What were you doing at around 6:50 British Summer Time on Sunday evening?
There is a good chance you were either watching England winning the most dramatic Cricket World Cup Final imaginable at Lord’s, or watching Djokovic denying Federer in an epic Men’s Tennis Singles Final at Wimbledon. Or trying to do both, and failing, as in my case.
A few diehards might have been watching the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp – France’s premier mid-summer three-year-old race – on Sky Sports Racing, which coincided with those sporting denouements across the Channel.
The rest of us probably caught up with the race on replay, perhaps skipping straight to the closing stages, in which the odds-on JAPAN came from mid-field to assert and then held the late challenge of Slalom by half a length.
If so, we missed a couple of significant events which have a bearing on how the form at the finish might be viewed.
First, was the sight of Slalom living up to his name leaving the stalls, something which immediately put him several lengths in arrears. He had been slowly away when unplaced in the French Derby the time before, also, but not to such a degree.
Second, was that the on-screen clock started nearly 4.0s too late, with consequences for the overall time and the sectionals along the way. The original overall time of 2m 26.10s was pure fiction, and the “corrected” time of 2m 27.07s was scarcely any better.
Advanced video analysis puts the time at a more modest 2m 29.51s, with major alterations to the sectionals along the way. Talk of “what a fast time it was” (it wasn’t), “on good to soft going” (it wasn’t), is understandable but wide of the mark. This is what I came up with instead.
So, Japan won this Group 1 in a very useful overall time, no better, with quite a fast late split, but not as fast as the runner-up, who had put himself at an immediate disadvantage at the start.
Jalmoud, who had been thrashed by Headman the time before, and Roman Candle, who could not get near Sottsass in the French Derby, were close behind and not obviously flattered.
Japan himself had probably done well to finish a close third to Anthony Van Dyck in The Derby at Epsom off a rushed preparation, but the jury is still out as to whether that race was up to much for a Classic.
His impressive win at Royal Ascot came at the end of a race in which the leaders had gone too fast early and from Bangkok (possibly better at 10f) and Eagles By Day (unplaced on the start either side).
Some of Aidan O’Brien’s remarks after the Grand Prix de Paris suggest he realised this performance was slightly underwhelming, but that interpretation was not shared by a large section of racing fans, who hailed Japan as a future winner of the Arc, for which he is now at single-figure odds in places.
I would like to see quite a lot more from him this side of Paris in October myself.
We cannot have good racing all of the time, for, by definition, “good” has to be better than that with which it is being compared.
Perhaps it is best to view this period between last week’s Newmarket July Meeting and next week’s King George card at Ascot as something to make us appreciate the peaks on either side.
Nonetheless, there are a few decent contests and races of interest, including the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown on Thursday evening (7:50). The smart performers Ancient Spirit, Pincheck, Zihba, Mohawk and Cape of Good Hope are joined by the promising pair Tinandali and Up Helly AA.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE is the form and time choice judged on his fourth in the French Derby, but he has disappointed at Royal Ascot and in the US since, nonetheless bang there until approaching the final 1f behind Sangarius in the former.
I expect better of him here, with the weights in his favour against some of his main rivals, and with the likelihood of a good pace at this shorter distance of 9f. Those two defeats mean hewill be a bigger price than he might have been, in any case.
REPARTEE swerved Royal Ascot and Newmarket and has been found a good opening in the listed two-year-old race at Newbury on Friday (3:40). His sole run, at the Dante Meeting at York in May, saw him scoot up by five lengths in a useful time, and even a reproduction of that form may be enough to land him this, with the unbeaten Al Aakif probably his biggest danger.
One imagines that Scottish trainer Mark Johnston has stirrings of national pride if winning a listed race titled the Glasgow Stakes, which takes place at Hamilton at 8:10 on Friday. He has thrown plenty of darts over the years, but last hit the bullseye in 2013, when he saddled a 1-2-3.
His PERSIAN MOON looks to have solid claims this time round, having run better than might be immediately appreciated off marks in the 100s on his last two starts. His Royal Ascot fourth on his penultimate appearance was accompanied by a good timefigure and saw him run down late on by a trio ridden more patiently.