It's been a while - three months, in fact - since the last Clock Watcher and, during that time, there have been some compelling performances on the proverbial stopwatch. In what follows, I've identified six horses that could be worth looking out for. Before that, though, some big sectional news.
Sectional Data Now Published for RTV Tracks
It's been a long time coming. Like, a really long time. And the journey has been a difficult one for the folks at Racecourse Media Group, the overlords of Racing TV, and their chosen sectional data supplier, CourseTrack.
But that's all history now as, since 2nd December last year, Racing TV (RTV) began displaying furlong split times for the race leader on its broadcast output. Moreover, they have been publishing similar splits - and finishing speed percentages - for all runners in all races at Kempton Park. The plan is to roll out a full service provision across RMG's 34 shareholder racecourses (which is to say all UK racecourses broadcast on Racing TV with the exception of privately owned Chelmsford City (more's the pity)).
As a website that publishes sectional data for Attheraces' partner racecourses, we very much welcome the progress that has been made by RMG so far, and we hope that in the not too distant future we'll be able to share a much fuller sectional perspective on the UK form book (cost considerations notwithstanding).
For now, if you're interested in Kempton's sectionals, you can find them on the results pages on Racing TV's website. You can also find at the bottom of this article a list of those that I felt finished notably well in their races according to the published finishing speed percentages.
Coming Soon: More Accessible Sectional Content on Geegeez
In the most recent 'what do you want' survey of Geegeez Gold subscribers, you told me that 'fast finishers' insight was your number one priority of the options listed. When you speak, we listen, and delivering that is our second priority as of now. [Our first priority is to deliver a better mobile device user experience].
The new output will include a daily 'fast finishers' report as well as icons to highlight performances of sectional merit within the racecards. There is not too much to add at this stage, but there will, naturally, be lots more on this in due course.
Six to Look Out For
Now, as promised, here are six horses that I feel (to varying degrees) might be worthy of note.
Three seven furlong runs in autumn maiden/novice company, the first two for George Scott and on deep turf, where Rohaan was beaten a collective 51.5 lengths, did not presage what was to follow. Bought at the autumn horses in training sale for 20,000 guineas and relocated to David Evans' yard, as well as dropped into considerably more feasible company, the now three-year-old Mayson gelding has been a revelation in all-weather handicaps.
Off an opening perch of just 55, Rohaan turned up at Newcastle for a six-furlong 0-60 nursery on the first day of December and, having been held up last, proceeded to run past his field to score by an easy length and a half at odds of 4/1 (40/1, 100/1 and 150/1 in his three preceding non-handicaps).
He had the favourite, who tried to make all, in second, with most of another four lengths back to the third. The wolf in sheep's clothing had been revealed!
In three subsequent races, he won over seven at Kempton with the six pound winner's penalty, then back over six at Lingfield off a revised mark of 73. His performance there was the one that advertised itself on my sectional scorecard. Waited with in a micro-field of four, he conceded first run to his trio of rivals before travelling all over them in the straight and sauntering clear to win by better than a length.
Thereafter, Rohaan's mark elevated to 85 off which he was the 11/8 favourite for another Class 4 handicap at Lingfield. Jockey Darragh Keenan allowed his inexperience to get him in trouble, however, as he waited... and waited... and waited before unleashing his mount too late. Second, finishing full of run. Rohaan was reported to have finished slightly lame after that, and his rider incurred the wrath of the stewards, receiving a 14-day ban (reduced to 10 days on appeal).
Having now won on a straight track, and going both right- and left-handed, Rohaan - who was put up five pounds to 90 for that silver medal - is not done winning yet. The 3yo conditions race on All Weather Finals Day looks well within his grasp if he overcomes that lameness in time.
A Godolphin-owned €460,000 yearling by Invincible Spirit out of a decent Pivotal mare, this chap was expected to be decent; but that's not how things panned out, initially at least. 13/2 for a warm September Sandown novice on debut, Castlebar fluffed his lines badly, a mis-step that cost him his colt status. A month later and at least a couple of pounds lighter he was again well enough beaten, this time in a more modest Wolverhampton novice.
But the penny was beginning to drop and another month on he ran a three-quarter length second having been much closer to the speed this time. Since that change of tactics, he has gone on to win his two most recent starts, first in a Newcastle novice and then in a Class 4 handicap at Wolverhampton.
The chart below shows Castlebar (red) and the second horse, Wholelotafun (green), as well as the 'by furlong' par line (black) for races over this course and distance. As can be seen, the race was steadily run through the middle part - note the coloured runner lines some way below the black par line, and also the turquoise blob above the chart for furlongs 6-3 - but they came home rapidly with Castlebar rallying gamely to overcome the runner up who, including his jockey's claim, was receiving almost two stone.
He's been raised just two pounds, to 86, for that victory but the sectionals suggest the performance may have had a tad more merit.
A third who started out as somewhat disappointing is Systemic. Indeed, after a mildly promising debut covering ten furlongs at Doncaster in late June, the Hugo Palmer-trained son of Toronado found himself degrees of outpaced over similar trips at Lingfield (twice), Chelmsford and Wolverhampton.
That quintet of unplaced efforts was enough to reduce an opening mark of 72 down to 65, off which he was stepped up in range to a mile and a half and invited to work with the stiffer, more galloping expanses of Gosforth Park, Newcastle.
In a race which was run fairly evenly through the opening and middle sections - note the green blobs above the chart - the winner quickened impressively having travelled all over his rivals earlier in the straight.
The running lines (66661) reveal that Systemic was still sixth, nearly three lengths behind the leader, at the two furlong pole before accelerating away to win by five. His final quarter mile was completed in 23.86 seconds, more than a second faster than any other horse in the race.
The problem is that such a romp will have been missed by nobody, least of all the official handicapper, who will publicly share his judgement tomorrow morning. Assuming the new mark is 75 or less, Hugo may be heading up the A1 once more for another tilt at a Newcastle pot.
[STOP PRESS: Systemic is up a whopping 13lb to 78!]
Another Charlie Appleby-trained Godolphin horse is Folk Magic, by the legendary Dubawi out of a Marju mare (the blues don't do sub-par pedigrees!). Third as an 8/1 shot on his racecourse bow, he was sent off the 11/8 favourite second and most recent time around. Jockey William Buick didn't get the clearest of runs, messed about by an also ran and then a little short of room turning into the straight; but he wasn't much helped by Folk Magic either, whose head carriage was to one side.
The clock suggests a charitable interpretation should be taken, especially perhaps given that he's been tongue tied on both starts thus far. That might imply a breathing difficulty so a 'W1' notation any time soon would be a fillip to his subsequent chance.
Regardless of all that physiological conjecture, he did well on the sectionals here, completing the final three furlongs in 33.38 seconds, fastest of all.
He might prove to be a quirky rogue, but he has lots of ability and is entitled to step forward again off just two races to date.
We now move deeper into speculative territory for the final two horses of note. First up is a six-year-old rated 60 on the flat. Ahem. Hardly an improving type, on the face of it at least.
The case for Philip Kirby's runner is that he's actually only had five spins on the flat in Britain, having been bought off the level in France to go hurdling in 2018 for Ian Williams. Prior to the hurdling project, Idilico had won one of four and was then second on his final French start, earning an RPR of 84.
A debut timber-topping winner for Williams he reached marks in the high 120's as a four-year-old hurdler before some time out - possibly injury-related - led to a reversion to sans obstacles from a handicap peg of 78. Three poor efforts later and that mark had sunk to 64. The combination of the plummeting mark, a break and a stable switch to Kirby was insufficient to elicit much of an improved showing over a mile and a half at Newcastle in late December but, three weeks later - last Friday - Idilico sparked back to life. Not that you'd have necessarily noticed.
Ridden cold as ice by jockey Phil Dennis, Idilico was still nine lengths off the leader at the half mile pole; by the jam stick he'd erased eight of those nine lengths deficit and passed nine of his twelve rivals - which is to say he finished a length behind the winner in fourth.
It seems probable that the 310 day layoff prior to a reversion to flat racing in September last year refer to a setback and it is further probable that Idilico is not the horse he was. But off a similar mark in a similar race with a slightly better judged ride, he could look very well handicapped.
[STOP PRESS: Idilico is up 1lb to 61]
I've included this chap as the wild card. There is a very good chance I am over-stating his ability but I think he might continue to be available at odds where little will need to be ventured for something to be gained.
Fort McHenry is a twice-raced now three-year-old trained by Julie Camacho. In his brace of efforts he has finished eighth (125/1) and then fifth (66/1), both up the straight seven furlongs at Newcastle.
Towards the back of the dozen runners on debut, his final quarter mile split was only three-hundredths of a second slower than the subsequent John Gosden winner, Emperor Spirit, and the same fraction quicker than the subsequent Hugo Palmer winner, Ahlawi. That was in large part due to the very slow early gallop, but Fort M still showed a fine turn of foot there.
On his sole start since, he ran an opposite race: close to the pace in a contest that was quite fast early and even middle to late. Either he didn't go on from that first effort (or it still left its mark four weeks later) or he was unsuited by this pace/run style combination. My guess is the latter. Fort McHenry is now two-thirds of the way to a handicap mark and, on stride data (more of that another day, I'm still very far from proficient - a further caveat!), he might want more like ten furlongs.
In a longer race they're more likely to go steady which should allow Fort McHenry to reprise his fast finishing effort from debut; assuming that wasn't a one-off. It will be very interesting to see a) over what trip he runs next and b) what the handicapper makes of his qualifying trio of races.
With a following wind and favourable race setups, there ought to be a winner or three in the above. Before closing, a reminder of those longlists to which I referred at the top of this piece. They are appended below.
Appendix 1: TPD Sectional 'Of Interest' list
Below is a list of horses that satisfied my query criteria, including those flagged above. It is very far from a 'follow blindly' list, and most of the National Hunt entries carry a heavy 'small par sample size' warning: we simply don't have enough historical data from which to be confident about the jumps pars yet.
Published with caveat emptor, then, here is a download link to the spreadsheet.
Appendix 2: Kempton Sectional 'Fast Finishers' list
Equally caveated, below are the horses that I felt were of some interest in terms of finishing well in their races on Kempton's all-weather strip. I've mostly excluded exposed runners in favour of novice races.