There have been only two Fast Track Qualifiers since the last Timeform blog on 20 November, but things have been far from quiet in the world of the All-Weather Championships.
Those FTQs – which guarantee the winners a place on All-Weather Finals’ Day at Lingfield Park on 25 March 2016 – went the way of Race Day and Lamar, the latter already a winner in the 32Red.com Fillies & Mares category.
Race Day, who holds an entry in The Derby at Epsom, qualified for the 3YO Mile with his third win on the bounce at Lingfield Park on 21 November in a race also sponsored by 32Red.com, running to a Timeform form rating of 103 which is already in excess of the level shown by last year’s Finals’ Day winner, Four Seasons.
In contrast to most FTQs run so far, this was run at a true pace, and the winner ran the last two furlongs of the seven-furlong race in 23.97s, equivalent to a speed slightly slower than his average overall. The overall time was easily the fastest of the three over course and distance on the card and the form looks solid.
Lamar (pictured below) achieved a bit more again in winning the 32Red Fillies’ Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton on 27 November, running to a figure of 106 in defeating Kyllachy Queen, and already looks well-placed to go one better than when second to Fresles on the second Finals’ Day earlier this year.
This was another truly-run race, though connections of the runner-up are entitled to fancy their chances in a rematch given the speed with which that one finished (23.73s last two furlongs) in making up about five lengths from the turn.
The 32Red.com Wild Flower Stakes won by Fire Fighting at Kempton on 25 November was well up to scratch for a race of listed status, with the winner running to a Timeform figure of 111 in scoring emphatically at a mile and a half on what was his 25th start of the year.
No speed records were broken there, but they were several times at Chelmsford City racecourse in the period under review.
No fewer than three course bests were set at the Essex venue on the afternoon of 23 November, with Medicean Man scorching home in 57.72s for five furlongs in the Bet totetrifecta Handicap.
Fast times are a function of, among other things, ability and pace. In terms of ability, 119-rated Medicean Man, who had been beaten just a short head in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in the summer, is one of the best to run on the AW in Britain, and a good pace enabled him to come from a few lengths back with a last-three furlongs of 33.39s.
But fast times are also a function of the speed of the surface on which horses are racing, and Chelmsford’s surface has been notably fast since shortly after rewaxing took place in the summer.
One of the other Chelmsford course records on that day was set by Mindurownbusiness in the Bet totequadpot Handicap at a mile (95.46s), a 120-rated effort which deserves to be recognised as the best in recent weeks at any of the AW tracks. The Roger Varian-trained colt can be forgiven his defeat shortly after in a messy race at a longer distance.
Other individual performances worth picking out came from Lancelot du Lac, who ran to a 118 rating in winning the 32Red Casino Handicap over six furlongs at Kempton on 25 November, and Lightscameraction, who posted a 117 figure when taking the Download the New Unibet Racing App Handicap at Lingfield on 02 December.
Both horses look valid contenders for the Unibet Sprint on AW Finals’ Day, with Lightscameraction now even better than when winning the 3YO version on Good Friday.
Readers wanting a couple to look out for at a lesser level could do a lot worse than take note of Mazzini and Mytimehascome, who came out well on sectionals when runners-up in maidens at Kempton on 03 December and 30 November respectively.
The James Fanshawe-trained Mazzini looks especially promising, having got behind with a slow start then rattled home in 34.43s for the last three furlongs despite looking understandably green on what was his debut.
The first FTQ for this AW Championships’ Unibet 3YO Sprint takes place at Wolverhampton on Saturday 05 December. While the size of the field – just six runners – is slightly disappointing, the quality of the likely overwhelming favourite, Ornate, is not.
The William Haggas-trained juvenile stormed to a fast-time success in a maiden at Ripon before running the very smart colt Gutaifan to a head in the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster in September.
Ornate could well be contesting the top sprints next summer, and the main danger to him here seems to be the unknown of a Tapeta surface and the first experience of racing round a bend, rather than a quintet of rivals who are past winners but useful at best.