Simon Rowlands examines the Prix Niel, Prix Vermeille and Prix Foy to see what the clock has to say about these major Arc trials...
"Consideration of sectionals shows that none of the races were truly run, or anything like it..."
The existence of sectionals at France's major tracks makes it possible to evaluate performances at those tracks in a fully rounded way, taking account of not only what the overall race times tell us but how those overall times were arrived at. The sectionals are given for leaders only, so a certain amount of engineering of individual times is required, but this can be done to an acceptable level of accuracy.
Arc Trials Day at Longchamp on Sunday featured three races over 2400 metres, run in varying fashions. Overall time analysis suggests that the winning performances of Kizuna in the Niel and of Treve in the Vermeille were of comparable merit: Treve's time was quicker by 0.82 sec, but she carried 8 lb less. Both efforts were far superior, in overall time terms, to Orfevre's win in a time around 4 sec slower.
Consideration of sectionals shows that none of the races were truly run, or anything like it, and that all time performances require marking up to some degree.
Optimum finishing speed %s at Longchamp have had to be estimated from the information available, but are in the region of 105% for last 1000 metres, 104% for last 600 metres and 103% for last 400 metres. Kizuna's were 107.6%, 111.0% and 114.3%, indicating a steadily-run race in which a turn of foot counted. Ruler of The World's finish was impressive, but the sectionals prior to that are likely to be more meaningful and point to Kizuna's time effort needing to be marked up by 12 lb and Ruler of The World's by 11 lb. The pair can be rated in the region of 5 lb further ahead of their nearest rivals than the bare result.
Treve was faster than Kizuna throughout the closing stages in absolute terms, but the difference was small in relative terms. Her finishing speed %s were 108.2%, 112.7% and 114.3%, the last-named exactly the same figure as Kizuna had posted for the last 400 metres. Treve's overall time performance requires marking up by the same amount as Kizuna's, but sectionals do confirm that she was a good deal more superior - in the region of 8 lb, or nearly five lengths - to her nearest rivals than the bare result suggests.
The Foy was remarkably slowly run. For instance, the leader got to the 1000-metre mark 7.41 sec slower than the leader in the Niel, which is equivalent to something like 120 metres! Given that, the closing sectionals were underwhelming. Orfevre's finishing speed %s were 113.3%, 115.2% and 116.0%, pointing to a mark-up of 20 lb, nowhere near enough to bridge the gap in overall times between the Foy and the earlier races.
Further, the horses Orfevre beat deserve to be marked up similar amounts, strictly on the sectionals.
Of course, all of the above takes a purely mathematical view of events and does not allow for ease of success, trouble in running, apparent fitness and the like. In that respect, Orfevre clearly had plenty in hand, while some will argue that Kizuna should progress physically from his run. The reader is welcome to put such interpretations on the bare figures if they wish.
In terms of those figures, however, Treve's Vermeille win was marginally the best trial, in that, both sectionally and in terms of overall time, she looked the equal of Kizuna but will receive weight from that horse in the Arc, while Ruler of The World is snapping at their heels. Orfevre achieved the least, but we know he is a good horse and this undemanding win confirmed his well-being.
However, in sectional terms, none of those efforts quite matched up to that of Novellist in winning at Ascot in July, which was covered here . What's for sure, is that this year's Arc is making into a truly fascinating contest.