Sectional Spotlight - Wednesday

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands reviews the pick of the action on day two of the Cheltenham Festival with a one-on-one comparison of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Coral Cup.

  • Thursday 15 March
  • Blog
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My intention on day two was to make a direct comparison between the Arkle Chase on Tuesday and the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, but the resulting information could be misconstrued. While both races were run at the same trip of 1m 7f and 199y, and the surface seemed similar on the two days, “similar” is not the same as “same”.

A stiff breeze on Wednesday failed to dry out the surface to a significant degree and the effect of somewhat chewed up ground may have made conditions fractionally slower than on day one if anything.

Nonetheless, you will struggle to find a time analyst who thinks that Wednesday’s surface was 3.3s or more slower than Tuesday’s. That was the difference between the times recorded by Footpad (4m 02.0s) and Altior (4m 05.3s), treble-checked using video software.

Sectionals confirm that the leaders in the Arkle – Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados – went (much) too fast but that Footpad raced very close to par throughout. His overall time is exceptional: I have a timefigure of 174 and Timeform has one of 179 (the highest over jumps in their history).

Altior was running similar sectionals to Footpad over the first few fences but then dropped further and further behind before making up some of the deficit on the run-in. How much of an effect conditions had is debatable, but any comparison looks good for Footpad, who, let it not be forgotten, is a novice.

It is easier, however, to make the point about time comparisons between races which take place on the same day and at the same course and distance, even if they really need to be viewed in a wider context to be sure what they say.

Step up Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Bleu Berry, winner of the Coral Cup, with both races shortened slightly to 2m 5f 0y. The “lengths ahead/behind” column applies to Bleu Berry.

Cumulative Times, Cheltenham 14/Mar/2018

6.6s 1 6.6s0
26.7s2 25.6s5.5
78.6s3 78.0s 3
126.3s4 126.5s -1
174.9s5 176.4s-7.5
201.1s6 201.9s-4
223.6s7 224.2s-3
261.5s3 out 262.3s-4
278.0s2 out 279.5s-7.5
303.4slast 306.0s-13
318.4sline 320.7s-11.5

With Samcro carrying 5 lb more than the useful handicap winner, you might expect those times to be about the same, but Samcro’s was quite a bit faster. Contrary to some impressions (including my own initially), the Ballymore was probably not steadily-run: the leader in that race recorded very similar sectionals until three out to the leader in a Coral Cup in which the winner came from out the back.

It was from that point until jumping the last that Samcro was especially impressive, taking nine lengths out of Bleu Berry (at a time when the latter was moving up through his field). Despite idling markedly, Samcro gave only a fraction of that back on the run-in.

On this occasion, both Samcro’s overall time and his sectionals look good: very good. If not quite Footpad good!

That had not been the case at Leopardstown the time before, or not in terms of a direct comparison with the Juvenile race on the same card (or with the bumper won by Relegate, who happened to land the Champion Bumper on Wednesday).

There remains a decent possibility that that Juvenile – won by Mr Adjudicator from Farclas – was even better than it looked at the time. We may find out in the Triumph Hurdle on Friday!

Sectional Spotlight - Wednesday
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