Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands salutes Caspian Prince following the 9yo’s personal best in winning a FTQ at Newcastle this week, analyses the victory of smart novice hurdler Maria’s Benefit and has fancies in action at Southwell on Friday and Lingfield on Saturday.

  • Thursday 04 January
  • Blog
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This is the time of year when sporting and other bodies tend to throw awards ceremonies.

Horseracing in Britain does not have one all-encompassing event – much less a Hall of Fame as mooted many times over the years – but does have more targeted ones like The Lesters, and is associated with continental undertakings like the Cartier Awards and global ones like the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.

There is no room in those last two glittering occasions for the little guy. But, if British racing were giving out a “lifetime services to racing” award for equines right now, it could do a lot worse than recognise CASPIAN PRINCE.

The son of Dylan Thomas (yes, that fact surprised me too!) has run 77 times in all and has almost always shown blistering speed which even the fastest sprinters in the world struggle to match.

If we had a few high-quality four-furlong races (another of my ideas which has failed to catch on) then Caspian Prince might have been recognised widely as the superstar that he really is.

His 18 wins – all but two of them at around five furlongs – have included three Epsom Dashes over the fastest sprint track in the world and a Group 2 at the Curragh in which he beat Marsha, no less, giving her weight.

On Tuesday, he added Newcastle’s Betway-sponsored Fast-Track Qualifier, in which he missed the track record by just seven-hundredths of a second despite a fairly testing surface. Caspian Prince made the running, typically enough, but he came again to deny Atletico having hit 33/1 in play.

Interestingly, the Total Performance Data sectionals, which are now on the ATR site, show that Caspian Prince was easily fastest in the opening furlong (13.7s from a standing start) but actually slowest of all (11.0s followed by 10.8s) in the next two, as the others played catch-up.

Even at nine years of age, this was a lifetime best under a penalty by Caspian Prince on Timeform ratings at 118. That would have been good enough to have won the Sprint itself on All-Weather Finals Day more often than not.

Unfortunately, for Caspian Prince’s connections, that race – on Good Friday, March 30, this year – will be at six furlongs and one yard, and if the six furlongs does not do for Caspian Prince then the extra yard probably will.

Still, I hope he runs, for there are few finer sights in racing than Caspian Prince steaming along at the head of affairs with the enthusiasm of a horse a fraction of his age!

It is easy to lose sight of good performances during the hectic festive period, and one that seems to have slipped under the radar somewhat is the win of MARIA’S BENEFIT at Taunton on 30 December.

The mare put up a remarkable performance from the front in winning a Listed hurdle by 30 lengths and more from some quite useful rivals, making this her fourth win in a row.

What’s more, sectional analysis suggests she may be better rather than worse than this effort makes her look, for she went prodigiously fast up front – about 30 lengths quicker to the end of the back straight (around 5f from the finish) than the handicap earlier on the card – before being allowed to coast for much of the closing stages.

At the line, she was just 1.2s (around six lengths) quicker than that handicap winner, but that still constitutes a useful effort on the stopwatch. On the face of it, Maria’s Benefit is good enough to win, or very nearly win, the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, for which she is an enticing 8/1.

Claims that she is a flat-track bully, or that she needs the ground soft, can be countered by the evidence of her earlier victories at Sandown and on firmer surfaces.

Making all at Prestbury Park would be a big ask, but there are not many of her sex who could have lived with the pace she showed for a long way in that Taunton race. She could even be seen as an up-and-coming jump-racing equivalent to Caspian Prince.

Over the years, it has paid to side with US-bred youngsters at Southwell, with the theory being that the surface most closely resembles the dirt on which their sires usually excelled.

There is a particularly interesting US-bred newcomer at the track on Friday in the shape of ROSE SAPPHIRE, a well-bred daughter of the very smart 8f/10f horse Congrats who looks not to have a great deal to beat in the maiden due off at 1.30.

Rose Sapphire is handled by Simon Crisford, who was again a good trainer for punters to follow in 2017, with a 17% strike rate and a big profit to level stakes at Betfair SP. He certainly looks to have found a good spot for this filly to start her career in.

One of the more eye-catching efforts by a debutant late in 2017 was that put up by the David Elsworth-trained GALLOWAY HILLS at Lingfield Park on 25 November, with the son of Kyllachy making up ground hand over fist late on and recording the fastest final furlong (11.3s) in the race.

The colt gets to go again at the track on Saturday in the Betway Sprint Novice Stakes (due off at 2.55) and is fancied to oblige against some apparently unexacting opposition.

Sectional Spotlight

Southwell 13:30, 5 January 2018

Lingfield 14:55, 6 January 2018

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