Last Thursday at Newcastle saw one of the more remarkable races to have been run in the history of all-weather racing.
Division Two of the Betway Apprentice Handicap at Newcastle on a dull afternoon in February would usually go into the record books with barely a second thought. But the success of Outloaw Torn ensured otherwise.
The modest veteran pulled himself into the lead and was eventually given his head by Connor Murtagh, going 5.3 seconds (over 30 lengths) clear mid-race. The rival jockeys presumably thought that Outlaw Torn was going too fast at halfway, and to a degree they were right, as the TPD sectionals displayed elsewhere on this site show.
But this was a race over an extended 10 furlongs, not over a marathon trip, and there is only so much ground that you can concede while running inefficiently yourself. Everything behind Outlaw Torn was too far back – again as those TPD sectionals show – and in the end nothing got to within seven lengths of him as he came home unchallenged but with his advantage being rapidly eroded at the end.
The jockey on third-placed Falcon’s Fire, Patrick Vaughan, made a better fist of it than most, going in pursuit before the runaway leader had turned for home, but (not for the first time) his mount found little. The less said about the rest, the better.
Conventional sectional analysis (I never thought I would write that phrase, but there you go) has second, fourth and fifth better than Outlaw Torn at the weights, and the horse himself could finish only fifth off a mark just 1 lb higher at Wolverhampton four days later.
The race does not need any fancy sectional timings to tell you that Division Two of the Betway Apprentice Handicap was a farce of a race and untrustworthy form. Of course, just a pair of eyes could have led you to form that conclusion, but sectionals just back it up.
Those colour-coded TPD sectionals capture exactly what happened and what the consequences of it were. No guesswork was needed, but perhaps a few stern words were in order.
The only Fast-Track Qualifier in the last week was the Fillies and Mares event at Chelmsford City last Friday, and it seems unlikely to have a major bearing on Finals Day on 30 March.
There were no TPD sectionals, but manual ones and overall time analysis point very clearly to this being a slowly-run affair and dubious form. Nonetheless, the selection SOUL SILVER was probably a deserving winner over Carolinae.
My other tip last week looked unlucky, which is confirmed by sectionals. ATLETICO got too far back – his fault, not the jockey’s – and rattled home with a 11.3s final 1f that would have seen him in front with a bit further to travel.
Still, that is the risk you take in these races, and the reward is less for a 13/8 favourite than for a 25/1 longshot, which is what the winner Orvar was: well done if you picked that one out.
A couple of other races are worth closer investigation, both of them at Lingfield Park on Saturday. The visuals encouraged the race commentator to declare that Folie Douze was setting “a decent, honest pace” in the second race, but sectionals suggest otherwise.
The gelding got clear after halfway in this 6f contest and NO MORE THRILLS and DOLLY MIXTURE bore down on him late on but had just too much to do. Conventional sectional analysis (that thing again) has them each a length or two better than Folie Douze.
Two races later, a fairly soft early pace set things up nicely for the reliable Chevallier to add to his good record at this course and distance, but Franco’s Secret and LEADER WRITER shaped well in second and fourth, respectively, and I particularly like the profile of the latter.
A winner on soft at Ascot in September, Leader Writer’s mark of 97 would have got him into the Lincoln Handicap in four out of the last five years and I have had a nibble at 25/1 for that race following this.
Perhaps the most interesting all-weather race on an unexceptional weekend ahead promises to be the Betway Handicap at 3:30 at Lingfield Park on Saturday.
Not only are there a few in the 8-runner field who seem better at distances other than this 6f, there are plenty of front-runners, which could compromise the chances of some of those for whom the trip is ideal.
RECKLESS ENDEAVOUR and KASBAH have locked horns with each other a few times this winter, and both have been placed without managing to win. But they have seldom had circumstances as propitious as these.
They were fourth and fifth respectively to Eljaddaaf at Chelmsford City 9 days ago (front-running Nautical Haven dead-heated for second) and the likely stronger pace here should see them competitive late. The suggestion is to split stakes between them.