VP - Southwell (Masked Dance, Usquaebach).
Winner Run Styles in 2009
How do quickly do you like like to know your fate? Get it over with as
soon as possible and move on or drag it out through a number of twists?
5f races for 2yos or long distance chases on softer going present good
extremes for you to test your preference. The clean way that 2yo races
unfold for the most part is part of their attraction. Hardly any of the
regular trials for the watcher of National Hunt races. Horses dropping
back out of the TV picture with half-a-mile to go being scrubbed along
at maximum rate popping back into view 50 yards from the line and succeed
as the others stop to a, visually unedifying, walk. Very rarely the sight
of a horse cruising past another and leaving it standing only to fall into
a personal heap a bit later and get overtaken again by the plugger-on it
had left behind. A lot less use of that unfortunate phrase "in-running
carnage" as well, thankfully. [A few geezers losing a bit of money
sat in front of a computer screen when they are adults and know full well
the game they are playing is not 'carnage'. Another example of painting
yourself into a verbal corner. How are you going to respond to real carnage?]
The 5f 2yo race means that you know your fate more quickly and cleanly
at more than one level. At it's simplest a 5f race can take 58 seconds
at a fast track like Redcar or Thirsk and at the other extreme will top
out around 70 seconds for an uphill slog at Beverley or Bath in heavy going.
But, there is another level that means for many horses you know their fate
after 12-24 seconds. The gormless ones who blow the break by six lengths
and clowns like Regency Art who don't bother galloping are obvious examples
but many runners in the 5f fields to date have been in hopeless positions
before two furlongs have gone. Here's the 'Stats' bit to try to make this
To Tuesday there have been 35 races for 2yos all officially at 5f although
a few a bit longer with Brighton's extra 63 yards the most. 11 of the 35
(just over 31%) have been won by the front runner with 19 (54%) won by
the first two through halfway. The one furthest back of those second place
runners was at halfway was one length and sixteen of those 19 winners were
either leading or pressing the leader within a neck. So, that's over half
the races where you could ignore everything behind the front line from
early on, fatewise.
What about the other 16 races, do they fall into a recognisable pattern?
To a large extent the answer is, 'Yes'. 13 of those 16 have been won by
the 3rd to 5th runner through halfway with 4-5th much more common than
the 3rds. In 10 of those 13 races the winner (whether 3rd, 4th or 5th at
halfway) has been between 1-2 lengths off the leader. Not miles back and
'closing' but classic Stalk & Pounce stuff once the leaders blow themselves
out by going a bit too quick. Put another way 29 of the 35 races (83%)
of the winners have either led through halfway or been within 2 lengths
of the leader.
You will have a long wait if you are watching your runner in 'midfield'
3-4 lengths off the lead to have the winner and they are usually already
in trouble. There have been three races so far won by horses in the 6th
to 9th range and they were typically 3-4 lengths off the lead at halfway.
In all three cases the races featured a too strong pace produced by at
least three horses pressing together. This has dragged the second rank
horses along too fast as well and allowed the winner to come from a bit
further back. That is a theory which may not be fully true because in each
case you could make a case that the winner was a superior type in the context
of the race. They have probably been able to come from further back because
they could cruise and then make an effort forward against the pace
set before them. The crumpling up and folding back of the front of the
field as the pace has broken up the pressers has made all three look very
Without wishing to lessen the beauty of the galloping thoroughbred and
the spectacle of horseracing let us have a brief think about what is going
on here and what the Run Style stats might be telling us. We will start
with the old joke "First we shall assume a spherical horse..". Since
this is B2yoR we will call it a 'Powerball' and try to use shortcutting
and chancing to get us to the core of things without too much hard work
& zero maths. All races are about taking Powerballs (the horses) which
have a certain amount of power locked up in them. This can be enhanced,
and cocked up, by training but the upper limits are set by the genes they
The Powerball expends the available energy it has as it moves and the more
efficiently it does that (it's athleticism) the longer it will last. Some
powerballs are best when allowed to expend their energy over short bursts
(sprinters) because their muscles and movement are optimised for this.
Others perform best when the energy is applied at lower output level for
longer times and distances. The pace of the race is an absolutely
key factor in optimising the use of the available power in the ball. Steaming
off too fast will empty the tank and the reduce it to a walk, err, slow
roll. The way the Powerball interacts with the surface it is rolling on
is the other primary factor to consider in optimising available output.
Which is why the going gets so much coverage in racing
5f races for 2yos of mixed ability, mostly on consistent GF going as we
have had this spring and on straight courses with perhaps a small dog-leg
present a simplified case of watching the Powerballs roll along. We have
a wide range of abilities on show and lots of enthusiasts to set a good
pace which will put stress on most Powerballs. If the pace is not too
taxing the horses will drop away (never to return unlike NH races)
as their power reserves empty. You watch a visible demonstration of the
power and ability of each of the horses by the order which they come under
pressure and fade.
If the pace is a bit too strong up front those horses may run to 'Empty'
on power before they would normally and perform to a lesser standard than
a more even power output profile. That allows the Stalk & Pouncers
in 2nd rank 3rd-5th area to get through to lead. A really fierce, multi-way,
pace way might break a field up enough to allow the odd midfielder to score
but it is not common in consistent conditions as we have had. If the horses
in front run their race efficiently you are going to have to be a better
horse to move by them. Which is why making forward moves, against horses
still going forward themselves, is such a good indicator of better ability.
One point to note is that 'Friction' caused between horses in multi-way
pacesetting is a real negative factor. A horse which can run a certain
pace efficiently made get broken by it when 'eyeballed' by another. Broken
concentration? Mentally cowed by his superior from an animal used to hierarchies
Simplifying the view of the races and how they play out runs into various
areas in judging races and we will consider whether 'making places' is
usefully eyecatching below. A couple of other points are worth mentioning
to see how the thinking can drift into other areas. The bias towards running
close to the front can make hold-up jockeys like Jamie Spencer look less
than assured on 2yos. He tends to ride them like they were wily old horses
like Zidane with an immediate turn of foot and running in high friction,
complicated, older handicaps with brutal paces that suit his style. Start
riding all your 2yos like they can close 3-5 lengths in any race and the
Judging horses in the paddock just as 'Powerballs' can get you a long way
as well. Long experience has taught B2yoR that people are mostly pretty
poor at judging the height of 2yos. They find it much more natural to respond
to the bulk and quality on show. They can feel the power coming off a good
one. In the seller at Redcar yesterday the TV presenter was perplexed as
to why Gasparilla had appeared to run poorly and fade badly. The musings
were over a picture that showed the newcomer House Of Frills looking stupid
but towering over the minute Gasparilla. Forget form, forget breeding,
and so on and just look at them as two Powerballs running until they hit
empty. Gasparilla was under pressure to go the pace by halfway and was
going to empty before the bigger one. It isn't any more complicated than
that when you strip off the layers.
Eyecatchers - Real or just filling Airtime?
You are watching a replay of a 2yo race with the head-on shot that allows
you to see all the horses. Towards the back, and half the size of the others
with perspective, is a 2yo trundling past a couple of others who are being
strangled today, for tomorrow, so to speak. Much decorated, TV uber-Luvvie
Nicholas Luck intones "..ahh, I see Empty Promise is making nice headway
out the back there, Tom Teriffic the trainer ought to be able to find a
small nursery for him, I fancy...". In light of the discussion above
how much promise is there in those horses making ground? What is going
on anyway if you think all the horses should be fading in order of ability?
How are they beating the power consumption rules?
Instinctively, you feel that to be promising those horses gaining places
should be making real progress against horses who still have reasonable
power reserves left. They should also have some, rectifiable, reason for
being behind all those other horses in the first place. Given that we are
dealing with inexperienced 2yos missing breaks and general incompetence
are the most likely reasons. Being too slow to go the pace at all and getting
into the faders by grinding on at your single, slow, pace should not count
To try to get a better handle on this the table below lists the 18 horses
that have made most places from halfway to the finish in the 35 races to
Tuesday. There is not quality control in the list like requiring that the
final placing was better than 8th or whatever. It is simply how many horses
the 2yo got past in the final 2.5 furlongs. Looking back on the head-on
shot of their races they could be read as 'eyecatching' since we will perceive
them making relative progress against, the more usual, fading profile.
Let us see how these horses go along in their subsequent races and try
to judge whether they were showing promise with their later race gains.
||Newbury, 17th, April
||First string for R Hannon and got behind in a big field after a bump
at the start and on the 'Weak Side' at Newbury where high draw sets often
start slower. Got from 11th to 2nd after taking time to gather and not
looking a 5f type. Seemed real promise from a solid physical type. NR in
the Ascot conditions race this week.
||Bath, 3rd April
||Lost 5 lengths at the start and 8L adrift at halfway on debut (3L off
the pack). Strong finish to 3rd but in a weak race. Ran very well STO and
did best of the Pacemakers but faded in the final furlong. Can show better
form still and first run looked real promise in retrospect.
||Windsor, 20th April
||Ran centre track from low draw when winning FTO at Windsor. Moderate
horses went too quick from high draws and faded more than normal. Only
made 3L to get from 9th to win. Better type in what looks a suspect race
behind the first two.
||Doncaster, 28th March
||Got from 12th to 5th in the Brocklesby by not fading as the field broke
apart badly. 2nd STO and won a weak race 3TO on the AW. Lacked pace and
plugged on to pick up faders in all three runs.
||Haydock 25th April
||FTO Winner of Haydock maiden race which featured a strong, multi-way
pace. Made 5L from halfway but made a real forward move and finished unpressed.
Looked a real promise debut from a filly up to running in Listed+ events.
||Doncaster, 28th March
||9th at halfway in Brocklesby and made a real forward move after switching
around stallers to get to 3rd before stalling himself. First two in race
look ok and he is presumably OR80 at least and real promise. He was probably
the changeover point from the stronger open maiden winners the more limited
winners back through to the garbage.
||Ripon, 16th April
||Lost 4L at the start and 8L off the lead at Halfway in 10th. Made a
moderate forward move to get to 4th (1st 3 better types and clear) past
the garbage inside 2f out (i.e. not late on). Has won since in a moderate
race with too stiff a pace where she made 4L from halfway to get to 1st
from 4th past dead horses.
||Windsor, 20th April
||Similar to Be Invincible. Slightly ahead of that runner at halfway
and finished 2nd to him. Also came from low draw but, unlike the winner,
crossed over to the stands' rail. He had to switch out to centre track
to get around the fading pace (the move Spencer & Thomas Baines should
have followed) and make progress to 2nd. Forward move to 2nd looked more
than just plugging on past faders and ok promise.
||Doncaster, 28th March
||Got from 14th to 9th in the Brocklesby by not fading as much as the
runners that got involved. Was won a poor race on the AW STO.
||Newbury, 17th, April
||Clueless in preliminaries and dropped the jockey at post and cantered
a few furlongs before giving himself up. Like Planet Red he was well back
in 10th at halfway and made real progress to an unpressed 5th with Spencer
sitting up for the last furlong. A good physical type to believe he can
back up the promise when he settles down & wises up.
||Doncaster, 18th April
||Just over 3L off the lead at halfway in fillies' maiden with good pace
set on debut. Made a real forward move from 7th before the fading started
to challenge for the lead into the final furlong and go a half length clear.
Lack of fitness, and the move made, meant she stalled late on and an outpaced
runner she had overtaken plugged on to lead late. 4th has won since and
3rd run well.
Good promise and runs at Musselburgh today but seems to have landed
in a tough race.
|OUR DREAM QUEEN
||Newbury, 17th, April
||Another from the Newbury maiden behind Planet Red. Held up in 8th and
made a move to get to 3rd into the final furlong. Ok promise.
||Windsor, 20th April
||Green and lost 5L at the start in the Windsor race behind Be Invincible.
Seemed to make a real forward move just after halfway from 13th to around
7th before the jockey accepted that was far enough. A good test of how
this progress from well back actually rates as 'promise'.
||Haydock, 25th April
||Lost a couple of lengths at the start and 7L off stiff pace at halfway.
Got from 10th to 5th late but without making any forward move and just
picking up dead horses from the pace war. Beaten a long way. Hard to see
||Haydock, 25th April
||Same race and similar story to Dower Glen. Never involved 13th to a
remote 8th finish.
||Brighton, 26th April
||Held up in 8th FTO at Brighton (not outpaced as some reports suggest).
5-6L back at halfway and still 3L down into the final furlong. Closed up
strongly to challenge on the line. Difficult case. Presumably closing on
faders but did it without looking hard pressed and ridden with tomorrow
||Bath, 28th April
||Apparent second string for R Hannon in big field Bath Auction race.
Well drawn in 2 but bad start and 13th 9L back after a furlong. Race featured
a stiff pace and this one the only straggler in the field the jockey gave
a hard ride to. Got back 7th at the finish but well off the winner &
placed horses. No real promise.
||Bath, 28th April
||FTO winner of the race Avon River & Avonvalley ran in. Supported
from 14/1 to favourite. Pace too strong and helped by being cut-up on rail
at halfway when 6th and lose 2L. In right spot to Pounce as pacemakers
floundered to jump to a clear win. But ran well clear and looking fresh.
Promise for OR85 at least.
The maiden at Musselburgh looks a strong contest for the course
and a chance of a better class winner. To recap the main strands starting
with Saucy Girl. Tim Easterby has chosen the mid-April maiden at
Ripon to run his best sprint filly in on debut in many of the last 10 years
and more. He won it last last century with Group winning fillies Romantic
Myth & Pipalong. The stable's record with 2yos has become poorer in
recent years and his debut winners in 2006-8 proved to be the precocious
'OR88' type fillies rather than higher class. This year he selected Saucy
Girl to run in it and she produced the best debut by one of his horses
this year in finishing second. The winner - Here Now And Why - had made
a well above average debut for Kevin Ryan and was on STO at Ripon and won
a little comfortably.
That race looks even stronger now with the third - Mister Mannanan - won
at Pontefract two days ago in taking style doing a fair impersonation
of Strike Up The Band (a previous winner of the race for his trainer).
The remote fourth has won a moderate race since which fell her way. Given
the trainer does not wind horses up for debut we should expect Saucy Girl
to set a strong standard here for the others.
Dispol Keasha looked like a better debut for her trainer in profile
before her run at Doncaster. She ran very well and her promise is discussed
in the table above. Given full fitness today she should see the race out
fully and be a good opponent for Saucy girl although a couple of lengths
behind her on profile.
David Nicholls runs Mal And Dave on debut and we were denied the
chance to judge how forward his 2yos are when he withdrew two at Redcar
yesterday. He does get FTO wins and places at this time of the year but
this looks a stronger race than an ordinary newcomer could hope to compete
to win. He has just an ok pedigree and is by the sire Redback who has an
interesting record with 2yos. In is first season nearly all his wins were
over 5f and Redback was the only 5f 2yo winner his own sire (Mark Of Esteem)
had ever produced. Since then the winners have conformed more to Redback's
record which showed him at his best over 7-8f. Last season all but one
win were over 6-8.6f. As with sweeping statements about sire's ground preferences
how could you encapsulate the distance requirements of a 'Redback' from
that? Anyway, not a strong debut profile.
With one exception the others do not appeal as decent runners, let alone
good ones. Jim Goldie has had a debut winner this year but you suspect
that was a superior filly rather a metamorphosis into David Evans. The
sight of his at the start at Haydock, in his suit, patting his filly on
the blanketing backside of his girl told you Eternal Instinct was not going
to be a trundling kick-off for a trainer bred. Weetentherty looks
more usual debut fare. The exception is a very big one though.
You should be aware that Richard Fahey 5f debuts (and other distances in
2008 as new departure) include plenty of winners and have often shown a
profit overall in recent years. Last year a long priced one in a clutch
of them pushed the profit pretty high. We have just entered the prime period
for him to be showing us a batch of the best early ones he has. Two days
ago Newbury Street was the first of the batch and opened a very short price
in the market suggesting he was expected to be competitive and the Market
more wary of Mr Fahey now. That one looked like a good one with good size
and athleticism but perhaps got bogged down in the softer going. Apart
from the winner Red Avalanche much of the field seemed to find that a difficult
So, here we are waiting to see what the trainer shows us and up pops Ventura
Cove who double ticks most of the boxes on profile. He is a full brother
to two, notably small, 5f 2yos winners who have a managed to rate OR90+
during their careers. That pair were cheap yearlings and Bahamian Babe
retained for just 5,500 guineas before winning three times by May last
year up to Listed level. The profile for a better debut if there ever was
In summary, in a week that has given us some clear winners and higher class
looking horses this race could well produce at least one more. Saucy Girl
versus Dispol Keasha would be an interesting match-up on it's own and the
addition of a debut runner who ought to be very good and very ready is
the cherry-on-top-of-the-icing-on-the-cake, Brian.
The Lingfield race is also a Class 4 but looks a much more ordinary
level on profile. The two fillies on STO look limited and did not show
much on debut. Mr Beckett ran two fillies in early season and they both
faded tamely and he hasn't bothered to run anything since. Presumably he
realised waiting a bit to get the horses more forward was the way forward
and perhaps the two fillies were all he had to go early anyway. Any
Day gave it a real go on debut and responded to driving after breaking
slightly slow to duel with the colt Soccer downhill. In Powerball terms
that was a mismatch and she was using her energy resource inefficiently
as well. Fading after being headed soon into the straight a predictable
result. She ought to be more restrained and perform to a better level here
but setting a moderate standard.
Barton Chancer also hared off on debut to cross over to the stands'
rail at Windsor and led her field through halfway. Headed soon afterwards
and faded to last. Perhaps she could hear Thomas Baines ticking as well
as he appears a basket case. The Turner horses seemed to need the first
run this year and she has a similar profile to Any Day. More competent
here and help with a solid pace but there must be something better in the
Now, Seb Sanders would normally ride the Beckett horses but does not ride
Any day. He did not ride er on debut although he was aboard the other stable
2yo this year. Sanders rides Forget here for Clive Brittain whom
he regularly rides for as well. The trainer is not a favourite of B2yoR
so what to make of the win of Misheer for the trainer yesterday
on debut? The initial response was "Wow, how good must she be to win like
that for Mr Brittain?". With Thomas Baines perfecting his gibbering idiot
act and Tiradito ridden like Mr Botti really has turned into a 'Peak
STO' trainer she did not have a lot of opposition but she certainly looked
very good. Oh, and perhaps Jamie Spencer had a bit more on his plate
trying to steer Thomas about at Windsor than it seemed at the time.
Which is a long way of saying we shall use the working theory that Misheer
may well be the 'Real Thing' rather than Mr. Brittain has them all primed
for debut this year. Confidence in using that approach is bolstered because
Forget wins the Prize for the 'Most Unpromising Pedigree' for an early
season 5f debut runner to date. She is by Tiger Hill who won over 7f at
2yo in Germany but was best known for his middle distance wins over 12f
up to Group 1 level. He has had a few juveniles run in Britain but none
over 5f although he has had a 6f debut winner (for our friend Mr Fahey).
However, that filly was supposed to start over 8f but was a non runner.
The trainer ran her over 6f on soft ground uphill at Newcastle as an afterthought
to get her going. The race fell apart and there it was, another debut winner
for the trainer and at 50/1.
Ok, so the dam must be some sort of early sprint 2yo to add the zip to
Forget? Err, No. She is very well bred including being a half sister to
a St Leger winner. She was by a stout sire and won over 10f at 3yo and
has produced a similar winner at stud. What is Forget doing here and why
has Sanders chosen to ride her? Wonder how she would do in the 'Powerball'
test? Perhaps she is a tiny one that wont win over longer distances but
a win would make her a good broodmare prospect.
The other two debut runners are more typical including another debut runner
for the art dealing Greens ridden by Spencer with Art Jewel. The
previous four to have run for the family this year include the loopy Thomas
Baines, the hanging Farmer Giles and Regency Art who refused to break into
a gallop at all. It's jinxed this project. Art Jewel has just an average
pedigree for the job and the trainer hasn't had a debut winner since he
started last year. His father only got them with the high class ones. One
to watch although no surprise to see a bit of hype about her. [It was interesting
to see John Fretwell say yesterday that he did not bet much on his own
horses and the support for the likes of Out The Ring & Military Call
this year were nothing to do with him. Perhaps the Greens + Spencer attract
the same aura and response.]
Which brings us to good old Mick Channon and a solid looking debut runner
with a believable pedigree with Boga. She is by a solid early 5f
2yo sire by a dam who is ok to produce a sprinter. The trainer has settled
into his normal method with debuts with most of them solid and plenty of
places but FTO wins normally for better types or special owners. He had
two last week both for Jaber Abdullah who is probably top of his special
list. Where Harry Findlay fits on that list is an open question but he
did have a debut winner for him last year in mid May. The owner has had
4 debut runs this year for other trainers for a 1 from 4 record and two
of the horses have managed a win.
In summary, a race lacking a full story where you instinctively look towards
the newcomers. Forget niggles away because of Misheer & Sanders but
you have to put it to one side. Art Jewel & Boga present just ordinary
profiles which might be enough here but hard to call. Perhaps get the paddock
guy to look at Any Day again to see whether she can make her power last
over 5f in this group.
And finally, to Southwell and a chance to link back to the thoughts
about run styles and power emptying out. The fibresand surface at the track
is different to any other in the country and notably different from the
polytrack all-weather ones. When you look at how races play out and the
ways fields flow and fold the stats are different to the other courses.
The straight 5f course is probably the best place to see the 'Powerball'
model acted out in reality. The fibresand surface allows no hiding place
and given a solid pace the juveniles will stall and fade in ability order
in the second half of the race. You could use the Southwell course as a
test track to run the 2yos up at a specific pace and work out their OR
ability from where they folded.
'Deep Closing' at the course rarely happens because you need to handle
the track and race prominently. If you are not handling and drop back you
are travelling inefficiently and fade anyway. If you try a deep hold-up
ride you will find you cannot quicken on the surface to close and will
tire yourself out if you try. Length of the straight grinding is the only
way to close and very few horses handle the going, have the mental tenacity
and the long term lung power to make that stick. You do not get bulk closers
from half the field at the course you get the odd 'Lone Closer' from horses
who have proven they can do it. Southwell regulars will be able to recite
their names. Obe Royal, Cap St Jean, Almahaza, Victory Quest (no, he is
moving, that is how fast he goes, but he is relentless).
In the race itself we have another owner not having a great time with the
early 2yos with Mr Fretwell and Masked Dance. As the VP shows he
is on the small side and wasn't very fit FTO. He stormed off in the lead
from a good draw at Beverley and after hanging left then right across half
the track and back faded just before the final furlong. The horses he finished
amongst are modest but seem a convincing bunch at the OR55-70 range in
early season. He was giving weight and would set a reasonable standard
on what he achieved there in this group. Given a bit more fitness and a
slightly less forcing run style (i.e. do not hold him up but keep him running
within himself near the front) he should go well. But, not a taking prospect
at a short price for a couple of reasons. Firstly, backing any horse on
it's first run at Southwell is tricky because you need to know the horse
will handle the surface. Many do not. Knowing whether this one has been
to the course for a trial would be interesting. A minor niggle that he
is drawn in the wrong place. In a mixed ability race it is less of a worry
and jockey Mullen would know enough to get over towards centre track rather
than running down the stands' side.
Obviously a bit of a guess with the others given the moderate form shown
and preference as the each-way type for Cariad Coch out of deference
to the very good STO record of the Stubbs' yard which has already produced
one STO win off a lost debut this year. Koo And The Gang the other
who ought to show better than his useless debut.
In summary, Masked Dance top on profile and a perfectly good debut in the
context of this race. Kevin Ryan has a 22% strike rate at the track and
a solid record with his short priced runners. A solid favourite but with
the usual Southwell niggles. Lack of visible promise from the opposition
will probably push him too low to be any value with the niggles.