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Topspeed: Sectionals suggest that Valentino has more to offer.

Byline: James Willoughby

NEWMARKET is the only turf track in Britain equipped with sectional-timing apparatus. The provision of sectionals is only a small step towards the modernisation of racing, but the course deserves plenty of credit for its efforts.

During last week's Craven meeting, split times were displayed on the course's closed-circuit television during each race, providing vital information on

how each contest was developing.

The Nell Gwyn Stakes on Tuesday, in which the the pace was particularly difficult to judge with the naked eye, provides a good example. After three furlongs, the time displayed for each furlong began to increase, suggesting that the leaders were beginning to pay the price for going a strong pace through the early stages. Glancing back through the field, the one horse clearly going best was the winner, Lil's Jessy.

Jeremy Noseda's filly had ground to make up, but the pattern of the sectionals was clearly indicating that the leaders were stopping in front. Sure enough, Lil's Jessy came storming through to lead in the closing stages.

The opposite scenario transpired during Thursday's Alex Scott Maiden Stakes over seven furlongs. After three furlongs, the leader Smirk began to produce steadily faster split times. This made it clear that Pat Eddery had ridden a nicely judged race from the front, leaving his mount with energy to spare for the closing stages.

The sectional speeds for the winners of 20 of the 21 races staged at the Craven meeting appear in the table, arranged according to the distance of the race. (There was a technical error during the five-furlong Bartlow Maiden Fillies' Stakes, won by Dudleys Delight. Because ground conditions varied over the three days, the speeds should not be used to compare

one winner with another. It is also important to recognise that the course is not level, so that some furlongs are taken uphill and some down.

It is an extremely valuable piece of information to know the manner in which a horse's speed has varied during a race. Speed is closely related to energy output, which itself has a very strong bearing on a horse's final time. In basic terms, the more a horse's speed varies in a race (taking the physical features of the course into account) the slower it will run the complete distance of the race.

No better example of this occurred than in the two races over a mile and a half. In the

first race of the meeting, the Grantchester Maiden Stakes, Perfect Sunday gradually increased his speed throughout, peaking during the penultimate furlong. This is the desired pattern for thoroughbreds in all distances over a mile and a quarter, and Perfect Sunday, whose run was rated 104 by Postmark, managed to record the same Topspeed figure due to the way his energy was used.

Nowell House, on the other hand, found himself in a war of attrition for the Babraham Handicap on Wednesday, and his final time suffered as a result. He was crucially held up away from the early pace, peaked too soon during the race and was forced to struggle home. Though his Topspeed figure of 72 was below his capabilities, he should not be downrated. Nowell House showed tenacity to run the race as he did, finding extra in the closing stages to beat Give Notice by a neck.

Sprinters must run their race in a different way to stayers to achieve a fast time. Stayers rely on their metabolism to break down stores of energy delivered to their muscles at a steady rate. But this process takes a while to kick in, about the same time in which the average seven-furlong race is run. Once a stayer goes past this threshold, he switches to aerobic respiration, using oxygen to help to maintain his speed. This explains why middle-distance Flat horses can often run faster times for the final two furlongs than sprinters or stayers.

A classic example of the high-class sprinter in action is provided by the sectional speeds of Primo Valentino during Tuesday's Abernant Stakes over six furlongs. Once into stride through the first furlong, he roared through the next three furlongs at speeds around 40 miles per hour. This three-furlong blitz, on good-to-soft ground, would be enough to see off the vast majority of high-class sprinters, and it had its effect on the winner, his speed dropping markedly through the last two furlongs.

The sectionals point to Primo Valentino being better than the bare result, and he is clearly going to prove one of the best this term.

Putra Pekan has his quirks, but he produced a fantastic effort to finish fifth in the seven-furlong handicap won by Injaaz. The pace steadied in mid-race, making it difficult to come from behind, yet Putra Pekan finished very strongly from the rear, faring easily best of those in rear early on.

Inchcape delivered the most powerful turn of foot of the week, in the Sketchworth Maiden. While others made eye-catching moves off a good pace, Inchcape did it while the leaders were still running fast, so his acceleration was seen in an unflattering light. Only a Pattern-class runner can quicken in this manner.

Spring Pursuit finished only third to Nowell House, but deserves plenty of credit. Off a cruel pace, he showed guts while moving strongly to the lead over three furlongs out, which would have cost him a lot of energy. He would be at least as effective over a mile and a quarter, or if held up longer. Given the right ride, he should run well in today's Great Metropolitan Stakes at Epsom.

The Classic trials were disappointing, both on the clock and through the sectionals. King's Ironbridge and, in particular, Red Carpet showed better speed than Nayef in the Craven, while Clearing required the assistance of a strong gallop to better the filly Palace Affair by a neck in the European Free Handicap. To be fair to Clearing, he patently wants further.

Nayef was badly caught out for acceleration, and was not helped by an uneven pace. Judged on this, he lacks the basic speed required of a Classic miler, but he might do better ridden from the front. He has a long stride and his best chance of winning the Guineas will be to try to steal an easy lead. Most of the main contenders are hold-up horses, so the pace might not be as generous as usual.


Primo Valentino lands last week's Abernant Stakes: his early burst of speed took its toll in the closing stages and he can prove even better than this run
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 25, 2001
Previous Article:Stateside: Hoping to snare Epsom glory with Tiger Trap.
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