Three weeks have passed since the last ATR Sectional Spotlight, with Flat racing taking a back seat while something called “jumps” has been firmly centre stage over the festive period, at least until some proper winter frost arrived.
There has been no shortage of Flat racing in that time, however, but the only Fast Track Qualifiers – the winning of which earns an automatic berth at Lingfield Park on Finals’ Day on Good Friday – have been at Newcastle on 21 December for the Betway Marathon and at Deauville on 28 December for the 32Red Fillies & Mares.
The former featured an intriguing clash between a bunch of horses with established stamina and a short-priced favourite in Star Storm who had plenty to prove in that department but strong claims otherwise. The Total Performance Data sectionals for the race illustrate just what happened.
While the closing stages were relatively quick – as shown by that race finishing speed of 108.5% – the race still tested stamina to a reasonable degree, notably through a demanding pace in the early stages. What is not immediately apparent is that the surface was also riding slower than usual, judged by overall times: Timeform described it as “standard to slow”.
It proved too much for Star Storm, who went long odds-on in running before fading into fourth, while WINNING STORY got better the further he went. The latter’s Timeform performance rating here of 111 is higher than achieved by any of the past three winners of the Marathon Final itself.
Detailed sectionals are not available for the Deauville race, but what is clear is that the winner – the Roger Varian-trained REALTRA – is another who should be a big player on Finals’ Day if she gets there. This was her only run of 2016, but Realtra showed all the old ability that had landed her a Group 3 at Doncaster in 2015 in beating Caointiorn, who sadly suffered a fatal fall crossing the line.
Timeform has Realtra on 116, ahead of the other two Fillies & Mares FTQ winners – Muffri’ha (114) and Volunteer Point (106) – in what already looks a notably strong division.
There have been a number of promising sectional performances in recent weeks, of which the following are among the most significant.
FIRST EXPERIENCE ATR Tracker and ARCTIC ANGEL ATR Tracker finished well against pace biases in separate races at Wolverhampton on 22 December. The former ended up being beaten less than a length by Arize, despite getting into an unpromising position, and has had a handy break since the turf season. Arctic Angel was even quicker in the final quarter of a mile, but the potentially useful Song of Shadows had flown by the time he got going and he managed only a never-nearer second: his BHA mark of 67 looks generous.
Every bit as promising was GENERAL HAZARD ATR Tracker later on the same card, a performance which is worth watching on the ATR replay as well as looking at on the race sectionals. The Michael Bell-trained gelding has been in hot form since a 6-month break and stays a fair bit further than this 9.5f.
It should not need me to tell you that consecutive closing furlongs of 11.4s and a 108.0 finishing speed % are fast, because ATR’s heatmap colour-coding and the “flame” icon on Examiner’s figure on the “sectional tools” tab do just that. In terms of sectional upgrading, I would have Examiner best in this race, if not by a lot.
The Stuart Williams-trained gelding needs a more truly-run race as much as anything, given how he tends to be ridden. Keep the faith.
ENFOLDING ATR Tracker and ELEMENTARY ATR Tracker are two to note from Lingfield on 28 December: the former fastest late on in a fast/slow/fast contest and at least the equal of winner Private Mission by my reckoning; the latter getting too far back in a more truly-run race (the overall time is quite good) and finishing with a rare rattle.
The next FTQs are a short way off – there will be three between 12 and 17 January – but there is some good action before then.
COILLTE CAILIN holds entries in both the £16,500-added 32Red.com EBF Fillies’ Handicap at Wolverhampton on Friday and the £11,500-added Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Handicap at Lingfield on Saturday. The sectional speed she has shown in her recent races suggests she will be difficult to beat whichever she turns up in.
REALIZE looks the one to be with in the £19,000-added sunbets.co.uk Conditions Stakes later on at Lingfield on Saturday. He has won at this trip of a mile, but the small field could play to his strengths, and his tactical speed – most recently seen in a win at Chelmsford City just before Christmas – should be a potent weapon in this company.