Sectionals throw up runs worth noting
True to form the Jockey Club's 'soft to yielding' description underestimated the state of the ground at Sha Tin on Saturday. And with the slow, holding nature of the blatantly soft surface making it difficult for anything to make a move from off the pace in the short straight, this was a day when the ground and front-running track bias dominated proceedings. As such it may be unwise to get too excited by any of the overall time performances and it may pay to give closer attention than usual to the sectional times. Both sections of the Crecy Plate for griffins were won in one minute and 26.2 seconds, with Midas Touch, who scored in the opener, and Lucky Partners (winner of the second) earning creditable, if not spectacular Topspeed ratings of 38. But, with both clocking 24.5-second final splits, the sectional times point to a little more quality than the overall figures.
Sure, the Basil Marcus-ridden Lucky Partners was prominent throughout and Midas Touch, who was also possibly a shade lucky to keep the race after drifting across the course, exploited the track bias to the full by making virtually all. However, none of the other races on the day produced finishing splits breaking the 25 second barrier. So, along with the winners, the close-up placegetters Saint Tak (36), who ran second in the first race, and Mediocrity (38) and Bear Supreme (45) from the second, should be paying their way in future. Marcus gave another Ivan Allan charge a fine ride from the front when Winning Spirit struck in the first division of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Handicap to give this powerful trainer/jockey team yet another double.
Again it was not particularly the overall time that may prove useful in the future but the sectionals, not that the final split of 25.9 seconds is the sort of figure that would usually catch the eye. For the record, the overall time of one minute and 37.7 seconds for the 1,600-metre prize equates to a solid Topspeed rating of 70. But, with regards to future plans the sectionals tell us much more than that single figure. Making all on the rails, Marcus was always going to make full use of the track bias and in the conditions he set off at a sound pace, as sectionals of 24.7, 23.1 and 24.0 clearly show. In short, he galloped his rivals into submission on the soft ground and combined with the solid overall time, the final 25.9 split merely confirms that this race was all about stamina.
So, although Marcus may have been playing down the Derby option next season on the grounds of possible stamina doubts, everything about this performance suggests Winning Spirit will take the step up in trip in his stride. The best overall time performance relative to class came in the Argyle Handicap, with Fortune Link relishing the fast pace on soft ground and outstaying his 13 rivals to clock a speed figure of 38. Considering he won from an official handicap mark of just 26, he has room to score again and both Jubilation (45) and Allura Red (46), who finished second and third respectively, are possibilities.