.
By going to the “sectional times” tab on the result it can be seen that the pace was pretty even early (the heatmap is predominantly yellow to the left) before dipping mid-race (at which stage that heatmap turns to green). It then picked up late on, with the heatmap showing red in the final 1f.
All of the runners were in with a chance from halfway (with the notable exception of this column’s selection, Squash, who lost all chance at the start and was quickly pulled up), but it was VOLUNTEER POINT’s forward move approaching the straight then sustained run once in it that sealed the matter.
The “sectional tools” tab for the same race shows that there was not a great difference in the finishing speed %s (closing speed as a % of average race speed) of the individual runners, but that Yeah Baby Yeah deserves upgrading slightly more than those who finished ahead of her.
Volunteer Point looks like having more on her plate in defending her Fillies & Mares title in the spring - Muffri’ha has already qualified for that race and is rated quite a bit higher than her at this stage - but is ending the year in form very nearly as good as that in which she started it.
While those sectionals do not tell us a lot about the Volunteer Point race - besides the fact that the result can largely be taken at face value, which is quite a bit when you think about it - that is not the case with all other races, of course. Yet the presence of TPD sectionals and ATR sectional tools means the same sort of analysis can be performed, regardless.
If you want an example of a race that was run in extremely efficient style, you could look at the 5f nursery at Newcastle on Monday, in which the pace heatmap is an “even” yellow throughout, with those energy distribution graphs almost bang on par for the principals, and in which the first four home get “Grade As” for efficiency. “What You See Is What You Get”.
If you are looking for examples of much more unevenly-paced contests, in which some horses will have been more or less suited by how things developed, you could call up the maiden won by Native Soldier or the fillies’ handicap won by Just For You at Newcastle last Friday, in both of which the winners did notably well.
A couple of specific horses for the sectional notebook in the last week are fifth-placed ROAD TO DUBAI at Wolverhampton on Saturday and the runner-up GALILEE CHAPEL at Newcastle on Monday, who were both the only horses in their races to get the “flaming” finishing-speed icon.
It may also be worth persevering with JUSTICE PLEASING- nominated in this column previously - after a sixth at Newcastle on Tuesday when he again did a bit too much too soon.
That things do not always go according to sectional plans must be obvious, however! Pike Corner Cross was put up as one to be against off his new handicap mark in the last ATR Sectional Spotlight, but connections cannily ran him under a penalty (3 lb less than his new mark) and he found enough to follow up.
Newcastle gets a lot of mentions in the preceding, and it remains just about the most interesting AW track at present, with its straight and fairly stiff mile representing a challenge for judgement of pace.
Interestingly, however, the way races tend to be run there has changed in recent weeks. Almost half of contests at the track between 28 October and 7 November resulted in slow race finishing speeds of under 96%, implying an overly-strong pace before that. But that figure was down to just 4% between 25 and 29 November.
At the same time, the proportion of races with quick finishes of over 100% went from one in three to roughly two in three. Whether it is deliberate, accidental, temporary or permanent, jockeys are keeping more in reserve for the finish of races at Newcastle than they were even just a month ago.
There is one FTQ this coming weekend - the 32Red.com Conditions Stakes over an extended 5f at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening - and it has attracted a select field of seven.
SUTTER COUNTY has clear claims on his neck second to Kananee in another FTQ at Newcastle last month, though that race was at 6f on a stiffer track.
Interestingly, the TPD sectionals show that Sutter County was faster in the first 2f that day than was Dubai One – one of his chief rivals here – at a shorter distance on the same track later in the month.
Recent winners Rozy Boys and Gheedaa look to have potential, but Sutter County seems unlikely to fail for speed back at the minimum trip and is taken to return to winning ways.