It's been a while, but Clock Watcher is back. A (very occasional) series, Clock Watcher aims to highlight a few horses that, according to the sectional data published on this site, produced noteworthy performances and may be underrated - for the time being - going forwards.
Exactly a year ago, I published this Clock Watcher six to follow article and, as generally befalls such things, it was a mixed bag of results. The two Charlie Appleby runners have never run in Britain since, both now in Dubai for other trainers: Folk Magic is unraced since his eye-catching run, while Castlebar was whacked on his Sharjah reappearance after most of a year off before running a much more promising second at Jebel Ali over an inadequate nine furlongs. He ought to win soon when upped in trip.
Poor Fort McHenry promised a fair bit while getting handicapped, but was sadly fatally injured on his handicap debut.
If those were the sick notes, these were the clunkers. Systemic fooled me with a facile score at Newcastle a year ago, and then went nine races without even making the frame! He went up 13lb for that victory and, it could reasonably be argued, didn't have his set up (12f Newcastle, even paced first mile) thereafter; but excuses are easy to make. He wasn't beaten far on a number of occasions and his new trainer, Gary Moore, could well find opportunities on the all-weather if his current hurdling job fails to take root.
Idilico, like Systemic, has run nine times since. Unlike Systemic, he managed to win once - at 25/1! - and place twice more. It was surely no coincidence that all three win/placed efforts came in double digit fields with a little pace to aim at: Idilico does everything late in his races. Switched to Dianne Sayer (from Ian Williams) and reverted to hurdles, he's shown nothing in his last two races, but Dianne is a very shrewd operator and I expect Idilico will be winning over a trip around Ayr or the like this flat turf season. Big field and a bit of pace a must.
And that leaves the undoubted pinup star of, in truth, a fairly ragtag bunch, Rohaan, who proved that if you throw enough mud at the wall some of it will stick! Rohaan had already rattled off a hat-trick by the time he featured in this post a year ago. That didn't stop him snaffling four more scores since. And not just any old triumphs, either: after a Class 3 6f win at Lingers in March (6/1), he prevailed in Group 3 company at Ascot (22/1), Group 2 company at Haydock (33/1) and in the Wokingham (8/1). Whoosh!
That meant the bottom line was 30 runs, five wins, and a profit at SP of 69 points. Very healthy in literal terms but, let's be honest, I was lucky rather than good.
And so here we are again... in what follows, I've mostly concentrated on late season juveniles (now three-year-olds) or lightly raced types, in hope of avoiding a pitfall I've personally succumbed to a number of times: backing an exposed horse who produces one fine sectional effort before returning to its previous level of relative humdrum. Let's look at the new list...
Trained by Charlie Fellowes for Highclere Thoroughbreds, this chap won two of five as a juvenile, most recently when catching my eye over the straight seven at Newcastle. There, off a mark of 80, he was given a solo on the far side of the field, sweeping through with a sustained acceleration before fading a touch in the last furlong. It was Atrium's second win over a straight 7f from four such attempts; of the other two, one was a fine third on debut and the other was when beaten behind subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Modern Games in a well above par handicap.
The 4th and 5th from the featured Newcastle race have won since (only two to have run), and this now three-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor can go in again off his revised peg of 85 when granted an even early tempo on a straight track.
Flagging Johnny (and Thady, let us not forget Thady) G juvenile scorers is an almost certain means of finding both a future winner and a mid-term loss to SP, so a value judgement will be required the next day(s). If that's the 'buyer beware' out of the way, here's the sales pitch: Security Code was a debut winner for the Gosdens and, as Jon Shenton noted here, that's not as frequent an occurrence as many would believe. Sure, a 16.5% hit rate on juvenile bow (last five years) is pretty strong but it's far less enticing than the yard's near 24% second start rate.
Anyway, Security Code managed to win that first day, in late November at Wolverhampton over the extended mile. What was notable about his win was that he was almost five lengths off the lead with a quarter mile to go against an even to slow early pace (note the first three green/turquoise blocks) and yet, by the finish, he'd guzzled that deficit and put a further length-plus into Asean Legend, who held off the rest of the field, favoured as he was by the run of things.
To make up six lengths in a quarter mile off a steady pace is a fine effort, still more so that it was on debut, and more so again given he ran green and lugged in behind the pace setter in the straight. For all that this was probably a weak contest, the winner looked good - it will be interesting to see where next for Security Code.
While we're on Gosden juvenile debut scorers, how about Franz Strauss? Relatively cheaply bought (the price of a Mildenhall maisonette as opposed to a Mayfair mansion) for Godolphin, this son of Golden Horn showed a pleasing gear change to overcome a slightly tardy start over a mile at Newcastle last month. Again, it was not a lightning tempo through the first half mile, but this well named beast (Strauss of course was a virtuoso hornist) showed a fine turn of foot.
Franz Strauss is a half-brother to 100-rated six furlong horse, Regional, and could be suited by a drop back to seven furlongs (for all that Golden Horn implies further, not shorter).
Like the winner, who, as we've seen, can be expected to step forward from first to second start, third-placed Eydon should be upgraded on the bare form as he was stopped in his run at a crucial moment. The 'lengths behind' chart above shows that Eydon lost two lengths a couple of furlongs out when caught in a pocket; he then rattled home in an 11.45 second closing furlong to get within three-quarters of a length of the winner.
As can also be seen by the '1 1 1' notation in the 'R W P' (runs/wins/places) columns, the interloper between the nominated pair, Nolton Cross, has done his bit by winning since.
By an unfashionable staying sire in Olden Times, out of a Frankel mare who stayed middle distances, Eydon has a right to improve for more of a trip and could be the best by his ol' man since the John Dunlop stayers Times Up and Harlestone Times.
Trained by William Haggas, this speedster recorded a good time figure and a double digit upgrade when scoring on his debut (Newcastle, 6f). Slow away there, the son of Caravaggio travelled well and quickened smartly.
A month later (2nd January), he was sent off at 1/3 in a four horse affair, again at Newcastle but this time over seven-eighths. Given four lengths to make up off very slow opening and middle sections, Tiber Flow charged through the last quarter mile in 22.12 seconds (standard to slow), usurping the optimally-positioned Zameka in the last furlong.
The third, King Of York, franked the form when all but winning at Southwell on Sunday and Tiber Flow looks like he can win a nice race off an opening perch of 86.
More speculatively, and thus more likely to be a price next time, Beaches ran an encouraging race on his mark-qualifying third start. Whacked when too much use was made from the front on his middle start of three, Beaches achieved big upgrade figures in the efforts before and since when more patiently ridden, especially last time (Wolves, 8.5f, held up off slow gallop, given no chance to win) behind the smart Godolphin gelding, Symbol Of Light.
An opening rating of 72 looks very fair and Beaches ought to be capable of a good bit more first time in a handicap on the, ahem, sand.
This ex-Shadwell Muhaarar colt was unraced when sold to Mick Appleby for 16,000 guineas at the Autumn horses in training sale, and likely had had some issues. But he was a very good winner on debut at Newcastle (6f novice, 6th January), making a smooth effort to two out and then responding when asked for more, going away from his field at the line.
The visual impression is supported by a page that suggests he'll get further and, if he stands training, he is of obvious interest next time.
Another speculative entry is this five race maiden on the flat who has won two of four over hurdles. His first four flat spins were for Richard Hannon at distances up to a mile and a quarter after which he was sent to Alan King for a hurdling career.
Having perhaps reached his level over timber for now he was switched back to the flat but probably found a medium gallop too steady over a mile and a half at Wolves. The winner there, Trevolli, is unbeaten in two more since, and the fifth has also won, from a total of six subsequent starts by this field. A step up in trip and a bit of pace to aim at should see Caramelised very competitive.
The chart for that race is shown below, with various elements highlighted by green boxes.
I hope at this stage you'll be able to infer the points of note for yourself. If you can, you're equipped to go sniffing for your own interesting sectional contenders; if not, maybe have another whizz through the words and pictures above. Either way, I hope there has been something of interest herein and, if we're lucky, a bit of profit from following the nominated horses under suitable conditions.
Southwell: Caution advised
Southwell changed from its legacy fibresand surface to a next generation tapeta product in late summer/autumn, and fixtures since the all-weather track reopened on 7th December have been on the new carpet. At this stage, we have not revised our draw, pace or sectional par data to reflect this and, as I've mentioned a number of times already since, users need to be aware of that.
Specifically in relation to sectional timings, we're seeing a lot of artificially high upgrade figures due to the less galloping nature of the tapeta compared with its fibresand predecessor. Although those upgrade figures should not be taken literally, they should also not be discarded completely: a big upgrade still equates to a strong performance, we just ought not to try to peg 'how' strong a performance it was just yet.
I am minded to reset the pars from the start of the new era at Southwell but even that is not without challenges: the going is currently perma-standard to slow while the tapeta beds in. It's difficult to know how long that will take.
Management summary: take care at Southwell but do not discount a big upgrade out of hand.
Sectional Data on Geegeez: A line on the future
We've licensed and published sectional timing data on geegeez.co.uk since July 2019 and, including the associated development effort to bring those data to life, the project cost runs to many tens of thousands of pounds. It was always the case that at some point sectional data would need to be priced in its own right - see this article from November 2019 for an early reference to that - and that time is likely to arrive in the first half of this year.
Any fee will be as an optional 'bolt on' to the existing Gold subscription, and it is not expected to be prohibitive: the aim here is not profit (though, naturally, as a business there is no shame in that), but merely to break even on the ongoing costs. The sunk chunk is my problem.
I hope before that time to be able to publish the Racing TV UK tracks (except Chelmsford, who remain outside of any timing agreement), but that very much depends on the usual contract wrangling and negotiations between racing's many splinter groups. Fingers crossed.