Virtual Paddock = Sandown (Fratellino,
Mijas Playa, Monsieur Chevalier & Star Rover)
A good looking edition of the National Stakes at Sandown on their
valuable evening card. The race often has little bearing on the later higher
class 5f & 6f races and is a highlight for the winner. It also has
a record of producing thin fields at times and the peculiarities of the
uphill track have seen the bet horse in the race beaten on occasions. 2008
was a good example when torrential rain during the day turning the ground
soft and the later Group 3 winner at 5f - Finjaan - beaten. Looking back
over the last four runnings you can add older Group 1 winner Excellent
Art (beat three rivals) to the good horses who came from the race and precious
Although not as stiff a climb as at Beverley overall the long uphill drag
which steepens as it goes is designed to kill off front runners. Luring
them into going to fast early and then setting an ever stiffening task
if they are even mildly over racing. To summarise the possible winning
Run Styles simply you can make all so long as you cling to the far rail.
Getting an uncontested lead will help that but, conversely, a multi way
pace will almost certainly break them all. Once the pace breaks up the
leading rank the winners can come from further back than they do at Beverley
overall. Add in some soft ground and do not give up if yours is 6-7 lengths
back behind the battlers and not obviously coping with the pace.
That said, this year's race looks likely to be competitive and given some
ground that is Good or better a result which really finds the best horse.
At a first pass you would say the five of Monsieur Chevalier, Soccer,
High Spice, Raines Cross & Star Rover are all
either proven at a high level relative to the race or have good credentials
to be involved. Lees Anthem may be a bit better than he has shown
but has not put a full race together yet and being held up at Beverley
last time just took away the advantage of the pace he has. Fratellino
& Mijas Playa look short of the required upper standard but
are a really useful pair to have in the race. Fratellino likes to lead
and Mijas Playa has led on her last two runs and pressed the pace on debut.
Assuming they set or assist with the pace in some way they should allow
the hold up types of better quality to run their races efficiently.
If you look at the Virtual Paddock for the race you could try looking at
Star Rover & Fratellino as similar early 2yos of the smaller type with
Star Rover that bit heavier and at least as good a mover as Fratellino.
But, similar 'fail to train on' physical types who may already have
won at the best level they will ever manage in their careers. Star Rover
has had a break and his form ties in with Archers Road as does Monsieur
Chevalier & Fratellino. B2yoR would be inclined to think that you can
use Archers Road as a pretty reliable yardstick. He always beats Fratellino,
struggled with Star Rover when disadvantaged by the Chester track and got
soundly beaten by Monsieur Chevalier. Look at the VP again and Monsieur
Chevalier just looks a different two the little chestnut 'uns. Bigger,
rangier & 'older' come to that. A bit of 'training on' scope still
there. On that you could remove Star Rover from the possible to win list
and supported by the fact he is likely to get involved with the pacemaking
against anyone who wants to join in.
Soccer is well drawn next to the rail but you would presume he will be
held off the front rank. If he gets involved in the pace duel it may well
lessen his chances and soften him up for Monsieur Chevalier to pounce on
later on. Given he has already been well beaten by the Hannon colt when
pressing the pace at Newmarket he ought to try something else to beat him
here. But, unless he has improved notably in the interim the evidence says
he is not quite up to Monsieur's Chevalier level. Even if that horse were
not here he would probably be opposable given the pace set-up in
Discerning readers might have recognised where this is going. Having stripped
off the smaller kit we are trying to work through the other 4 to find the
best left. The pace in the race means that a closer is probably the best
Run Style unless Soccer somehow gets loose on the rail and has improved
(paddock checkable). Monsieur Chevalier is a looming presence because he
has little discernible negatives. He's big enough and is not on fast 5f
track. His preferred operating style is to wait behind leaders and then
spring past them and stay on to the line strongly. He should get that here
without trying. With two exceptions he looks to have the beating of the
others on limited lengths comparable form lines. Is here anything else
that might match him?
The filly High Spice was remarkably competent first time and saw off the
early accompaniers at Newmarket and went out front alone. When joined by
Radiohead late on (that colt had made a big effort to get there) she responded
and won with something left, energywise. Receiving 5lbs she would not be
far behind the required level with some improvement. The niggle with her
is that she may be involved in the pacemaking and trainer Cowell has a
mixed record improving this type of 2yo. On the plus side she seemed bombproof
mentally unlike some of the more fragile flowers he has had trouble with.
[A real shame that Radiohead is not here because seeing him, as another
substantial bruiser, pitched against Monsieur Chevalier in this set-up
would have been a real high class version.]
Raines Cross is interesting because he is another hold up horse who
has enough pace to sit in behind the front rank on the evidence of his
debut. He jumped to a clear win a Bath from a solid field which has produced
5 winners (of varying worth) and three placed horses from the 8 closest
to him who have run again. He finished unpressed an has a good Run Style
for this. Looking back at Peter Winkworth's record he does not put colts
into Listed+ races unless they are able to place at least. He runs more
fillies but still doe sit sparingly and the 'extra' is the normal chasing
of breeding kudos for females future broodmare careers. His only runner
in this race was a colt 3rd at 14/1 and showing a big improvement in form.
A profile that should place and has a bit more chance than most of improving
to compete for the win.
In summary, very difficult to get beyond Monsieur Chevalier as the
winner because he is bigger than the others and they will help set the
race up for his Run Style. A real pity one of Radiohead or Tawaabb is not
here to give him a real tough test. Assuming he was not here of failed
to perform to full order what would win? Just preference for the size and
ability of Soccer but most interest in the other closer in the field overall
with Raines Cross if the price were right.
An interesting set of stories around the Ayr maiden although a tricky
choice between three solid enough, by the lesser Northern maiden standards,
profiles of the runners with placed debut form. Not easy overall to get
a handle on what is going on with the jockeys unless you are a real 'Circuit'
insider. Mark Johnston runs two with Baileys Vision ridden by a
stable regular jockey and newcomer Below Zero has Adrian Nicholls
(not riding for his father who runs Clear Ice FTO). The first of
those was 16/1 and a staying on 2nd in a 5.5f fillies' race at Warwick.
That was a weak race and she was just closing on limited types. Overall
not a strong profile and opposable with the better colts here.
The trainer's other runner is interesting on pedigree & ownership grounds.
Below Zero is the first runner for new sire Shamardal who had a lot of
expensive yearling sold last year. He was a debut 6f winner for the trainer
in his year of the type he does not get much before later June.
This one is owned by one of Sheikh Mohammed's sons and a lot of the 6f
debuts at this time of May tend to be 'Surplus Stock' OR65-74s getting
going. With an irregular jockey you presume that this is probably one of
Trinder was the top end of the recent 5f debuts for Richard Fahey
and made a good move forward towards the final furlong at Hamilton to challenge
the winner. A step to 6f did not seem to be needed but he just comes out
top on profile with a little improvement from that starting effort.
Maison Brillet also moves up in distance after a good debut at Musselburgh
at 25/1 and behind another Karl Burke STO winner as was Trinder. The first
of those looked a stronger performance but Maison Brillet had to come from
further back to make progress. Both make more appeal than Baileys Vision.
Worth noting that Karl Burke has a newcomer in the race with Bradford
who has just a middling pedigree as best. The trainer should be getting
the odd debut winner in the next two weeks as he starts some of his better
ones. Looking back at his record in this race he has started a solid one
in it more than one. In 2002 Countykat was 4th on debut having been backed
from 16/1 to 8/1 and was rated OR85 by season end. He ran the 3TO colt
High Voltage in 2003 who was OR93 after two later successes. 2005 saw Surely
Truly 5th at 16/1 on his way to becoming a dual winners rated in the mid
OR70s. In 2007 he had a debut winner at 11/1 with Bigfanothat and last
year a 4th of 4 with the expensive An Carrig who did not run again. On
balance, Bradford looks the average development winner type rather than
a possible winner First go.
Emerald's Spirit has more chance than the early tissue prices suggest
and her 'Eyecatcher' credentials are touched on below. You presume Clear
Ice will be another moderate Nicholls debut on profile and with the
stable jockey riding for Johnston.
In summary, no strong view on the race although Trinder would be
a mild preference. As much interest in the surrounding stories and seeing
how the various form lines line up.
A couple of interesting horses to watch out for at Newcastle with
Mark Johnston running Bikini Babe on a 6f debut. This looks a low
level race unless Fly Silca Fly can improve but she has enough size
to set a solid standard if you ignore the sire's stock temperament issues.
But, Bikini Babe will have to be very good to win over 6f at this time
of year for the stable and out of their normal character. But, her pedigree
says she might be very good being by Montjeu out of a Listed winning dam
who has produced an OR90+ 6f 2yo. On pedigree you would think this might
be a good one that Johnston was lining up to run in the Chesham Stakes
(limited to stock of sires who won at least up to 10f). Montjeu is a very
good sire but wins, even runs, this early are rare. She is owned by Mr
Spence who likes strong debuts so this ought to be a better one despite
Also worth watching for a long priced place from Cygnet Committee
for a trainer who gets them with regularity. Duff debuts followed by peaking
STO are what he does and there was enough hints at Thirsk o think she can
improve in this race. Worth also noting that Amary is a rare Northern
debut for Clive Brittain. None in 2006 or 2008 and the few in 2007 were
all uncompetitive and only one of them won at any level. On that you would
be surprised if Amary could compete today and not sure to be usable at
Eyecatchers, Fossils & Living Creatures.
So, Soul Heaven wins well at 9/4 and the RP Expert can celebrate success
and another knock for progressing how racing is analysed and dealt with,
unfortunately. Nothing against the horse and B2yoR would encourage people
to watch the video of the end of the race. Even without being at the course
you can see just how big (well grown, OR80+) Soul Heaven looks and how
straight and well he shifts himself. Compare him to the superbly prepared
but notably small Any Day and it is a physical mismatch. The newcomer in
second is also a colt and a reasonable height but lighter bodied than Soul
Heaven and typical of the leggy & narrow type of the One Cool Cats.
Soul Heaven is winning the race because he is plain bigger & better
and not because he got hampered on debut.
There is the core of the problem. We have experts basing eyecatchers on
simple things visible on the video (hampering in this case) but without
putting it into any context and doing some analysing. As an e-mailer recently
reminded B2yoR the RP now have 'Trackside Reporters' on course. Why didn't
our Expert give him a call rather than base his argument on some, at best,
tenuous bit of thinking. If his 'Eyecatcher' bit had been based on the
fact he's big for something retained for £500 as yearling and probably
an OR80 horse we would be getting somewhere. Put him in an Auction race
on the same weight as an OR60s rabbit like Any Day and the debut cutting
up becomes an extra factor rather than the whole of your reasoning.
What are we supposed to do with the idea that every horse that gets cut
up later in a race should "win races". Back them all next time? For the
next three runs? We should all be getting on Emeralds Spirit in
the 6f maiden at Ayr today for a start. She was making ground late in,
what you could argue, was a much better race than Soul Heaven's debut and
lost a similar amount of ground. There are circumstantial reasons to believe
she is better than she showed to add to it and the early Tissue prices
on her too long. But, without actually having an OR number assessment from
someone you trust what sort of a system is this?
B2yoR remembers the 'Good Old Days' when following racing meant standing
in Betting Shops listening to the Extel commentary with no TV coverage.
Odd bits on the broadcast channels but otherwise you just worked from the
newspapers and Form Books. Looking back with the aids now you realise just
how limiting that was. Trying to analyse races, interpret form and so on
was done by working on basic representations of what actually occurred.
Like looking at fossils with all the detail, colour and life gone. We ought
to know better now though and limiting ourselves to studying fossils when
the Creatures themselves are still alive and walking around you is ludicrous.
When the RP Experts (they must be the best around, surely?) can get away
with such shallow logic and not looking at the horses themselves how are
we ever going to improve things? [Note: Must remember to try to help the
next generation realise that the way Racing is covered today is more 'Fossil'
& traces based than 'Living Creature' & active systems. Hopefully
a few of them will be able to move things forward rather than just
going around the same old routines.]
Follow on Thought for the day (1) - if 'Race Standardisation' is as accurate
as it's supporters say (Timeform call it's successful application "Uncanny",
for example) then what underlying process(es) make it useful? [No points
& try harder if you come up with the "Trainers do the same thing every
year" answer. Not deep enough into the issue at that level. Still some
way to go to climb out of the 'Forest' onto the first plateau of 'Clear
Thought for the day (2) - How would you rank the following aids to 'Race
Statistics & Trends (to include Pedigree stats like, perceived, Sire
ground preferences & statistical methods such as Dosage)
Paddock Information (includes both Physical type & ability along with
Wellbeing & Condition reviews)
Gold plated pin
And, if some unreasonable wotsit limited you to just using two of the above
which pair would it be? And when the same unreconstructed b@st*rd made
it just one?