The old saying is that “when you are in a hole, you should stop digging”, the problem being that many lack the self-awareness to realise that they are in a hole in the first place.
In an interesting variation on the predicament, Julian Muscat was handed a large shovel and allowed to get on with it in his column in today’s Racing Post.
The man who had doubted that any ATR viewers could name the runner-up to Without Parole in a race at Yarmouth that impressed sectional analysts, while glibly observing that “they all look very fast when they are passing trees”, might have been expected to have wound his neck in after both Without Parole and that runner-up – Ostilio, in case Muscat wondered – won at Royal Ascot.
Not a bit of it. Instead, he used his platform to question if anything could be learnt from sectional timing other than retrospectively, a needlessly limiting objective but one which Muscat himself has apparently still failed to master.
Fortunately, the debate about the merit of time as an analytical tool in horseracing has largely moved on and, for those prepared to keep pace with it, the following look at some of the sectionals from Royal Ascot – to be viewed in conjunction with yesterday’s analysis of all the Group 1s there – may be of interest.
At this stage, this is indeed a largely retrospective exercise. But the insights gleaned can be, and indeed should be, carried forward to when the horses concerned appear in the future.
Contrary to what I indicated yesterday, I have selected some of the more interesting results from a sectional point of view, rather than simply the two-year-old races, most of which were true contests on sectionals to a greater or lesser degree.
The Coventry Stakes is, however, an exception. Much focus was on Calyx, whose debut win had illustrated Royal Ascot-winning sectionals (discussed here previously), and who undoubtedly did well to win racing solo on just his second appearance. But what seems to have been missed is that he ran quite efficiently on this occasion while his two nearest rivals did not.
Both Advertise and Sergei Prokofiev made big moves to try to claw back the deficit, especially the latter in the penultimate furlong. Calyx deserves to be regarded as the best of the trio on account of that 110 debut performance, but it is not cut and dried on the figures.
The sectionals for the Jersey Stakes confirm that the leaders overdid things, as reflected by those low finishing speed %s behind the first two. Expert Eye is a very smart performer, for sure, but Could It Be Love has now tried gallantly to run the socks off him and Alpha Centauri on her last two starts and surely just needs a more efficient ride and a slight lowering of her sights to win a race.
The finishing speeds for the Britannia Handicap show that the previously-maligned Ostilio went only a little quicker than par (which is around 99% for the last 2f of the straight mile at Ascot) and was neither obviously flattered nor the opposite.
Both the King Edward VII Stakes and the Hardwicke Stakes were steadily-run. Old Persian was probably the best horse in the former, but only just, and Giuseppe Garibaldi and Delano Roosevelt should have got a good deal closer (I have used a slightly different upgrading formula for these two races).
Crystal Ocean was best in the Hardwicke, but ran his race in similar style – in terms of the proportion spent in the last 3f – to the next three home, and could have been more impressive. Unless, that is, you believe that runner-up Red Verdon is better than he had shown in 21 previous starts.
As with any other form of analysis, you sometimes need to show patience to reap the benefits of sectionals. I am hoping that will be the case with LEADER WRITER, who banged in some impressive closing splits at Lingfield in February but who has been beaten three times since.
There might have been excuses for those defeats (he probably did quite well from his draw in the Lincoln on the first of them) and the Henry Spiller-trained horse can be given another chance in the quite valuable mile handicap at Newcastle on Thursday (due off at 4:15), in which the pace promises to be stronger than he encountered after an absence at course and distance last time.
The virtue of patience needs to go back even further for followers of ATLETICO, who shaped well a number of times on the all-weather last winter and who will have been off for more than three months when lining up for the Stobart Energy Gosforth Park Cup on the same track on Friday (7:30).
He needs a strong pace at this minimum trip and should get one with the likes of Soie d’Leau and Copper Knight in attendance.
It is also worth including first-time-visored EVERGATE in calculations: the gelding has two good placed efforts to his name recently, including at Lingfield, where he ran a 10.0s furlong according to TPD figures to be found elsewhere on this site.