Last week’s William Hill St Leger Festival at Doncaster proved to be a wonderful showcase for the sport, with a top-notch final classic of the year, won by Kew Gardens, and some terrific supporting action, not least from what is beginning to look like a superior crop of two-year-olds.
It also provided an opportunity, through the medium of Total Performance Data sectionals and striding information, for the public to examine individual performances in the kind of forensic detail all too sadly lacking in what should be a modern sport. One day all race meetings may be covered this way.
Those TPD striding and sectional figures are to be found as separate tabs on the Results section of this site, with the latter contextualised with colour coding.
There is a huge amount of pertinent information to be found there, so the following will attempt to summarise the key indicators for the winners of some of the races at the same distances across the four days.
The going varied across the four days, but not by much and it was never far from “good”.
“Finishing speed” is that late sectional expressed as a speed compared to the average speed for the race overall. A high figure indicates a fast finish (and implies a slower pace earlier), a low figure the opposite.
“Stride” and “cadence” are the peak figures given by TPD for those winners. The figures are broadly similar, with one very clear exception.
SANGARIUS has a vast stride, as had been established manually on his debut, but he turns it over slowly. If he is to excel in the way his stride length alone suggests he may, he either needs to increase that cadence or tackle longer distances.
In contrast, TOO DARN HOT may need to relax to stay beyond a mile, which is what a number of elements in his pedigree suggest he should do. A peak cadence of 2.40 strides per second is seldom seen in horses who stay beyond 10f.
Too Darn Hot vs Sangarius - raw visuals, stride data and sectional times.
By way of comparison, Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion had manually-measured peak cadences of 2.37 and 2.41 respectively in last year’s Racing Post Trophy, while future Derby winner Masar came in at just 2.28 when winning the Solario Stakes a few weeks earlier (and 2.30 when winning the Craven this year).
The stark contrast in leg speed between most “natural” 7f performers and out-and-out stayers can be seen by looking at the same figures for the 14.5f races at Doncaster last week.
Those three winners all strode with similar frequency at their peaks, while GOD GIVEN’s longer stride is likely to have come about in part because the finish of the Park Hill Stakes was a relative sprint.
KEW GARDENS's finishing effort was impressive in a race which resulted in a pretty good overall time (the fastest in the St Leger since 2011).
Unfortunately, it is left to onlookers to figure out much of the data for themselves elsewhere, though that is usually possible with a bit of application, such as at the Curragh on Sunday.
Skitter Scatter is smart, and has been superbly placed and handled, but things were set up for a late closer and that late closer proved to be her.
The National Stakes, won by QUORTO from ANTHONY VAN DYCK, was truly-run (and resulted in a fast timefigure), though one feature was that sharp injection of pace by the former in the penultimate furlong.
Quorto strides quickly, Anthony Van Dyck strides longer. My prediction for the pair is that Quorto will prove best at 7f/8f while Anthony Van Dyck will prove best at 8f/10f. They are both good colts already, and the latter could get closer still at a mile, given a well-run race like this one was.
Race replay: Quorto beats Anthony Van Dyck in the National Stakes at the Curragh.
A couple of two-year-olds catch the eye on times on Friday, starting with BEAT LE BON in the Haynes, Hanson Clark Stakes at Newbury (3:25), a race which will always be associated in my mind with bunking off Geography A-level to watch Shergar make a winning debut in 1980.
Beat Le Bon will not prove to be that good, but this looks within his scope following a highly promising debut second in a fast-time minor contest on this course in July, when Momkin’s experience proved decisive.
At a lesser level, it looks worth giving another chance to THE GREY ZEBEDEE at Newcastle at 8:20 now that he is back on Tapeta and at 6f. He nearly won here in August but paid for doing too much too soon on what was a testing surface: have a look at the visuals and the sectionals and see if you agree.
The Tim Easterby-trained colt should go off at a big enough price, following two modest efforts on turf, to justify the risk in this company.