A lull in proceedings – otherwise known as the middle of the jumps season – represents a good opportunity to revisit some flat action from late in 2018.
The glory days of classic trials and classics themselves may seem a long way off right now, but they will be with us again soon: there are only 74 more sleeps until The Lincoln by my reckoning.
The last two-year-old Group 1 of the British racing year – the 8f Vertem Futurity Trophy on 27 October – inconveniently coincided with my being on the other side of the world, so I have only recently looked at it in much detail.
As the Racing Post Trophy, it produced such winners as High Chaparral, Motivator, Authorized, St Nicholas Abbey and Camelot earlier this century, as well as some eminently forgettable types. Where does the latest running fit in?
There was also an interesting 6f listed contest for two-year-olds on the card, a race won by subsequent 2000 Guineas hero Night of Thunder in 2013.
Fortunately, those races having taken place at Doncaster means that punters and racing enthusiasts do not get short-changed. The results elsewhere on this site are augmented by detailed sectional and striding analysis, courtesy of Total Performance Data. Oh, for this coverage to become industry standard!
A summary of some of the timing aspects of the two races is as follows:
First-five finishers are shown, along with overall times, last-2f sectionals, the speed in that sectional as a % of the individual horses’ average race speed, and my timefigures (based on actual times recorded) and sectional upgrades. Sectional upgrades result from the difference between that finishing speed % and par for the course and distance, which is close to 100% in both cases.
San Donato and (to a lesser degree) Barbill showed smart turns of foot at the business end and get upgraded markedly. San Donato looks to be a Group winner in the making, with that 115 sectional rating somewhere between Group 3 and Group 2 level on my figures. He is an exciting prospect for 2019.
Magna Grecia and Phoenix of Spain are smart and likeable individuals, who could improve further. But the facts are that they recorded just respectable times in the Futurity while running close to efficiency (judged by those finishing speed %s).
Less than a length behind them were Western Australia and Circus Maximus, despite that pair having paid somewhat for doing plenty earlier. Sectional assessment has next to nothing between the first four: they can’t all be good, can they?
There are also the striding measures to consider, again courtesy of Total Performance Data.
The “trip” column is a simple prediction of the horse’s optimum distance from its maximum cadence. Both San Donato and Barbill have the high-frequency leg speed usually associated with sprinters, while Phoenix of Spain and (especially) Western Australia are more typical of 10f/12f horses. There are worse 100/1 shots for The Derby than the last-named.
Magna Grecia strides more like the one-two did in the Futurity the year before (derived from video footage). Saxon Warrior (2.37 strides/second) and Roaring Lion (2.41 strides/second) went onto finish fourth and third at 12f in The Derby at Epsom but were probably better at shorter.
It is also interesting to note that Breath of Air strode like a better horse (stride length is associated with ability) and as less of an out-and-out sprinter than those immediately around him in that listed race. There still looks to be potential there.
Having access to sophisticated data can enhance enjoyment of what has happened and what may yet happen, I hope you agree.
So impressed was I with Sky Sport Racing’s coverage at Plumpton on Master Dino Day that I publicly stated my intention to pay the East Sussex jumps course an extremely belated first visit some time. Little did I imagine I would be there as soon as this Wednesday, but that is the case thanks to (more dues being paid) the generosity of Timeform.
It was with a wry smile that I saw that four of the six races have the “dead eight” runners so beloved of each-way bettors, and the other two have nine and 10 runners respectively.
There is also plenty to go at if you are one of those who “believe” in trainer form, or the phenomenon of an entire stable tending to run well or run poorly over a given period, by design or accident.
Gary Moore’s runners have accounted for 67.3% of their rivals over jumps in the last month, where 50% is par, and he sends out four, the best of them perhaps WEST DRIVE in the opener at 1:30.
The useful flat performer faces a stiffer task under a penalty than when winning his only start over obstacles but looks a sure improver if his jockey makes a bit of use of him.
UHLAN BUTE, trained by Venetia Williams (64.5% RB), wins once every Preston Guild but usually runs his race and can make the first three in the Timeform App Veterans’ Handicap Chase at 3:10. He could even win! An each-way bet is advised.