Wokingham Stakes Review: The Duke still has plenty of Fire(nze)…

Today brings with it the last, but certainly not the least, of the BDH Royal Ascot previews. Fittingly it is the Wokingham Stakes that falls under the microscope as I try and uncover the next York Glory amongst the also-rans of the valuable 6f sprint handicap.

Race in focus: 4.25 Ascot (22-06-2013) – Wokingham Stakes (HERITAGE HANDICAP) 7f (26ran)

Wokingham Stakes

The runners split into 2 groups here although it was very much a middle to low heavy field as only 6 runners actually stayed on the stands side. Despite being in the main group the runners that were coming from stalls 1 – 11 really struggled to land any significant blow here with their best position being MASS RALLY in 11th. It significantly paid to be in the middle group of stalls here and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th were all drawn in an 8 stall range (stalls 12-19). POOLE HARBOUR made the pace from down low but the main group of runners bunched into the middle and he ended up acting as front-runner for them all. BABAK CHINTA acted as a good wing-man for the overall leader and it was his early pace pushing that helped set it up for the hold up horses; the first 5 home in the main group were all hold up horses. From the high numbers it was ZERO MONEY who led the raiding party but he is far from a regular pace-setter and he just didn’t go fast enough to pull his small band of horses into contention.

The end result…

The pace coming down the middle played right into the hands of the winner YORK GLORY and he was able to hook behind the main pack from his draw and cruise menacingly into contention before landing his killer blows inside the final furlong. This was an impressive run from a horse that is probably going to go on and make his mark in Graded company. Second placed SHROPSHIRE was another that was able to sit out the back and come through late although he had no answer to the winners finishing burst. This was a career best run and he now finds himself on a career high mark, a mark he may well struggle from. Third placed DINKUM DIAMOND got going a little too late but this was a fine effort and he took advantage of his decent draw. Fourth placed KHUBALA was the first home from the stands side runners and this was a decent effort considering he would have liked a bit more cover. Fifth home was GLASS OFFICE and he was another that came from out the back. He is still lightly raced and probably still has more to offer. It should be noted that 3yo’s have a pretty poor record in this race so fifth was a sterling effort. Sixth placed REX IMPERATOR was another that took advantage of his draw and came from off the pace late. He has only has 2 wins from 14 to his name and seems a bit inconsistent for my liking. Seventh placed ELUSIVITY was the 2nd home from the high stalls and although this was an OK effort he is going to want a bit more cut in the ground before he is winning again. DUKE OF FIRENZE came home in 8th (3rd in his group) and realistically had no chance from the highest stall of all and racing in the small group. For him to get as close as he did was a fine effort as this really didn’t play to his strengths.

BDH(s) to follow…

DUKE OF FIRENZE (8th) (Sir M Stoute)

I think he is plenty better than this, I really do. He had little to no chance from stall 26 here and with no pace up his side his cards were played and busted as soon as the gates opened. He was finishing strongly here but he was never going to be able to get into a position to strike a killer blow. He was dealt a poor hand but in fairness I though he made the most of it.

As his win at Epsom in the dash testified he loves coming late and fast and passing through runners in the closing stages. He didn’t have any chance of doing that here but it was noticeable that he started to pick up and gain interest as others dropped back to him late on. He obviously loves threading his way through a pack, it brings him alive. Ryan Moore is the perfect foil for him as he can get the horse stoked up out the back and the horse will keep responding for him when asked.

I think a strongly run 5 furlong may just be his optimum conditions although I would certainly not discount him when running over 6 furlongs.

Is he a Group horse in the making? Possibly. I do think he has plenty of talent in the locker and a mark of 101 certainly doesn’t seem beyond him. After that, who knows.

Conditions – He will be a very difficult horse to win with from a poor draw so we really want to see him in a large field, covered up behind a strong pace and on the correct side of the draw. Ground wise he seems to be a Good ground type of horse, he certainly doesn’t look like one that would want it any softer. I do think there is a handicap still in him although Graded company may also be within his compass as well.

DUKE OF FIRENZE now enters my Proform ‘Horse Watcher’ tool (horse tracker in other words) and I will post on the Blog when he is due to run next.

The BDH war chest has now been stocked up nicely after Royal Ascot, we now just need a couple of them to deliver the goods York Glory style!

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Royal Ascot Sprints: Do you want to be making the pace, behind the pace or off the pace?

The 5 day extravaganza of Royal Ascot kicks off tomorrow with equine stars from all over the planet looking to strut their stuff in front of Her Maj.

I plan on covering 1 race a day here at BDH, in a similar fashion to the way I covered Epsom for you. Unfortunately I don’t have time this week to produce the full guide (usually I have a subscription based service for Royal Ascot) but the FREE 1 race a day guides should be excellent value for you all :). I have had plenty of you asking if there will be some sort of subscription service from myself for this flat season but as you have probably guessed the answer to that is no. This has also raised the question of will there be National Hunt service for 2013/14? The answer to that is a resounding YES! Don’t worry on this score, the NTF service will resume in October time with the usual full and in-depth race coverage as well as a number of new and exciting features for NTF members.

Now I have cleared that up, today I want to take a quick look at pace profiles at Ascot over the straight 5f and 6f tracks. Obviously at some tracks it can pay to be making the pace over the sprint trips (front-runners) and at other tracks the best option is to strike late from out the back (hold-up horses). There are a number of races over these sprint trips at Royal Ascot and they will all be well contested affairs with little room for maneuver, you not only want your horse drawn where the pace is but you will also want it in the correct position to strike and maximize it’s abilities.

So, are there any biases when it comes to running styles and pace positions over the sprint trips at Ascot?

To find out the answer I opened up my trusty Proform database and started digging. I looked at all races at the track from 2008 to present over both 5f & 6f and also filtered it to fields of 10 or more runners.

5 Furlongs races at Ascot – Pace Analysis

In the period analysed there were 47 races over the 5 furlong trip, contested by 725 runners. Here is the running-style breakdown…

Front runners –  11/58 | 19% S/R | +£111.50 BFLSP – W&P 17/58 | 29% S/R

Close to Pace – 25/350 | 7% S/R | +£34.96 BFLSP – W&P 87/350 | 25% S/R

Held-up – 11/315 | 3.5% S/R | -£65.05 BFLSP – W&P 45/315 | 14% S/R

Front runners win more than they should based on market expectations, Close to Pace runners win about what the market expects and Hold Up runners win less than expected.

Over the 5 furlong trip at Ascot the figures tell us that you ideally want to be sitting close to the pace. Hold-Up runners win their share of races but it isn’t as much as the market expects. The most interesting angle is undoubtedly the front runners over this minimum trip as they markedly out-perform market expectations, have provided huge profits to level stakes and have won as many races as the hold-up runners but from a massively smaller sample size.

6 Furlongs races at Ascot – Pace Analysis

In the period analysed there were 63 races over the 6 furlong trip, contested by 937 runners. Here is the running-style breakdown…

Front runners – 6/79 | 7.5% S/R | -£29.81 BFLSP – W&P 14/79 | 18% S/R

Close to Pace – 27/437 | 6% S/R | -£104.70 BFLSP – W&P 83/437 | 19% S/R

Held-up – 30/457 | 6.5% S/R | +£21.13 BFLSP – W&P 103/457 | 23% S/R

Interestingly all 3 running styles win roughly the amount of race the market expects them to.

So stepping up a furlong tells us there isn’t any real bias in terms of running styles although the drop off in winning front-runners compared to 5 furlongs is noticeable, it is clearly tougher to hang on out front over 6f than it is over 5f.

Whilst I was at it I also wanted to take a look to see if any jockey had a stand-out record over the sprint trips at Ascot, specifically in trying to negotiate the really big fields (16+ runners). Nothing stood out for me over 5f but there was one guy who’s record over 6f in large fields is particularly strong; Mr Johnny Murtagh…

J Murtagh record at Ascot in 6f races with 16 or more runners

5/13 | 38% S/R | +£19.70 BFLSP

It is a small enough sample size but nevertheless it is a fairly solid indication that he can place his horse in the perfect position to strike in these tricky contests.

Things improve if we only look at his runners that started at 10/1 or less…

5/8 | 63% S/R | +£24.83 BFLSP

Again it isn’t huge numbers we are dealing with here but nevertheless it is worth keeping in the think tank…

I will be back tomorrow with a FREE race analysis guide on day one of Royal Ascot 2013.

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Ben (BDH)