ALL-WEATHER FINALS DAY PREVIEW
It’s not taken long, but Good Friday is now firmly synonymous in horseracing circles with All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield Park.
Some sceptics are still not won over by the occasion, but they probably do not include any of the tens of thousands who have attended the first three Finals Days, all of which have been blessed with clement weather and decidedly good-quality racing.
There can be no promises about the weather – though the forecast is warm if breezy – but there can be about the racing: the fourth AW Finals Day will be good again, and could even be the best yet.
“Getting better” has been a clear objective for the All-Weather Championships, of which Finals Day is the seasonal climax, and one initiative this year has taken racing analysis onto a different level.
That is the widespread provision of Total Performance Data sectional times, which are placed into context and displayed in an intuitive manner through colour-coding and other features on the At The Races website.
The sectionals have provided us with plenty of winners (and, yes, losers!) through the winter. If you are not yet familiar with them then check them out on the “sectional times” and “sectional tools” tabs of the results section on attheraces.com. Sectionals will be appearing increasingly for turf flat racing in the coming months.
Hopefully sectionals, in conjunction with other forms of analysis, will help us with the AW Finals Day card, which starts with an apprentice handicap.
A new race on AW Finals Day, which specifically puts apprentice jockeys in the spotlight. Take The Helm is unlikely to get the run of things as much as he did over this course and distance last time, and the second that day, WAR GLORY, is fancied to reverse placings, having put in a smart 22.0s last quarter. Amazour shaped well in a Listed race at Wolverhampton last time (23.2s last 2f) but might benefit from a more galloping track.
Selection: WAR GLORY
Jockeyship may also count for plenty in the Marathon, which could well be run at a strong pace. Several have stamina doubts, including some who have won at this trip but in less demanding circumstances. It looks worth taking a chance on the ex-French COHESION at a bigger price given how well he finished off at shorter (23.8s last 2f) when winning at Wolverhampton last time. Ryan Moore takes the ride.
The Fast-Track Qualifiers Muffri’ha and Ashadihan look head and shoulders above their rivals here, with the former having finished third in a Group 1 in Dubai last time. That was at 9f, however, and ASHADIHAN seems more likely to be at home at this 7f trip, having won a Group 3 at the course and distance last year. Speed could be of the essence with no certain front-runners on show.
The draw does not have as big an effect on results at Lingfield Park as might be imagined for a fairly sharp left-handed course, but horses drawn 10 and over have a notably poor record at 6f, due to the first bend coming up quickly, less than a furlong in fact.
That counts against Pretend – winner of this race in 2015 - drawn in 12 – and others in a 14-runner field. There also looks like being a cut-throat pace, which could find out some doubtful stayers. KIMBERELLA and Lancelot Du Lac look the best prospects, with marginal preference for the former, who ran a fast time here for his latest win.
The draw could play a small part in the outcome of the Mile with fancied contenders Qurbaan and Keystroke in double-figure stalls. Ennaadd is more kindly berthed in 2 and has much to recommend him, having won his last four, most recently a Listed race at Kempton in November.
He looks like being very short, though, and should have a fight on his hands if either of the aforementioned or the veteran Sovereign Debt get the breaks, so this could be one race to watch and enjoy.
Selection: No bet
Only about half the ten-runner field can be given a decent chance of winning, and, with Second Thought a short price, this lends itself to some each-way action. Second Thought had too much speed for Sutter County last time (21.3s and 21.7s last quarters respectively) but that was at 7f.
TOMILY also had too much speed for Sutter County two starts ago, and that was at this course and distance (21.2s and 21.3s, respectively). Tomily has since shaped well at Newcastle and looks worth an each-way interest.
Selection: TOMILY each-way
Last year’s winner and third, Grendisar and Metropol, are back again, but things have generally not gone so well for either since. Grendisar was only fifth to the quirky Convey in the Betway Winter Derby last time, with Absolute Blast third and Battalion sixth (last-2f sectionals of 21.4s, 21.3s, 21.4s and 21.5s, respectively).
Absolute Blast has gone in at Kempton since in a race in which everything panned out well for her but should go close again.
However, better value may lie in the form of ELBERETH, who overcame a tactical race to win at Dundalk last time. Before that, Elbereth had been placed at the top level in Turkey and Italy. Connections might be well advised to make plenty of use of the selection given that she stays 12f and is up against speed horses here.
Whatever happens, the fourth AW Finals Day should be a great occasion. Check back here for TPD sectionals after the event has taken place.