If you want authoritative furlong-by-furlong sectionals from the last fortnight then the Royal meeting to head to is Windsor and not Ascot after the latter failed to return such figures for the fourth year in a row at what is supposed to be British racing’s flagship event.
Meanwhile, Total Performance Data sectionals were provided at not only Ascot’s less gloried, if nonetheless regal, Thames-side neighbour but at Lingfield Park, Doncaster and Wolverhampton, too.
You might be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given the hoo-haa surrounding the five days in Berkshire, but a 5/1 winner at Windsor pays the same as a 5/1 winner at Ascot.
There were, admittedly, no Caravaggios, Lady Aurelias or Barney Roys on show at those other tracks, but there were interesting performances for both the present and the future. Here are some of them.
BLIND FAITH ATR Tracker (18 June, Doncaster) possibly should have won the 8f handicap at Doncaster on the Sunday before Royal Ascot, rather than finishing third, still gaining at the line but not quite getting there. It was not that the race was slowly-run – the TPD sectionals show they were “even to fast” early – but that Blind Faith was a bit too far back having been awkward leaving her stall. The Luca Cumani-trained filly is at least as good at 10f and can make amends.
AFRICAN ATR Tracker (19 June, Windsor) put in a notably quick finish when winning the concluding 10f maiden at Windsor on the eve of Royal Ascot, with all three of his concluding furlongs under 12.0s. That suggests he can rate a fair bit higher than the BHA mark of 68 the ex-Aidan O’Brien colt ran off here. He could do with settling a bit better than he did to stay still further.
POWERFUL WIND ATR Tracker (22 June, Lingfield) is on a losing run of 13 and in the veteran stage, but he showed a great deal of zip before weakening into fourth in this ordinary handicap, half a dozen lengths clear at one stage and especially fast in the second and third furlongs (10.6s followed by 10.7s). He has become well-handicapped and should be hard to catch if ridden with just a bit more restraint at a sharp 5f.
PLUTONIAN ATR Tracker (26 June, Windsor) won a soft maiden by a 10-length margin and may get clobbered by the handicapper as a result. But a decent overall time (not the one given officially as the electronic timing malfunctioned) and some sharp closing sectionals despite being allowed to coast late on suggests this is every bit as good as it looked. This was 8f, and he would not necessarily benefit from further. Incidentally, times suggest the ground – watered and apparently loose on top – was quite a bit slower than the “good to firm” reported, at least in the straight.
A couple of winning performances in the period under review are worth flagging up as being possibly not quite what they seemed.
TIE EM UP TEL (19 June, Windsor) seemed slightly flattered by the 4-length margin of his win in a seller at Windsor, with an “even to fast” pace early on, which he was admittedly up with, meaning his limited rivals rather fell in a heap late on. Nurseries are on the horizon but quite a bit more may be needed for him to win one of those in the early weeks.
PLYMOUTH SOUND (24 June, Lingfield) won the 11.6f handicap at Lingfield by margins more familiar to jumps followers, but was not the only one of which that was true on another well-watered surface. The sectionals show a fast mid-section following a steady opening one, and that profile often results in a “last man standing” scenario. Plymouth Sound was niggled along at halfway but swept past 3f out and just kept going while his rivals capitulated. An increase in his mark of 6 lb should be enough to stop him following up.
There is plenty for the racing enthusiast to get his or her teeth into this weekend, and meetings at Doncaster, Lingfield, Newcastle and Windsor on Saturday mean there will be plenty for the sectional enthusiast to pore over after the event, too.
The Newcastle all-weather card features the Northumberland Plate and its consolation race the Northumberland Vase, and it opens with an ultra-competitive six-furlong handicap sponsored by Betfred (1.50).
All the 14 runners can be given a chance, but MAZZINI looks to have the best one of all. His form figures on turf read “3824368” while those on all-weather read “23112”, which includes a win at this distance on his only previous visit to this course and a good second at Chelmsford City last time.
Mazzini looks likely to get the good pace his come-from-behind style requires, and he is fancied to go very close in this grade.
Indian Warrior and Zalshah were second and third in a novice at Windsor recently, and there should again be little between them in the 7.10 at Lingfield Park on Saturday evening.
But efficient sectionals and a so-so overall time in that contest suggest neither may be open to much improvement, and SPECIAL PURPOSE – a well-bred newcomer from the in-form William Haggas stable – will not have to be much out of the ordinary to take advantage. It looks worth taking the chance.