It is the time of year for the giving and receiving of presents, and for those awkward moments of putting on a brave face when we realise that what looked so promising in shiny wrapping paper is not that special gift we had been hoping for.
Lightly-raced two-year-olds can be a bit like that: full of promise, but often a disappointment in the cold light of day (Merry Christmas, by the way!).
Connections of WITHOUT PAROLE – the John Gosden-trained youngster who won at Newcastle last week – will be hoping that what they have on their hands is a shiny new bike (or whatever kids yearn for these days) and not a pair of socks. The evidence is in their favour.
That evidence includes that the Frankel half-brother to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz started odds on in a field of seven in which all of his rivals had run before, and that he beat the last-time winner Trevithick by six lengths in a decent time and without coming under serious pressure.
It also includes some impressive sectionals, which we know because Total Performance Data have been returning them from this track for over 18 months now. No two-year-old mile winner at Newcastle this year has run faster for the last 2f than Without Parole’s 23.8s and only a handful did in 2016.
Joint-fastest of that handful was Enable (23.1s), who turned out alright for Without Parole’s stable this year.
Without Parole’s sectionals do not identify him as a multiple Group winner of the future – yet – but are what you might expect of a horse who could well win a Listed race next time (and who knows what may happen thereafter).
One thing I hope we get to learn is where he got his name from: one suspects there may be a colourful story behind a name like “Without Parole”!
A couple of jump races in Ireland over the weekend illustrated the benefits of taking your own sectionals from the At The Races pictures there.
At Fairyhouse on Saturday, STORMY IRELAND won a three-year-old maiden hurdle by a remarkable 58 lengths, having been clear from before halfway. It was difficult to tell whether she was very good, her opposition was very bad, or a bit of both, on what was notably testing ground.
“A bit of both” is favourite in that market, but time comparisons with the other two-mile races on the card – one a hurdle and one a bumper – certainly speak favourably of the Willie Mullins-trained filly, for she was more than 10.0s quicker than the winners of either of them.
Sectionals show that she was especially fast mid-race, storming clear of not just the rivals in her race but the runners in those others, and yet she still managed to complete from three out fastest of all, in 56.5s.
This is already shaping up to be quite a good season for juvenile hurdlers, and Stormy Ireland deserves to be considered among the very best of them seen so far.
NEXT DESTINATION advanced his claims to be considered one of the top novice hurdlers seen so far when winning the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle the following day in what again looked a decidedly useful time.
It was fully 7.0s (around half a furlong) quicker than the time recorded by the decent handicapper Diamond Cauchois in the very next race, and sectionals showed that, while much of that difference was accumulated early in the respective races, the novices were as much as 2.4s quicker from three out also.
This looks strong form by novice standards, though it is worth noting that the much-vaunted Samcro beat Jetz (third in this race) by nearly five lengths further at the same course and distance the time before.
In case you hadn’t spotted it, trainer David Simcock is ending the year in blistering form. He has had six winners in the last fortnight – three of them on Wednesday – for an impact value of 4.13 (his horses have won more than four times as often as chance).
He has a handful of runners over the next few days, among them SINGYOURSONG in the 12:35 at Lingfield Park on Saturday. The filly, who is returning from a 140-day break, was second in a Listed race earlier this year and would just about win this Conditions Stakes at her best. She looks worth a punt.
The same trainer’s INTERN appeals in the Listed Betway Quebec Stakes at 1:45 on the same card. The three-year-old is lightly raced but shaped pleasingly when third behind Toast of New York here last time on his debut for the yard. He can reward each-way support.