It is fair to say that last weekend’s Betway Winter Derby at Lingfield Park did not turn out to be quite the race anticipated. Not only was Mutakayyef – the second-highest rated horse to run on the all-weather this decade on Timeform ratings – a late non-runner, but the horse who replaced him as favourite, Battalion, blew his chance at the start and the race ended as a sprint from the turn.
You do not need sectionals to tell the last-named, but sectionals do capture precisely to what degree that was the case. The Total Performance Figures on At The Races website tell of a respectable pace for the opening 2f, then successive pedestrian furlongs of over 13.0s, before a burn-up in the final half-mile. The pace heatmap went from yellow to green and then to red.
Less than a length separated the first five at the line, and the winner, Convey, came home in 21.4s for the final quarter of a mile. By way of comparison, that is the same sectional time as recorded by the winner of the listed Betway Hever Sprint, Royal Birth at an overall distance only half of the Winter Derby and in what was another faster-than-par finish.
The Betway Winter Derby was a messy race then, and the horses who benefited most from the run of things, judged by individual finishing speeds, were the runner-up Pinzolo and the fourth-placed Zhui Feng: the latter had been beaten three times previously off marks in the 100s.
Fastest of all in those closing stages was ABSOLUTE BLAST ATR Tracker, the mare that had run a remarkably swift 10.9s for the final furlong at Wolverhampton on her previous start. Her prodigious turn of foot makes her an interesting contender for Finals Day, at which she has a number of options for talented new trainer Archie Watson.
Fastest of all late on in the Hever Sprint was Pretend, by the way, though that may be scant consolation for those who made him a short-priced favourite again, only to see him fail again. It does, however, suggest that this quirky sort still retains the ability to win the Betway Sprint Final over a furlong further on Good Friday, if he is in the mood.
There were a couple of other particularly interesting sectional performances elsewhere on the same Lingfield Park card. PRESUMIDO ATR Tracker turned into the home straight in Chevallier’s race in a near-impossible position, but successive sectionals of 10.7s and 11.2s got him into fifth: his time may be near again.
FAMILY FORTUNES ATR Tracker ran pretty fast from start to finish, but especially at the finish, when winning a 5f maiden that probably represents half-decent form. It is easy to see the Sylvester Kirk-trained three-year-old making his mark in sprint handicaps before long.
The maiden won by Dark Titan at Wolverhampton on 23 February is probably no great shakes, but third-placed newcomer SECRET SALVAGE ATR Tracker put in closing sectionals when clearly green which suggest she can win a race before long.
The stretch run of MAJOR JUMBO ATR Tracker on the same course on 25 February was strong enough to take him to victory, but may mean that he gets under-rated by conventional handicapping methods. A re-assessment in the 80s should give him every chance of following up.
Incidentally, the infamous Chelmsford City voided race on 23 February will not be appearing in the Form Book but was run in a solid overall time. CAPPANANTY CON ATR Tracker – picked out as a sectional to-follow horse on these pages previously – probably did well enough in closing up late into “third” to be persevered with.
Six Fast-Track Qualifiers – the winning of which guarantees a place on Finals Day at Lingfield Park at Easter – remain, and four of them will be at Dundalk in Ireland, starting with the 32Red.com race this Friday.
A general point to note about racing at the County Louth track is that the surface there this year has regularly been slower than in 2016, as inferred from times. The slowest surface of all in those periods came as recently as on 10 February.
That may prove relevant for what will be a seven-furlong contest in which the sole British challenger of four declared runners – Visionary – has stamina to prove.
The other three are all winners at this track, and the most promising of them is just about the Joseph O’Brien-trained REMEMBER THE DAYS, who looked potentially useful when winning a maiden on 17 February on his only start. The drop in trip is a slight concern, but Rock In Peace usually goes from the front so this may turn into a reasonable test.
Before the Dundalk contest, there is the totepoolliveinfo.com Visit For Racing Results Stakes at Chelmsford City on Thursday, a seven-runner affair at two miles.
Doubts surround a number of the runners in terms of stamina, notably Retrieve, and the likeliest winner by some way looks to be WINNING STORY, who took a similar contest at Newcastle just before Christmas when last seen.
Early indications are that he will be a backable price, and he is the selection, but it will also be interesting to see how the Archie Watson-trained Calvinist fares at much bigger odds.