Timeform's Matt Gardner looks ahead to the highlight on day three of York's Ebor meeting, the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes...
Although strictly it's not a fact that he is the third fastest thing on Earth, there has been plenty of evidence in Pearl Secret's unbeaten start to his career that he can go some way to claiming the title of Sprint King...
I like fast things. Putting my taste in women to one side, there is an unbridled pleasure in marvelling at the sheer speed at which something can travel, whether it be the advertised rapidity that a car can propel itself from 0-60 mph or watching Usain Bolt cover 100m before most people realise he has even set off.
As well as fast things, I also like lists - there's something strangely comforting and satisfying about a list - so, in a happy conglomeration, here's a top three of the fastest things known to man:
1. Light - estimated to travel at 671,080,887 miles per hour. Pretty swift.
2. New Horizons Spacecraft - left the Earth at about 36,360 mph.
3. Pearl Secret - a three-year-old colt in training with David Barron.
Nunthorpe puzzle solved fairly easily there then, as I seriously doubt that a spacecraft is allowed to participate and daylight only ever finishes second. Although strictly it's not a fact that he is the third fastest thing on Earth, there has been plenty of evidence in Pearl Secret's unbeaten start to his career that he can go some way to claiming the title of Sprint King.
Out of the five furlong-winning mare Our Little Secret, Pearl Secret reportedly put up the joint-fastest final furlong at the 2011 Doncaster breeze-ups, and trainer Barron is on record as saying he is the quickest horse he has ever trained. High praise indeed from a man known for his handling of sprinters.
Pearl Secret has taken to the track four times to date, comprising two runs at York, one at Doncaster and one at Sandown. His last two performances, when beating Ponty Acclaim and subsequent Sprint Stakes winner Caledonia Lady in a minor event on the Knavesmire and when landing a listed race at Sandown, confirmed that he is a horse going places, the manner of his latest win, with circumstances very much against him, also suggested that inexperience was not going to hold him back against the best in the division.
A neck defeat of Free Zone was a much narrower margin of victory than had been expected, but Pearl Secret overcame the lack of pace and a poor track position (trapped wide) to come home in front, merely being kept up to his work. He is certain to make up into a very smart sprinter, one more than worth keeping on side, and having checked the Betfair market a price of 8.615/2 was a pleasant surprise.
Dangers are plentiful however, and it would be unwise to discount a number of his rivals. The Roger Charlton-trained Bated Breath heads the Timeform weight-adjusted ratings and has to be taken seriously following a brace of excellent efforts in 2012. The five-year-old's run in this event last season can be forgotten, finding himself on the wrong part of the track having been drawn in stall two and spared a hard time once that became evident, and he has returned this season at the peak of his powers with victory in the Temple Stakes and a second place in the King's Stand. The drop to five furlongs has been anything but an inconvenience and he sets the standard in this renewal, but he may find Pearl Secret too good if that rival progresses as expected.
The globetrotting Ortensia is another to merit consideration, particularly after she bounced back to form in the King George Stakes at Goodwood earlier this month. Having landed the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan her first two starts in this country were disappointing, unable to sustain her effort behind Bated Breath at Ascot before having the ground as an excuse when failing to fire in the July Cup. A return to a quicker surface made for a much happier mare, as she charged up the Goodwood straight giving weight to all of her rivals, but the suspicion is that she was seen to maximum effect in a strongly-run affair. It's not always easy to make up ground at York, Sole Power being an obvious exception in the 2010 Nunthorpe, and the flat five furlongs is unlikely to play to her strengths.
The aforementioned Sole Power has been running consistently well this season, finishing runner-up on both starts in Dubai before having a troubled passage when second to Bated Breath at Haydock. He went on to finish behind that rival once more, when third in the King's Stand, but he was arguably value for extra that day as he did well to come from a high draw and from so far back in the field. The sharper the test the faster he will be mowing the field down in the closing stages, and he is almost certain to play a part in proceedings, but he may find one or two too strong once more.
The quartet discussed appeal as the ones to concentrate on, although it is possible to make a case of sorts for a number of others. If judged on last year's form Hoof It would come firmly into the reckoning, but his two efforts this season have been some way below-par, albeit one of them at seven furlongs, but he now has some questions to answer and cannot be supported with much confidence.
Mayson appears to have come of age this year, landing a listed event, the Group 3 Palace House and the July Cup on his most recent appearance. He is not a certain participant however, and a quicker surface would be a cause for concern given his best form has come on softer ground.
British sprinting has, for some time now, lacked a real standout performer but we may just have one on our hands in Pearl Secret. Bated Breath is the one for the more sensible of us, his profile solid and his credentials there for all to see, but the mind races as to just how good Pearl Secret could be. He is an appealing price, has potential in abundance and, most importantly of all, is exceptionally fast.
Back Pearl Secret @ 8.615/2 in the Nunthorpe Stakes