At the time of writing, the British classic trials are in full flow, with Mohaather having run much faster in winning the Greenham Stakes at Newbury than Dandhu did in winning the Fred Darling Stakes at the same course and distance on the same day, and Shine So Bright quite a bit quicker in winning the European Free Handicap at Newmarket than Qabala was in victory in the Nell Gwyn Stakes over the same 7f little more than an hour later.
Time analysis need not be just about which horse gets from A to Z fastest, of course, for we can now break performances into sections which reveal the degree to which final times are likely to have reflected the abilities of the various protagonists.
The theory is that horses that run efficiently have little scope to improve on their overall times, whereas ones that run inefficiently need to have those overall times adjusted to allow for that fact.
The way to measure these things is through sectional times, which are then compared to pars for the course, distance and other circumstances which prevail. The more inefficient a performance was, the more an overall time could have been bettered.
Gathering detailed individual sectionals is quite a challenge unless they are put on a plate for you – as is the case with Total Performance Data sectionals to be found in the Results Section of this site – or made easier by on-screen times for leaders.
The latter is the case in most French racing, covered exclusively in Britain by Sky Sports Racing, and it is worth looking at what overall times and sectionals tell us about the main races involving the classic generation there in the last week. In at least one case, it could have a major bearing on events closer to home.
For some reason, Maisons-Laffitte, which is due to close before long, does not have official sectionals, so I extracted some for the final 200 metres by comparing video footage with Google Earth images.
The Djebel, for colts and geldings, was 2.52s quicker overall than the Imprudence, for fillies, but the latter were flying at the finish by comparison.
Sectionals tell us that the Fontainebleau and the Noailles were close to truly-run (the finishing speed %s are only just above the 101.5 par) but that the Grotte was steady.
Nonetheless, the Fontainebleau winner Persian King still managed to run his final 600m quicker than any of the fillies did, and his overall time was 1.98s (around a dozen lengths) quicker than Castle Lady’s in the Grotte.
On a card on which there were three races at 1600m, Persian King’s overall time was head and shoulders above the others. Last year’s Autumn Stakes winner is very likely better than ever and a major opponent for Too Darn Hot if the two of them turn up in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on 04 May.
Even if Persian King stays at home, he is a seriously good horse that we will surely be hearing plenty more of in the months ahead.
Those closing sectionals in the Grotte were rather disappointing in the circumstances, though Castle Lady does look comfortably best in the race.
The Noailles was truly-run – two such races on the same card at Longchamp: shock, horror! – and the unbeaten Slalom came from last place. But his form is around 10 lengths shy of a usual winner of The Derby at Epsom and about 7 lengths below what a standard winner of the French equivalent might be expected to achieve.
The final day of Newmarket’s Craven Meeting on Thursday could be considered to be the poor relation of the first two, with no recognised classic trials on show, but there is still a fair amount of quality there, not least in the bet365 Earl of Sefton Stakes at 4:10.
There are several smart performers in a field of 11, and it will be particularly interesting to see how last year’s Guineas fourth Elarqam fares on his first run since a breathing operation. However, in betting terms, I am more interested in FOREST RANGER at a decent price.
He won this 12 months ago and ran two good races later in the campaign, including on the firmer going he is likely to encounter here. A recent run in Dubai after a break was disappointing, but it is likely that he will strip fitter now. At his best, he is definitely capable of getting involved.
The conditions event at 3:00 sees an intriguing clash between achievement and promise.
The latter is primarily represented by Fox Champion and Almashriq – both of whose impressive sectionals may be scrutinised elsewhere on this site – but I slightly prefer the proven claims of ALMUFTI, who looked potentially smart when winning at Kempton and was not disgraced when third to Mohaather in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury.
The son of Toronado is just about up to the standard usually required to win this race and can prove a tough nut for less seasoned rivals to crack.