The Cheltenham Festival is approaching fast and I have identified three horses that the clock make of great interest.
Sectional analysis of National Hunt racing is largely a study of the final four furlongs of a race as most contests are run steadily until that point.
The horses I have nominated have all put up what I would call “hidden efforts”. Traditional analysis may miss them . . . but the clock doesn’t. The figures never lie!
The trio are trading at generous prices and, once their participation is confirmed, a sectional Each-Way Patent will be the way to go.
2.15: Thunder Rock at a general 14-1
This horse is unexposed as a stayer and looks sure to benefit from the step up to three miles in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase. He has run well on his past two starts in graded races, finishing third in the Grade Two Dipper at Cheltenham and then third in the Grade Two Scilly Isles at Sandown.
It is his run at Cheltenham that is worthy of sectional analysis. He finished third to The Real Whacker, staying on strongly over the two-and-a-half-mile trip. The figures suggest he would have won if the race had been run at a stronger pace.
The winner made all, recording a finishing speed percentage (FSP) of 101.50% - telling us he was raced out in front evenly and as such was impossible to peg back.
Thunder Rock finished the race quicker with an FSP of 103.35%. When you look at their individual splits over the final three furlongs, as highlighted by the Course Track sectionals, you can see just how strongly Thunder Rock finished that race. The Real Whacker clocked 59.71sec in the final half-mile, with Thunder Rock registering 58.80sec.
Thunder Rock ran the fastest final half-mile in the race and his final furlong of 15.79sec - compared to the winner’s 16.83sec - tells us just how strongly he finished the race. These numbers show that he is crying out for this three-mile trip and the rematch could have a different conclusion.
He looks to be a solid each-way prospect in a race where Gerri Coombe, who beat him at Sandown, will be a short-priced favourite. The step up in trip could help Thunder Rock reverse the form. “He’ll be ridden cold and hopefully will be able to come home strong,” trainer Olly Murphy said on Tuesday.
3.30: Noble Yeats at 9-1 with William Hill
Noble Yeats looks sure to be suited by the test of stamina that the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup provides. And, significantly, he will be wearing cheekpieces for the first time since he wore them when winning the Grand National last year.
His performances this season show him to be in tremendous form and his figures back up that impression.
When he won the Many Clouds, at Aintree in December, the turn of foot he showed was impressive. His penultimate furlong of 12.85sec was swift for a horse dubbed as being just a stayer. None of his rivals got anywhere near breaking the 13sec barrier for that furlong. We know he stays well, but this number tells us he is far from paceless.
He finished third to Ahoy Senor in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham last time, where he didn’t seem to be as quite as sharp, yet he stayed on strongly up the hill to record a faster final furlong than both the winner and the runner-up. He clocked 16.37sec, whereas Ahoy Senor managed 16.65sec. And keep in mind Noble Yeats was carrying 3lb more.
He would have won that race in another half a furlong and, as at Aintree, he did flash his speed. He was the only horse to record a sub 13sec furlong, which he did in the 22nd furlong.
Make no mistake, he is not a plodder. The figures tell us he is in great form. If he as sharp as he was at Aintree, with the cheekpieces back on, then he is a massive player.
5.30: Iroko at 20-1 with be365 (also engaged 2.50 on Wednesday)
This horse is an unexposed and well-handicapped hurdler. Look out for him in either Wednesday’s Coral Cup or Friday’s Martin Pipe. He is trading at 20/1 for both races and would have a solid chanced in either, with perhaps a slight preference for the Martin Pipe, in which he looks more likely to get a run in.
The JP McManus-owned five-year-old has won his past two starts in handicaps and was visually impressive when winning at Wetherby. He won easily off a mark of 128 and the sectionals he produced are revealing. He thrashed his rivals with some impressive figures.
He was the only horse in the race to run the final four furlongs quicker than the previous 15 furlongs. His FSP of 103.73% compares to the runner-up’s figure of 98.87%. In short, the winner finished the race very strongly as the second slowed down. Here are the final four-furlong numbers for the first three home: Iroko 59.72sec; Raffertys Return 63.33sec; Ashington 63.23sec.
The 14-length winning margin was being extended with every stride. He was just 3.29sec quicker than the runner-up in the final four furlongs and it could have been greater.
The form has not been franked but ask not what a horse has beaten, but how fast he ran. And Iroko was very impressive on the clock. A 10lb rise in the weight is unlikely to prevent him making a bold bid in his chosen race.
Wednesday 2.15: Thunder Rock 14-1
Friday 3.30: Noble Yeats 9-1
Friday 5.30: Iroko 20-1
🐴 STATS AND TRENDS FOR ALL 28 RACES
🐴 A SUPER STATISTIC FOR EVERY RACE
📅 I WAS THERE: EIGHT MEMORABLE FESTIVAL DAYS
✍ DAN OVERALL STUDIES THE 9 HANDICAPS
✍ 11 THINGS WE LEARNT WHEN THE WEIGHTS WERE RELEASED
😲 WINNERS WHO HIT 999-1 IN-RUNNING AND EPIC LOSERS
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✍ CHAMPION HURDLE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
✍ CHAMPION CHASE RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
✍ GOLD CUP RUNNER-BY-RUNNER GUIDE
📺 WATCH: GORDON ELLIOTT ON HIS LEADING CONTENDERS
📺 WATCH: WILLIE MULLINS ON HIS LEADING CONTENDERS
📺 WATCH: MARTIN PIPE - RACING GREAT
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