Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands shines a light on some of the darker two-year-olds from the season so far.

  • Wednesday 15 July
  • Blog
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I asked, and you told me. In no uncertain fashion.

A recent Tweet by me offered a few options that you – the public – might be interested in for this week’s ATR Sectional Spotlight, and “darker two-year-olds” won by a proverbial mile over looking back at the elite action at Newmarket, Ascot, Longchamp, or anything else.

Proper retrospective analysis is the basis of all good forward-looking assessments and bets. But, let’s face it, we all like to think we have spotted a diamond in the rough, a horse that has flown under the radar for others.  

“Darker” is not the same as “dark”, of course. In my experience, the latter have a nasty habit of remaining dark if they were truly dark in the first place. The criteria I used here were that the two-year-old in question had to have run to in excess of 95 on my sectional figures but not contested a Group race so far.

The result was six horses, all of which won their latest race, and which may be familiar to you already, but which will be less well-known to the wider public when they venture into stronger company.

Darker two-year-olds

The majority of those are sprinters, so far, and I discovered there was a paucity of the type that may go onto be 7f/8f performers later in the year and perhaps at further beyond that. If you want that sort, then I suggest you check back here in a few weeks’ time, when a repeat exercise is likely to reveal more.

Let’s run through each of the above in turn.

OK, so FRENETIC (Ger Lyons, Ireland) is neither dark nor darker, but she has yet to be tried in Group company, having won a maiden at Navan (from 99-rated Mother Earth) and a listed race at the Curragh from her only two starts. The latter came easily by five lengths and in a useful time, though Frenetic raced alone near the stand rail, so there is a slight doubt on that score, while there have been mixed messages since from those she beat that day. Nonetheless, it is more than likely that Frenetic is a smart sprinting juvenile: her maximum cadence of 2.53 strides/second does not rule her out from being as effective at 6f/7f as at 5f, but that should be her limit.

CADILLAC (Jessica Harrington, Ireland) made his rivals look like trees when winning an auction maiden at Leopardstown on his only start by nine lengths, and the visual impression was in large part bolstered by time analysis. He was faster overall than the winner of an admittedly modest older-horse handicap later on the card and very quick indeed in those closing stages. His striding is not the easiest to interpret due to the fact that he was indeed going past trees – the infield at Leopardstown resembles Gardener’s World in places – but he went as low as 2.29 strides/second and as high as 2.49: the latter, more than stride length, is why he powered clear late on. He is quick enough to hold his own kept to 7f but should stay 8f. He is the most exciting prospect of the sextet.

UBETTABELIEVEIT (Nigel Tinkler) is a fast and useful juvenile from a somewhat unexpected source, but you better believe it that he can run a bit. Total Performance Data sectionals – available in the Results Section of this site – have him overcoming a pace bias when bursting clear late on in a novice at Doncaster last time, with his last two splits of 11.03s then 11.46s red-hot in the circumstances. His striding (also in those results) suggests he may be better at 6f but he gets a justified shot at the listed 5f National Stakes at Sandown on Thursday and would be my idea of the likeliest winner, especially if he can get to use his 25-feet-plus stride sooner. The fourth from that Doncaster race went in at Bath on Tuesday.  

SUPREMACY (Clive Cox) ran in contrasting style to Ubettabelieveit at Windsor recently, but achieved a similar result in winning by a clear margin and with plenty speaking in his favour. That includes an overall time more than 1.0s quicker than the six-year-old winner of the following handicap and a sprightly 23.25s for the last 2f considering how fast he went earlier. He should get 7f, despite plenty of speed in his pedigree, but don’t be surprised to see him being asked to attempt the same catch-me-if-you-can tactics against better opposition in something like the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood: he has the stride length for it. His rivals at Windsor were nothing out of the ordinary but the form looks solid.

To be honest, one reason YOUTH SPIRIT (Andrew Balding) is in here is so that I can sneak in a mention of Titian – who finished fourth to him at Newmarket last week – without violating my own rules for inclusion. Titian (a newcomer for William Haggas) made up three or four lengths in the final 1f “without being at all knocked about” and can improve plenty on an 87 opening salvo. But Youth Spirit may be pretty good, too, having gone for home early enough in a well-run race, his final 1f something like 13.5s for a 90.9% finishing speed. A son of Camelot, Youth Spirit is from quite a fast dam’s side but should get a mile this year ridden a bit more conservatively and is entered in The Derby.

Some half-decent youngsters have turned up at Hamilton this summer, and connections of TINOCHIO (Kevin Ryan) are entitled to think he may be a bit better than that. He ran the fastest 5f time of four that day – two of the other races were for older horses – and the horse he beat, Burning Cash, has trotted up since. Tinochio put in solid late splits but it was as much the speed he showed early – including a cadence as high as 2.60 strides/second – which impressed. He is entered in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury on Sunday and has what it takes to get placed, and possibly even win, despite having to concede weight to most.

I will put it in the diary to repeat this exercise in August, and perhaps again in September, by when the season may have settled into a more familiar pattern. Last year’s early-September blog put Molatham, Palace Pier, Victor Ludorum, Royal Crusade and Volkan Star, among others, under the microscope and they have not turned out badly!

Sectional Spotlight
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