Firstly, an apology that last week’s ATR Sectional Spotlight included details of likely sectional pars for the Fast-Track Qualifier at Wolverhampton on Saturday night only for live sectionals to fail to appear due to a technical issue. Normal service was quickly resumed.
As it is, the surface at Wolverhampton was slower than usual recently – Timeform described it as “standard to slow” – probably due to track maintenance in the cold conditions. The overall time of that sprint was 0.2s per furlong slower than projected and the sectionals overall reflected that.
In the absence of live TPD sectionals we can still turn to those provided post-race by the same source and displayed on ATR to understand what unfolded. Crucially, the opening sectional of 1.09f was run in 14.6s (13.4s per furlong from a standing start), which is four to five lengths quicker than par.
Subsequent sectionals were more in line with those projected (after the slower surface has been factored in) but the damage had been done.
The one-two at the line, Never Back Down and Music Society, were second-last and last after that opening sectional, and that is – I would suggest – not purely coincidental.
Those who like these things (on-screen sectionals) have never had it so good as on Wednesday of this week, when both Wolverhampton and Lingfield Park ATR pictures carried live TPD sectionals.
The revolution is, in this case, very much being televised.
All-weather racing has been holding the fort during the recent bad weather, but before that we had plentiful reminders that analysis of overall times and of sectionals has much validity over jumps also.
We know from using a stopwatch that the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on Sunday, won by Sizing John, was run on a notably testing surface and also at a searching gallop.
The overall time was good in that context, and the leaders were quicker between every single fence from eight out to three out than the useful Beginners Chase half an hour later at more than half a mile shorter.
It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that the finish of the John Durkan was one of the slowest for a chase at the course on recent record, with a kept-up-to-his-work Sizing John taking 14.2s up the 182-yard run-in (finishing speed 96.2% of average race speed).
This looks solid form, and Sizing John may even be better than previously, but it is likely to have taken quite a bit out of him, not to mention out of his toiling rivals.
Navan’s chases the previous day provided a stark compare-and-contrast, with those won by Polidam and Tombstone featuring slow-motion finishes compared to the Beginners Chase won by INVITATION ONLY.
The last-named was about 20 to 25 lengths quicker than the other two from the first in the home straight to the final obstacle – an astonishing amount for a sectional of less than two and a half furlongs – and this is a horse we should be hearing plenty more about.
If all-weather remains defiantly your thing, then a couple of recent runners should interest you. CROSS COUNTER put up a debut of rare promise when winning at Wolverhampton on Saturday, running a super-fast 22.5s for the last 2f which suggests he will soon be rated well into the 100s and probably contesting Listed races or even better.
YEAH BABY YEAH was even quicker (21.4s last 2f), though on a speedier track, when a never-nearer third in a handicap at Lingfield Park last Wednesday. She is on a lengthy losing run, but this suggests she is as good as ever and that a win off a mark in the low-80s could well be imminent.
Newcastle suffered an abandonment over jumps on Thursday but should be back in business on Saturday for an all-weather card.
Perhaps the most interesting race there is the sunbets.co.uk Handicap over 7f at 4:05, not least because there looks like being little pace on show.
SWIFT APPROVAL is one of the few who habitually races close up, and he is in form as shown by his second off this mark at Chelmsford City last time. This looks to be a good spot for him.
There should be no shortage of pace in the Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton at 6:15 and HISAR may be the one to benefit most from it on his drop back to 6f. He seemed unlucky not to win at Lingfield Park on his penultimate start, when putting in some sharp late sectionals, and might not have benefited from being turned out quickly next time.
Hisar has a 16-day break now and is fancied to go close for Michael Appleby and the canny Horse Watchers owners.