The All-Weather Championships are so well-established now that it is easy to forget they were met with significant opposition from some quarters when introduced in 2013/2014.
You might think that the promise of millions of pounds of additional prize money would have won over even the most ardent of cynics, but that was not the case. The cynics are, however, keeping a much lower profile these days.
The Championships have led to a discernible improvement in the quality of racing on offer on all-weather throughout the winter, and some celebrated horses have taken their early – and even some of their later – steps on the surface.
All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday at Lingfield Park is one of the most enjoyable racing occasions I have attended, anywhere, and this year’s seemed to be the best yet. High-quality, competitive racing, in a lovely setting, attended by racing veterans and newcomers alike: what more could you wish for?
Well, some of the aficionados wish for the tools to analyse what went on after the event, and they were again catered for through the delivery of Total Performance Data sectionals and striding information, which may be found in detail – for an increasing number of courses these days, and not just for Lingfield on Good Friday – in the Results Section of this site.
There is a great deal of information to consider there, so I thought it worth picking out a trio of the races and identifying some of the more salient points.
Of all the races on Finals Day, this was the one in which tactics counted for the most and in which the sectionals suggest the result was not what it might have been.
Ryan Moore was at his brilliant best on HEAVENLY HOLLY, getting to the front from stall 12 of 12, dropping anchor and having enough in reserve to hold the storming late runs of others.
Sectional upgrades result from the difference between those finishing speed %s (speed in last 2f as a % of speed overall) and the par for the course and distance.
They suggest that SILVERY MIST (10.9s final 1f!) should have won, ISLAND OF LIFE should have been second and HEAVENLY HOLLY should have been fighting out only third with CROSSING THE LINE. A Moore Masterclass.
No horse has embodied all that is great about the AW scene more of late than the flying KACHY, who wiped the floor with his rivals in this, pinging the lids with an opening 13.3s that has been bettered at this course and distance only once (by Mythmaker’s 13.1s more than two years ago) in the TPD era.
Course records require not just good horses but fast conditions, and Kachy was unable to make it three such in a row on a surface that was about 20 lb (around 1.0s at 6f) slower than when he posted 1m 08.32s here in February.
Another small contributory factor was a strong pace, even by Kachy’s exceptional standards: all those finishing speed %s are slightly slower than par. The proximity of 66/1-shot AREEN HEART in fifth should keep any assessment grounded.
Kachy is better now than when he finished second in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in 2016. All-weather and going round a bend may see him absolutely at his best, but he is certainly capable of winning at a very high level on turf, also.
Nonetheless, Kachy’s was not quite the best time performance on a terrific card. That honour went to MATTERHORN, who trounced his rivals in the Betway Easter Classic to make it six wins from his last seven starts (sectionals showed he had gone too fast when unplaced at Kempton on his penultimate one).
Matterhorn’s time was the fastest at the course and distance since Grendisar’s 2m 01.05s in 2016, despite those earlier remarks about Friday’s surface speed.
WISSAHICKON seemed slightly off his game in second but would have needed to be better than ever even to get near to the Mark Johnston-trained star in this kind of form. There was no fluke about the winner’s high-class effort, though it remains to be seen whether he is as effective returned to turf.
There is an intriguing race for the listed Investec Blue Riband Trial at Epsom at 2:45 on Wednesday, with seven three-year-olds of varying accomplishments and potential on show.
Arthur Kitt was one of the success stories of 2018, a colt who nearly did not survive a birth which claimed his dam, Ceiling Kitty, but who went onto triumph at Royal Ascot and finish fourth at the Breeders’ Cup.
Arthur Kitt is by Camelot but Ceiling Kitty was a sprinter – winner of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot herself – and striding analysis suggests the Tom Dascombe-trained colt will get this 10f but not necessarily improve for it.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, who finished a couple of places ahead of Arthur Kitt in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, is a brother to the exceptional Highland Reel, who was equally at home at 12f as 10f, and Cape of Good Hope himself looks a likely improver now.