There have been two Fast-Track Qualifiers since the last ATR Sectional Spotlight update, including one at Kempton which catapulted the decidedly smart winner Ennaadd to favouritism for the Sunbets-sponsored Mile on All-Weather Championships Finals Day.
The other race - the 32Red Casino Conditions Stakes - was the first FTQ to take place at Newcastle, meaning there are Total Performance Data sectionals to be considered after the event.
These show that the pace for the 6f contest was “even to fast” early on (see that race description in the header and the red colouring to the left of the heatmap), but that it dropped mid-race, which is where the winner Kananee took it up.
The second half of the race was run at an even pace, as reflected in the predominantly yellow shading to the right of the heatmap and some remarkably efficient finishing speed %s. What you see is what you get, to a large degree, and there were no obvious excuses for this column’s selection, Nuclear Power.
Such efficiently-run races are, however, not the norm at racing’s newest all-weather track, which features a straight mile and a steadily uphill finish which tests jockeyship and judgement of pace unlike any other course on the winter circuit.
The following day’s meeting - Friday 18th November - showed a wide range of sectional scenarios at the course, with race finishing speeds (speed of end of race compared to average speed of race overall) varying between 103.0% for the opener and 92.8% for the finale. That is a big swing.
The two most strongly-run races are worth looking at in more detail, for horses in them paid to varying degrees for using up so much energy before the closing stages.
The mile handicap won by Pike Corner Cross has all the reds and the oranges to the left - the early stages of the race - and all the greens to the right. If you go to the “sectional tools” tab for this race you will see that every horse finished slowly, with the majority below 90%.
No one horse in isolation looks to have been greatly flattered or disadvantaged, but I would bet that those margins between the runners (there are more than 10 lengths back to the fifth) have been significantly exaggerated by what was a general pace collapse. Pike Corner Cross has gone up 9 lb in the handicap, where something like 5lb would be normal.
An overly-strong middle in the final race did for the pace-forcer Lady Bacchus in particular (her efficiency grade is an “F”), but the runner-up may also be a good short-term prospect.
If you hover over those Efficiency Grades on the “sectional tools” you will see that Justice Pleasing was comfortably least-efficient of any of the first six finishers. Both Lady Bacchus and Justice Pleasing have entries back at Newcastle early next week.
This column’s recommendation of Flying Bear each-way at Lingfield on Saturday paid off, after a fashion, with a second place at 8/1, if not in quite the way that had been anticipated. There was no pace meltdown, as those sectionals and the heatmap shows, with jockeys on a number of horses who usually force the pace content to track the heavily-backed Seve, who set even fractions and never looked like being caught.
Third-placed Fang was fastest at the finish in actual (41.1 mph for last quarter) and relative (105.3% finishing speed) terms, despite not being knocked about by Shane Kelly, and looks a winner in waiting at this trip of 5f or when returned to 6f.
Just one FTQ remains in November, the 32Red.com Fillies’ Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton on Friday. Volunteer Point, who won the final of this series at Lingfield in March, is arguably the form pick after an encouraging third at Chelmsford last time. But this threatens to be a tactical affair with no clear front-runners declared.
One who can be expected to give a good account is the three-year-old Squash, who was placed in Group races at Newmarket and Lingfield (all-weather) in the late-spring. She was only eighth behind Muffri’Ha (Volunteer Point fifth) in a FTQ at Lingfield in October but was set a lot to do up in trip that day, as those sectionals show. A more recent defeat came in the mud in France. SQUASH is the selection.
Before then, there is a notably competitive 32Red-backed listed race at Kempton on Wednesday evening, though this is not part of the FTQ schedule. Among the dozen runners, there is a raider from France, in Dogma, and a Yorkshire Cup runner-up, in Curbyourenthusiasm.
The former ran Bess Of Hardwick (who reopposes here) close in a slowly-run listed contest at Lingfield recently, while the latter also won at Chelmsford last time but has to drop in trip here.
They, and the others, may have their work cut out to cope with Star Storm, however. The James Fanshawe-trained colt has easily the best recent timefigure on show, and it was achieved at this course and distance when running the very smart Western Hymn to half a length in a listed race.
With his stable in notably good form, STAR STORM looks capable of going one better now.