A recent request on Twitter for which race from the festive period should come under the Sectional Spotlight this week prompted 14 individual races, some of them suggested several times over, underlining the breadth of interest in this area of analysis.
Both races were run at precisely three miles over fences at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, within 70 minutes of each other and with no significant weather events in between, so one-on-one comparisons should be valid. Wider time analysis suggests the prevailing ground was “good to soft” but certainly not testing.
The difference in overall times depends upon when the starts were deemed to have taken place. The official version is 1.9s in favour of the King George, whereas I make it 1.5s from video analysis. Let’s hope that 2019 finally brings precise and reliable official times over jumps, possibly resulting from break-beam technology at the start linked up with existing technology at the finish.
That is a difference of about 16 lb in favour of Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the King George, over La Bague Au Roi, winner of the Kauto Star, once the fact that the latter carried 10 lb less than the former is allowed for.
The overall times were not greatly different, but how the two races unfolded certainly was, as can be seen from a simple comparison of the number of lengths the leader in the King George was ahead of the leader in the novices’ race at each obstacle.
The King George was always ahead, but especially mid-race, with that advantage of 26 lengths, running away from the stands on the final circuit, the equivalent of around one-third of a furlong.
The problem with one-on-one comparisons is that they do not necessarily tell you whether one race was fast, the other one slow, or a bit of both. For that, we need to make a wider comparison with what is known to be the par for the course and distance.
That par may be arrived at by isolating individual performances through history which resulted in fast timefigures at the course and distance, and by then recalibrating the findings to the times achieved in the race or races under review.
The following is how the principals compared to sectional pars mapped to the faster of those two races, the King George.
It can be seen that the King George was remarkably well-run. Taking Thistlecrack as a guide, he was 1.2s (about 6 lengths) behind par at the tenth – just past halfway – but otherwise almost exactly on those benchmark figures.
The King George was run in a manner to produce a good time, which, to an extent, it did. But the Kauto Star was not, and yet, to an extent, it did also. The obvious, and correct, interpretation is that the novices could have run quite a bit faster – and possibly faster than the King George principals – had the pace in their race not been so slow early on.
In summary, the King George result and times should be taken largely as read – what you saw was what you got – but the Kauto Star result and times should not. The latter needs upgrading, by in the region of 7 lb for La Bague Au Roi, 5 lb for Topofthegame and 9 lb for the fastest finisher of all, Santini, by my reckoning.
Whether or not we saw a future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the big race, we might well have done so in the Kauto Star, as it happens. All the first-three novices could conceivably go all the way to the top.
Back to more mundane matters, there have been some remarkably quick times on the all-weather at Southwell lately, including a two-year-old “5f” course record on Saturday of 57.71s only partly explained by a wind at the runners’ backs.
Perhaps we will be in for an all-aged course record (currently 56.80s) there in the 2:35 on Thursday, and there are certainly some speedy types on show, albeit at an ordinary level.
The one who appeals most in the circumstances is CROSSE FIRE, a course-and-distance winner off a higher mark in March and likely to be better for his recent reappearance after three months off. He can make the running but does not seem as beholden to doing so as some others here.
ROBERT L’ECHELLE is an interesting runner in the 7:15 at Wolverhampton on Friday, having looked all over the winner at Lingfield last time only for his racing close to a generous pace to catch up with him close home.
The colt’s sectionals – which can be found in the results section on this site – suggest it was the run of the race rather than lack of stamina which undid him, and he may not have to improve to take this novice median auction over a bit further still in any case.