So, that was summer. The kids are returning to school, our elected representatives are returning to Parliament (much the same thing), World Cup 2018 is just a distant memory, and Christmas cards have started to appear in the shops.
For some, this is a time for despondency, with autumn and then endless winter ahead. But for horseracing fans it can be one of the most exciting times of year.
Another “jumps season proper” is just around the corner – if that is your sort of thing – and plenty of scores remain to be settled on the flat, at Leopardstown, the Curragh, Doncaster, Longchamp, Ascot, Newmarket and Churchill Downs, among others.
It is also the time of year when a host of young hopefuls on the level put their claims truly to the test for the first time. Many are those who have notched up a promising run or two by this stage: few are those whose reputations will remain intact, or even be enhanced, over coming weeks.
This, then, is a good time to put some of the most promising but lightly-raced two-year-olds under the sectional microscope. Each of the following has won its only start to date. Could one of them be The Next Big Thing?
The John Gosden-trained KING OF COMEDY was very green at Sandown before quickening well to beat the useful Persian Moon, with subsequent Group 3 winner Phoenix of Spain in fourth. There was a fairly ordinary colt in third that day, however, and the overall time was modest.
Saeed bin Suroor may well have himself a Group performer in DUBAI BEAUTY, who ran a useful overall time and smart sectionals in that fillies’ novice at Newmarket. The one she pulled clear with, Posted, has disappointed when joint-favourite for a Group 3 since, but that was not her running.
WALDSTERN, another Gosden inmate, looked a longer-term prospect when staying on nicely to win at Newmarket and goes again at Haydock on Thursday. He seems sure to improve, but will need to in order to justify his Royal Lodge Stakes entry.
SANGARIUS, a Sir Michael Stoute-trained son of Kingman from the family of Banks Hill, had the real “Wow!” factor when beating Bangkok (who himself is one to look out for), recording a 11.7s uphill final 1f by my reckoning.
The Kodiac colt JASH looks a different beast to the aforementioned, showing sparkling speed (approximate 10.5s mid-race split) as well as a tendency to flash his tail when winning in clear-cut fashion. The time was notably good, though a comparison with races later on the card (including Limato’s win, which was slower) needs to allow for the effect of significant rain.
There are measures other than sectionals to consider, of course, including striding, with the following the peak figures for each of the five in the final 3f of their races (like sectionals, taken from video analysis).
Good horses tend to have long strides, with 24.4 feet peak being roughly average across the population, but stride lengths are affected by surface speed and track conformation (softer surfaces and uphill sections shorten strides).
Stride frequency – or cadence – tends to be a better indication of speed/stamina, with sprinters turning over more quickly and stayers more slowly on the whole.
But the real eye-opener is that stride length for Sangarius. He looks like staying much better than some Kingmans threaten to, and he has the ground-devouring stride seldom seen outside the sport’s elite. He looks a decent bet to join that elite at some stage.
This is a most interesting novice, in which several have the potential to do better, but none more so than the William Haggas-trained son of No Nay Never who went straight into the sectional notebook when fourth to Marhaba Milliar at Yarmouth on his only start, fastest of all in the last half-mile but starting from too far back.
Firelight is the form pick in the Dick Poole Fillies’ Stakes at 4:20 at Salisbury on Thursday, having been fourth in the Lowther Stakes at York last time, but I didn’t like the way she hung for her two wins before that and reckon it is worth taking her on here.
SCINTILATING looks the one, if you can forgive her blow-out at Ascot last time, for her debut win at Newbury was full of promise and ticked the time-analysis boxes. She should be a value price here.