I emerged from behind my computer for long enough to make a cameo appearance on At The Races on Monday afternoon. It’s fair to say that Gary Oldman is in no danger of having that Oscar snatched away from him at the eleventh (and Darkest) hour.
It was not the intention, but I ended up holding forth about the sectionals of the opening bumper at Lingfield Park, having smuggled a stopwatch past security and into the studio. A hot-take last-2f “race” sectional of 23.3s was revised to 23.35s on sober reflection, which still resulted in a nifty finishing speed of 112.0% for the winner Normal Norman.
Even more impressive, however, was the home-straight run of second-placed SANGHA RIVER, who came from around five lengths back to be beaten just three quarters of a length, and who would have been in front with just a bit further to travel.
His sectional comes in at 22.7s, with a finishing speed of 115.2%, which suggests he “should” have won by a good few lengths. The visuals boys (and girls) may well be saying “tell us something we don’t know” at this stage. We probably both agree also that Sangha River is a gelding with a fairly bright future.
The main purpose of my visit to ATR’s offices in Milton Keynes was to talk about the business of the Horseracing Bettors Forum, of which I am (at least for another week or two) the Chair.
This coincided with a Guardian story prompted by an HBF survey into over-rounds (the theoretical price of having a bet) at Starting Price in 2017. The survey identified Ffos Las as being alarmingly “expensive”, especially on one date in August, and The Guardian had got some quotes suggesting sharp practice.
This may all seem somewhat abstruse, but it matters a lot if you tend to back at SP. Disappointingly, several racecourse bookmakers saw this as a cue to try to give HBF a kicking on social media, preferring to shoot the messenger than address the message.
As I said on air, “…I would like to emphasise that HBF does feel on-course bookmakers not only have quite a tough job but that they add considerably to the race-day experience and the colour of the event: we would like to see them thrive and prosper. However, I don’t think the way to achieve that is to allow it to become a free-for-all.”
The real issue here is arguably not just the exorbitant prices, but the apparent lack of official overview of betting markets that allows them to happen occasionally. HBF will continue to try to ensure this changes for the better.
Anyone wishing to get away from the depressing news cycle by following some horseracing hopefully profited from one of last week’s two tips, RECKLESS ENDEAVOUR, who won at 12/1.
His strong late run from the rear made it look like the leaders might have gone too fast, but TPD sectionals show categorically that this was not so. The early pace was identified as “even to slow” and the last 2f of the winner went by in a super-fast 21.6s.
Reckless Endeavour may have taken seven starts to get off the mark in Britain (having been with Ger Lyons in Ireland earlier in his career), but it should not be assumed that an expected rise in his mark of a few pounds will prevent him from following up. Or, that is what the sectionals indicate.
There were two Fast-Track Qualifiers on Wednesday, the winner of which gains an automatic berth on All-Weather Finals Day on 30 March. That was superfluous where CORINTHIA KNIGHT was concerned, as he had won an earlier FTQ at Kempton, but his pillar-to-post success at Newcastle was another fine advert for his highly-promising trainer, Archie Watson.
Corinthia Knight looks a worthy favourite for the Three-Year-Old Final on Good Friday, but the runner-up here, STONE OF DESTINY, may be an even better prospect, having done well to come from behind in a race run at a slow pace for a sprint on what was only his second start.
He was slightly quicker than the useful winner in the closing stages, without ever quite looking like he would get there, and appeals as a Listed-standard performer sooner rather than later.
There were no TPD sectionals for WATERSMEET’s FTQ win at Kempton – another “superfluous” one in that he had qualified for Finals Day at Wolverhampton previously – but my time analysis has a timefigure of 103, and he won comfortably enough to suggest he’ll be another going into Good Friday with a leading chance.
There is a fascinating field of 10 assembled at 3.15 on Saturday at Lingfield for the Betway Winter Derby, the only Group race of the All-Weather Championships. I was initially tempted by the Aidan O’Brien-trained runner Clear Skies, coming here after a fast-time and wide-margin win at Dundalk.
But Dundalk has been riding a bit more testing than usual of late, and Clear Skies could find this too sharp, especially as there seems a shortage of early pace on at this tighter track.
The classy performers Autocratic (won Brigadier Gerard Stakes last year), Convey (won this as well as Easter Classic on Finals Day last year) and Royal Ascot runner-up Khalidi are all coming here on the back of lengthy breaks.
It may be worth taking a chance with MR OWEN, a dual Listed winner in France who has not been with gifted trainer David Simcock for long and who probably ran really well when conceding weight and beaten narrowly by the smart Arcanada at Wolverhampton last time.
The slight doubt with Mr Owen is his stamina for this 10f, though he did win at an extended 9f at Deauville, so the recommendation is to back him win-only. If things go right then he could well capitalise.