Things We Learned » Leopardstown times

Leopardstown times

There were four races run over seven furlongs at Leopardstown on Sunday. The fastest time of the four was, unsurprisingly, recorded by Kanes Pass, winner of the listed race for older horses. Willie McCreery’s horse went almost a second and a half faster than the fastest of the three juveniles’ races.

Of the three juvenile winners, Prologue, winner of the nursery, was marginally faster than Easter, winner of the fillies’ maiden, who was almost a second faster than Zawraq, winner of the colts’ maiden.

The overall times are a good indicator, but they do not tell the full story. Hand-timing sectionals from recordings is not an exact science, as evidenced by the fact that the hand-times for each of the four races were about 0.5secs faster than the official times for each. However, by using the furlong markers as the splits between sections, you can at least get a general picture for how each race was run, comparatively-speaking.

The slowest early pace of the four races was in Zawraq’s race. The first furlong, two furlongs, three furlongs and four furlongs were slower than the other three races. According to this stopwatch, they got to the three-furlong pole in just under 55 seconds, two seconds slower than the other two juveniles’ races and some four seconds slower than they did in Kanes Pass’ race.

From there, however, it was all change. They covered the next two furlongs in under 24 seconds, and they covered the final furlong in around 12.3 seconds, almost a second faster than the fastest of the other three seven-furlong races. So they covered the final three furlongs in just over 36 seconds, almost a second faster than the fastest of the other three races and over a second and a half faster than they did in the listed all-aged race.

Conclusions? Firstly, Pat Smullen got the fractions spot on from the front on the rallying Zawraq. Secondly, don’t be fooled into thinking that Zawraq and runner-up Sir Isaac Newton are not as good as their home reputations suggested they were, just because their overall time was not impressive. Trust more their finishing splits, combined with the visual impression that they created in coming clear of their field. And remember, they were both making their racecourse debuts. They are two highly promising colts for next season.

Adelaide accolades

The ride that Ryan Moore gave Adelaide to win the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley before you had your breakfast last Saturday morning appears to have dissected opinion. Some said it was a top class ride from a top class rider, others said that the horse got the rider out of trouble.

Multiple reviews of the race reveal several things. Firstly, both horse and rider were behind the eight-ball from the start, emerging, as they did, from stall 13 of 14. Moonee Valley is such an unusual circuit, with its short straights and sweeping bends, more like a square with rounded corners than an oval, that it is difficult to make ground without going wide.

The fast early pace helped, as it allowed Moore tuck his horse in early and avoid going wide around the first turn. However, you needed a rider who had the patience and the confidence to adopt that course of action, settle in last of the 14 runners in order to get in flush against the inside rail. Not to go pell-mell up the home straight first time, use up energy in trying to tuck in close to the front.

It was interesting to hear Ryan Moore say after the race that the pace slackened going down the back straight, so he figured that he needed to get closer to the front. That was crucial. Had he sat out the back, played the ‘hostage to fortune’ card, he would have had to make all his ground into a quickening pace, and that would have been very difficult.

In making his ground wide down the back straight, however, he was posted wide around the home turn. He was fully six horses wide, and that is a lot of ground to give away. That is where Adelaide came into it. He had to have the ability, he had to be so far superior to his rivals that he was able to give the ground away and still win.

Of course, Moore could have gone inside and trusted to luck. But they ride tight in Australia and, even on multiple reviews, with the 20-20 benefit that comes with hindsight, it is difficult to see how Adelaide could have charted a clear passage among horses towards the inside. Even in hindsight, going wide was the correct course of action. Moore chose it with nothing more than foresight at his disposal.

There is no question that Adelaide was the best horse in the Cox Plate on the day, even in receipt of just the 7lb Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds’ allowance as opposed to the 21lb Southern Hemisphere three-year-olds’ allowance. From stall 13, however, he still needed to be ridden in a manner that maximised his chance of winning, and he was.

Final word on Ryan Moore. As highlighted in the Racing Post last Sunday, in the last 12 months, he has ridden 19 Group or Grade 1 winners in eight different countries: England (4), Ireland (2), France (3), America (4), Canada (2), Japan (2), Dubai (1) and now Australia (1). For one rider to have enjoyed that level of success from relatively limited opportunities, to display that level of adaptability to different cultures, to different racing styles, is quite remarkable.

Trainer tops

With a lot of the post-race attention on the rider, it is probable that Adelaide’s trainer Aidan O’Brien did not gain due recognition.

Of course, it helps when you have a yard full of high-class middle distance horses, but the first step was to identify the horse to suit the race, a step in which Australia-based Tom Magnier reportedly played a significant part. Then there was the decision to skip the European options, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champion Stakes, in order to plan an audacious raid Down Under.

Finally, the most difficult part, was the preparation of the horse for the race from the other side of the world. Literally, across nine time zones and one equator. It is difficult to know where to start and where to stop when you set about compiling a list of Aidan O’Brien’s achievements, but this one is up there with the very best of them.

Very Wood very good

The Noel Meade-trained Very Wood looked good in winning that beginners’ chase at Galway on bank holiday Monday that always seems to go to a high-class novice chaser.

This is the race that has been won in the last five years by China Rock, Jessies Dream, Last Instalment, Lyreen Legend and Don Cossack. Winner of the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season, there is no telling the peaks that Very Wood could scale now as a staying chaser.

Belardo bought

It used to be that, when the Godolphin cheque was signed, it was a given that the horse would leave the yard and join Saeed Bin Suroor (or, for a couple of years, Mahmood Al Zarooni). These days, there is a sense of change in the air.

Dewhurst Stakes winner Belardo is the latest new recruit to join the Godolphin team but to remain with his erstwhile trainer, Roger Varian on this occasion. Jim Bolger and Michael Halford are obvious beneficiaries of this policy in Ireland, while the Willie McCreery-trained Leading Actress has run her last two races in Godolphin blue (with navy seams) having won her maiden in Sheikh Mohammed’s old maroon and white silks. This multiple-trainers policy could be catching on.

© The Irish Field, 1st November 2014