Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands outlines what can be expected of some recent All-Weather winners that might have slipped under the radar and looks back on the pick of the chases from Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

  • Thursday 02 January
  • Blog
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A new year presents an opportunity to look forward as well as back, so this attheraces.com Sectional Spotlight will attempt a bit of both. Indeed, it can be difficult to do one without the other.

The looking forward is to what can be expected of a few of the recent winners on the all-weather that might otherwise have slipped under the radar.

An earlier Sectional Spotlight went into detail about the debut win of Waldkonig and concluded that he was probably Listed/Group 3 material – worth a 106 sectional rating – despite the modest overall time that he recorded.

Most of the following sextet will not be that good, but one or two could be, and the others should still be major players in their chosen grade.

A summary, then, of what they achieved in their most recent starts and wins – arrived at manually – followed by a brief appraisal of what the findings may signify.


STARCAT(H Morrison) may prove to be the star of this particular cohort, having recorded a useful overall time and even better sectionals in beating the nearly-as-promising pair of debutants Eastern World and Kuramata. His striding suggests he will get 10f and possibly 12f (sire Lope de Vega is quality but proving difficult to interpret where striding is concerned). Like Waldkonig, a Listed race, or perhaps something even better, looks a legitimate target.

SKY COMMANDER (J Tate) won by seven lengths, though his oppositions was not strong. He could prove to be a handicapper, though a useful one at that, and strides as if 7f/8f may be optimum for now.

BOCCACCIO (C Appleby) followed up his win at Yarmouth six months earlier in taking style by more than three lengths and has an entry in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Connections may be tempted to run him in a handicap (BHA mark of 95), however, and his striding points to him being best at 7f to 9f.

THE PERFECT CROWN(A Watson) stormed to victory by eight lengths from a colt (Corvair) who has finished second and won since. His time and sectionals were useful, rather than better, but improvement from what was his debut seems certain. A half-brother to the stable’s useful Absolute Blast, The Perfect Crown should stay a mile but is not in need of an increase in trip judged by his striding.   

OTTOMAN COURT(C Appleby) is included in his own right but also because of what that easy win at Chelmsford over a next-time winner implies about the horse who tonked him in a good time at Newmarket in June. Visinari – for it was he – emerged as more than 10 lb superior to Ottoman Court that day and demonstrated a freakish stride length in the process. It did not work out for Visinari thereafter, or for Ottoman Court on his next start, but patience looks like paying off with the latter, who strides like a miler despite having shown plenty of pace.

FIRST VIEW (S bin Suroor) has won both his starts in Godolphin colours and been awarded a generous-looking 90 mark by the BHA, especially in view of a useful time and some solid sectionals. He has stamina on his dam’s side, and that striding points to him staying 10f, perhaps further, despite being by Exceed And Excel.

The looking back is at some of the jumps action over the busy festive period.

While overall time analysis continues to prove difficult in Ireland, where rail movements remain largely unreported and overall race distances are sometimes a mystery, they do not move the fences – at least not inside the same week – so sectionals can be especially helpful.

The following are the late sectionals for the leaders in chases across the four days of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. According to the official description, the surface speeded up for the final day, though that was not entirely borne out by overall times (assuming overall distances were correct).

Leopardstown sectionals


Those last two races are indeed faster sectionally than those that preceded them, though that is due at least in part to their having been run at a steady pace.

Perhaps of more interest is just how slow late on was the Savills Chase won by Delta Work in a bunched finish, and how fast was the Grade 1 Novice Chase won by Notebook, especially up the run-in.

Further investigation of the former reveals that the pace might have been steady early on but was notably strong thereafter, leading to a slow-motion finish, and that the latter was around 1.0s (5 lengths) faster than the following handicap for most of the way but that Notebook really turned on the after-burners late on.

That puts a different complexion on matters and suggests the former race was more of a test of stamina than seems to have been appreciated, while the latter was well-run, and resulted in a good overall time, but that it would have required something really special from runner-up Fakir d’Oudairies to get past Notebook given just how much the latter found after jumping the last about two lengths to the good.  

It is great to have electronic sectionals delivered on a plate by Total Performance Data at so many tracks, flat and jumps, but the above is just a hint at some of the insights that may be gleaned elsewhere simply by using a stopwatch and a bit of patience.

Sectional Spotlight
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