Much was made of the Irish “victory” over the British at the recent Cheltenham Festival, but recent events in the All-Weather Championships remind us that traffic can head the other way too.
There were four Fast-Track Qualifiers at Dundalk in March, and three of them went to British raiders, with the only exception being a substandard all-Irish affair won by Another Story on 10th March. For good measure, there were just two other British representatives across the quartet of races, and they came second and third.
Last Friday, Sign Of The Kodiac and Elbereth joined Visionary from earlier in the month in guaranteeing a place in the All-Weather Finals back on home sand at Lingfield Park on 14th April.
Elbereth had last been seen finishing third in the Group 1 Gran Premio del Jockey Club at Milan and could get into the shake-up in the Betway Middle-Distance Final on Good Friday, though Sign Of The Kodiac probably ran no better than when sixth in a FTQ at Lingfield the time before and looks likely to have his work cut out in the same firm’s Sprint Final.
There are no Total Performance Data sectionals from Dundalk, but it is possible for the enthusiast to take their own using the process described here previously.
This reveals that the Download The Award-Winning At The Races App Race was a reasonably clean contest, with Sign of The Kodiac coming back in 103.4% finishing speed (speed in last 3f compared to his average speed for the race overall), not far from the 101.4% par for the course and distance, while the Visit attheraces.com Race was more tactical.
Elbereth came home in 108.2% finishing speed, but third-placed Elleval might have been a shade unfortunate on the day in posting 109.2% (103.2% is par). The latter turned into the Dundalk home straight with one behind him and was beaten just half a length and a head at the line.
There was also a bonus FTQ at Lingfield Park itself on Saturday afternoon, with the Betway Conditions Stakes providing a winning opportunity at last for all-weather stalwart First Mohican. TPD sectionals tell of a reasonably fair contest, but the overall time proved a disappointing one, and the favourite Winterlude ran no sort of race.
First Mohican had been placed in FTQs behind Winterlude at Kempton in February and behind Winning Story at Newcastle in December. Taken on balance, another place in the Betway Marathon Final itself would exceed expectations for First Mohican.
Time analysis can spot potential winners for the future, but it can also urge caution with winners of the present when visual impressions suggest otherwise. That may prove to be the case with Voski, a Mark Johnston-trained maiden winner at Lingfield Park last Friday.
There was some excitement on social media about the six-length winner, but it should be pointed out that the overall time was modest – 3.17s slower than the race which preceded it – and the sectionals nothing out of the ordinary (24.4s, or 104.2% finishing speed).
Voski is quite a promising horse, but this was almost certainly a case of quite a promising horse winning a weak contest, rather than anything better as some have suggested.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with the performance of Kimberella on the same course the following day, however. The seven-year-old ran a fast time (though there is some dispute as to whether it was quite as quick as given officially) and with sectionals which were very near to par, as the ATR sectional grid shows. He has plenty of form on grass with the turf Flat season imminent.
SIGNE ATR Tracker 's winning time at Newcastle on Thursday was unexceptional, but the turn of foot the unbeaten filly showed was impressive in that context, 23.4s for the last 2f, or a 109.6% finishing speed. A significant hike in her mark is likely to be needed to stop her going close next time, too.
Fast-Track Qualifiers may now be behind us, but there are still some significant events taking place on the all-weather in coming days and weeks.
An interesting feature of the former is that none of the eight declared runners is guaranteed to set much of a pace. Fire Fighting went from the front at Dundalk last time, but at a fairly steady gallop (it was the aforementioned race won by Elbereth), and he got turned over at fairly short odds. Sovereign Debt seems unlikely to force the pace given major doubts about his stamina at this longer trip of ten furlongs.
This seems likely to play into the hands of ABSOLUTE BLAST, for whom the trip is also a maximum but who possesses an electric turn of foot, as evidenced in past TPD sectionals.
Witness the pace she showed when third in the Betway Winter Derby at Lingfield Park on 25th February (21.3s last quarter) and when second in a Handicap at Wolverhampton on 31st January (22.1s last quarter). The Archie Watson-trained mare is taken to come out on top here.
The same trainer’s General Hazard goes in the Rosebery but has been done no favours by a draw in stall 15 of 15. In contrast to the Magnolia, the Rosebery looks like being truly-run, due to the presence of the likes of Noble Gift and Sennockian Star.
That seems likely to help BIG COUNTRY, who took a while to get rolling in a maiden at Wolverhampton in February, but who ended up scoring by seven lengths. A BHA mark of 84 looks on the generous side for the son of High Chaparral’s first venture into this sort of company.