The implementation of sectional timing at a number of courses in the UK allows race fans to take a deeper look into the results of some of the top races in Europe. TurfTrax provided sectional timing from last week's Royal Ascot, which you can find on their website.
The raw data from TurfTrax is presented in furlong-by-furlongs splits, similar to the method used in France at Longchamp and Chantilly. I've reorganized the data in order to present in two different ways: internal splits in quarter mile increments (similar to our timing systems here in North America) and a summary of the elapsed time, also in quarter mile increments.
And additional service provided by TurfTrax is the GoingStick, which a device that provides an objective measurement as to the condition of the ground, as opposed to simply stating "Firm", "Good", etc. This is something that I would love to see come over to North America in order to take away a lot of the guess that handicappers are required to do on the condition of various turf courses across the continent; is a "Good" turf at Santa Anita the same as Belmont or Churchill? Without some kind of objective standard we are left with incomplete data to form an opinion.
The GoingStick provides a "rating" of the condition of the ground from 1.0 to 15.0. The lower the rating, the more moisture is in the turf. A rating of 1.0 is considered "Heavy" ground; 15.0 is "Hard". When we look at the ratings for each day we get a better sense of the changes in the ground in a much more detailed sense.
You can find the complete spreadsheet summarizing the TurfTrax splits from Royal Ascot, along with the GoingStick rating for each day, at the link below (via Google Docs)
Below is a quick review of some of the top stakes races at Royal Ascot, along with the fractions and internal splits.
G1-Queen Anne Stakes
The best performance of the entire meet comes in the very first race when Frankel (GB) wins by 11 lengths on the straight mile in the Queen Anne. The final time of 1:37.85 was the best at the distance during the meet and was the only race on opening day to finish with a final time quicker than the standard.
Frankel's high cruising speed is once again the difference in the race, something that the sectional times illustrate beautifully. Once inside the half-mile mark, Frankel ran the next four furlongs in 11.26, 10.58, 11.04 and 14.01. While some may fixate on the final furlong in 14.01, at that point in the race Frankel had already run his competition into the ground. His ability to relax, yet still run at a high speed, and then unleash a huge burst of speed when called upon is what makes him extremely difficult for any horse to run with.
Based on what we've seen from Frankel this year, I have no doubt that he'll successfully stretch out to 10 furlongs. This isn't a rank horse that runs off at the start of races. This is a horse that the jockey can pretty much put anywhere in the early stages and then demolish his rivals when asked.
Horse to watch going forward: Indomito finished up very strong over the final half mile, including the best final furlong of any horse in the field, 13.98 seconds. If this colt can find his way into a bit of a softer spot (i.e., a race without Frankel and Excelebration), he could be a very strong play.
G1-Diamond Jubilee Stakes
Frankel's race might be the most impressive but it was Black Caviar's performance in the Diamond Jubilee that was the talk of the racing world last weekend. Winning by just a head to Midnight Cloud, the smallest margin of victory in her 22 race career, Black Caviar had to get to the absolute bottom of the tank in order to navigate the challenging six furlongs at Ascot.
I mentioned this on Twitter in the aftermath of the race but I think it bears repeating once again: there is a reason that most European-bred horses aren't bred for pure speed, as they typically are in North America or Australia/New Zealand: the courses in Europe are not favorable to speed in any way whatsoever. In fact, most courses punish early speed. All we have to do is look at races like the Epsom Derby or the Arc where the field is required to run uphill, significantly uphill, over the first quarter mile. At Ascot, many of the races run on the straight also require the field to race uphill in the early stages. Early speed doesn't get a breather or anything close to an easy trip.
It's very likely that Black Caviar had to work much harder in the early stages of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes than she had in any of her previous races. When Luke Nolen asked her for more run inside the final quarter mile, she was able to separate from the rest of the field but there was a noticeable shortening of her stride after her initial burst. This was before the almost catastrophic error from Nolen to let her cruise to the finish line.
At the end of the day, the fact that Black Caviar was able to win against Group 1 competition on a surface that was clearly not one she preferred is a credit to her talent and class.
Horse to watch going forward: My pick in this race, Midnight Cloud, nearly pulled off the upset of the meeting but ended up just a head short at the wire. She should be tough to beat this summer and fall back in France.
G1-Prince of Wales's Stakes
After a bit of an up and down 2011 campaign, So You Think (NZ) appears to finally finding his stride in European racing. He's opened his 2012 campaign with a pair of Group 1 victories (G1-Tattersalls Gold Cup; G1-Prince of Wales's Stakes) and his victory at Royal Ascot was one of his best since making the trip from Australia to the UK.
Horse to watch going forward: Things didn't begin very well for Farhh (GB) after he reared up in the starting gate and broke very slowly. When he went to make his move inside the final furlong, Farhh again ran into some traffic but finished up strongest of any horse in the field (11.65 final furlong).
Watch out for Goldolphin's Farhh in his next start.
It was listed race, not a Group event, so there's a tendency to undervalue the performance of Duntle (IRE) in the Sandringham Handicap, but make no mistake, this filly turned in a heck of a race in this spot. After breaking a little slowly and sitting back off the pace, Duntle unleashed a tremendous sustained drive over the five furlongs, clocking furlong splits of 11.41, 11.77, 11.40, 11.46 and 12.15 seconds. Her final time of 1:37.90 was just .05 slower than Frankel's win in the Queen Anne.
Duntle lost in her only try against Group competition when she finished fourth in the G3-Irish 1,000 Guineas at Leopardstown in her third lifetime start. That wasn't a bad fourth place finish when you consider she tried to make every yard of the running and only lost by less than two lengths.
One note on the time from the Sandringham when compared to the standard: the times for Day 2 at Royal Ascot were fairly quick with every race on the card coming in faster than the standard.