Another Derby and Oaks rolled round without any sign of official sectionals being provided to help understand how the some of the best Flat races are run and won. This means the data must be collected manually if we wish uncover things that may be under or over-estimated by the naked eye.
Collecting sectionals manually always requires something of a compromise, between ease of collection, accuracy of data and finally its useful-ness. The ease of collection varies from course to course and camera angle to camera angle, which ultimately impacts on accuracy and usefulness.
Nevertheless, the collection of this data is worthwhile, and among the thousands of races found in Timeform’s sectional archives there is information and insight unavailable anywhere else.
At Epsom, sectionals are established as they cross the path upon entering the straight, which is roughly 3.45 furlongs from home. The camera angle means we can be confident in the times, and more confident in the margins than if sectionals were estimated at the three furlong pole.
As highlighted in Simon Rowlands’ Epsom Fact File, the closing sectional of races run at Epsom are downhill with a slight rise just before the finish. All par finishing speeds at Epsom are above 103%, which means horses are running the closing stages faster than they do in the early stages.
The Derby looks relatively simple to assess, with Masar emerging victorious to give Godolphin its first Derby winner in the royal blue, the performance (125) backed up by the timefigure (121).
The race featured a strong pace, set by Knight To Behold and Kew Gardens, the race finishing speed was 106.1% and slower than the par (111.0%). The front five finished clear of the rest, having all raced in midfield or towards the rear, with the exception of Hazapour, who raced prominently before weakening into fifth.
Masar had gone into the Guineas top-rated due to his Craven romp, which featured a significant 26 lb sectional upgrade on a 96 timefigure. He improved for the step up in trip in the Derby and finished well in a strongly run race; he’s an intended runner in the Irish Derby where he may meet Saxon Warrior, who could prove tough to beat back on a more conventional course.
Runner-up Dee Ex Bee took a significant step forward under Silvestre De Sousa, and there’s no reason to doubt that improvement for all that the race played to his strengths. He may struggle if races become more about speed, though, as he looks a strong stayer, sure to relish running over further with the St Leger an obvious target.
Roaring Lion looked more straightforward and professional in his impressive Dante win, and further built on that here under very different conditions to those he encountered at York. He was beaten fair and square and lost out for second late, but looks sure to win a Group 1 before long, with a drop back to ten furlongs and the Eclipse sure to suit.
Saxon Warrior broke on terms but still lost a few lengths due to being drawn in stall 1. He managed to secure a place on the inside, racing in midfield alongside Masar and travelling well for much of the race, still going well at the sectional before being bumped by Dee Ex Bee on entering the straight. Thereafter he struggled to regain his balance and handle the Epsom camber, with Moore sympathetic over the last furlong. For all that he was still not beaten far, and may still prove best of this field.
While the Derby was a representative field, the Oaks was seen as substandard before the off, a single figure field due to plenty of absentees, which included ante-post favourite Lah Ti Dar, as well as Laurens, Sea Of Class, and a couple from Ballydoyle. With conditions being soft the field came stands side, and Forever Together stayed on the strongest to win by over four lengths in a solid timefigure (112).
Both conditions and the strong early pace, a slower than par race finishing speed (108.7%), set by Bye Bye Baby, put an increased emphasis on stamina, and brought about improvement in the winner. She has the potential to build from here, and while she wasn’t quite up to Enable’s standard 12 months ago, she shouldn’t be underestimated.
Wild Illusion held the best form going into the race and was simply outstayed by the winner, while Bye Bye Baby could have finished closer had she not gone so hard and come over to the rail. Magic Wand had beaten the winner at Chester, but wasn’t in quite the same form, under pressure entering the straight as the winner went past.
Any other business
The opening two-year-old conditions race on Oaks Day was won emphatically by Cosmic Law, who set a strong pace (102.3% finishing speed) and recorded a fast timefigure of 103, the third highest by a two year-old this season. Only Sergei Prokofiev (106 timefigure at Navan) and Natalie’s Joy (105 at Goodwood) sit above Cosmic Law. The performance at Epsom also saw a 9 lb upgrade for Cosmic Law suggesting there is plenty more to come.
Cracksman won the Coronation Cup, but certainly didn’t win it how many expected, scrambling home from Salouen who set a strong pace under De Sousa, 105.8% race finishing speed and 120 timefigure.
Cracksman wasn’t quite himself, apparently banging his head on the stall when anticipating the start, never travelling all that fluently and under pressure from a long way out, while still around six lengths down at the sectional. Cracksman was switched a number of times by Frankie before grabbing the rail and staying on to lead in the final strides, running the sectional a second faster than Salouen.
Silvestre De Sousa capped two fine days by winning the two closing handicaps on the Saturday, winning a 16-runner handicap on Dash of Spice in uncomplicated and uncompromising fashion. De Sousa soon went to the front where he set perfect fractions, with finishing speed of 110.8% and a timefigure of 95.
De Sousa then won on Aces, who was having just his second start for Ian Williams. The early pace was strong, 99.6% race finishing speed, which saw hold up hold up horses come to the fore, though even the winner (103.2%) finishing slower than par for a 76 timefigure. The early leader Boy In The Bar did far too much early under Raul Da Silva, and while all the principles get upgrades for having raced too fast early, Boy In The Bar has been added as a sectional horse to follow for his next performance.