How was the 2019 Shergar Cup for you? Maybe you were one of the many who attended the event at Ascot Racecourse. Or perhaps you viewed it from afar, such as through Sky Sports Racing. Or it is possible that it was not for you and that you looked elsewhere: it is a free country after all, for now at least.
A jockeys’ challenge in a team framework, accompanied by razzmatazz, is not for everyone, clearly. But some of the responses to it over the years from within the sport have defied parody.
As Jason Brautigam – formerly of Ascot – Tweeted on Saturday “In the early days of the Shergar Cup, over 70% of the crowd were first-time racegoers, and 30% of them returned for another meeting within the following 12 months”.
That sort of thing, at a time when horseracing needs to reach new audiences and move on from preaching to the choir, surely justifies its existence many times over.
Besides, the Shergar Cup provides good sport for the converted, too, if only they can bring themselves to face that fact. It comprises six competitive 10-runner handicaps, each worth £60,000, and it may just have turned up a star this year.
Also, thanks to sectional times provided by Ascot Racecourse in conjunction with Longines, we have a complete record of what went on in the races this time around and the opportunity to analyse the performances in a manner denied to us previously.
The following are extracts of the six races, but the full version of sectionals – for each and every horse at each and every waypoint – may be downloaded from the “Sectional PDF” button at the bottom right of the results section on this site. Ratings have been reset to a level to allow for direct comparison with BHA figures.
The opening Dash is a case of “what you see is what you get” to a large degree. Finishing speed %s are calculated from each horse’s speed from the sectional as a % of its average speed for the race overall. This is then compared to the par for the course and distance, and upgrades to the overall timefigure result from the difference between the two.
My par for the last 2f of the 5f at Ascot is 100.5%, and all of the principals in this race were close to that. The bare form is likely to prove reliable, but there are no sectional nuggets in there.
A race in which the first five all finished quicker than par, though more detailed analysis of earlier sectionals shows that it was run at a stop-start gallop. The first two, who both ran well under 38.0s for the last 3f, deserve upgrading by approximately 5 lb, or three to four lengths.
Another quite fast finish, in which third-placed Mandarin stands out as having done well with a 36.78s closing split, which points to a 4 lb boost to his timefigure, or the equivalent of around two and a half lengths.
The Mile was a strongly-run affair, in which everything finished slower than par. Zhui Feng – ridden more patiently than usual, but still bang in the firing line early in the straight – and Via Serendipity are the most significant upgrades.
The Classic was an even more strongly-run race, and it was no surprise that the first two came from mid-to-rear. Aspire Tower and Yellow Tiger did a bit too much too soon and get upgrades equivalent to about a couple of lengths.
Give more than a second thought to Boerhan back in eighth, also. Those sectionals suggest he could get placed in a less competitive affair and under a less aggressive ride, and a drop in his mark may see him improve on even that. Sectional insights are not just about who finished fastest but sometimes about who ran fast before finishing understandably slowly.
The star of the show. Do not imagine that Victory Day was suited by coming from some way back, for those ahead of him were not stopping. And, yet, he mowed them all down with a 23.47s final quarter which suggests he can be rated nearly three lengths better than the result.
The William Haggas-trained three-year-old looks destined for Group races in due course, but an even bigger sprint handicap could easily come his way before that.
As a matter of interest, the Shergar Cup could be assessed in terms of jockey efficiency through those upgrades, with the smaller the upgrade the more efficient the ride.
That results in a 1-2-3 of: Vincent Ho (6 lb total upgrade); Filip Minarik (7 lb); and Yuga Kawada (8 lb), with the Rest of The World (31 lb) narrowly seeing off The Girls (38 lb) for the team trophy.
One last aspect of Ascot’s tracking data is well worth commenting on also. In addition to sectional times, distance travelled (in metres) is displayed.
The relationship between distance travelled and performance (and sectionals) is likely to be more complex than imagined. As an illustration, the horses which travelled the shortest distance in the six Shergar Cup races ended up finishing: ninth, seventh, ninth, tenth, eighth, and tenth, respectively.
This is a subject I hope to return to in due course, but I need to get my head around it first!