Simon Rowland's takes a look at the sectionals from Friday of Royal Ascot...
"Hillstar remains on the "to follow" list, though, given his breeding and the relative speed he showed in the finish, it should not be seen as a formality that he will thrive at the St Leger distance..."
Sectionals have many uses, including in helping to determine the state of the going by identifying times that have resulted from falsely-run races, in assisting greatly with the interpretation of the way races have panned out and in spotting individual horses whose ability might otherwise be hidden to some degree. All three have been in evidence at Royal Ascot this week, and never more so than on Friday.
Sectional "to follow" horse Hillstar came from some way back to win the "Royal Ascot Derby" (the King Edward VII Stakes) at a Betfair SP of 9.15. But did he benefit from the favourite, Battle of Marengo, going too soon, or does the performance reflect even better on Hillstar himself?
The sectionals suggest it was a case of the latter, rather than the former. Indeed, Joseph O'Brien on the runner-up rode close to optimum judged on both last-3f and last-2f splits. Hillstar, who was receiving 3 lb from his rival, did quite well to run him down having been about six lengths down 3f out and only a length closer a furlong later.
Hillstar remains on the "to follow" list, though, given his breeding and the relative speed he showed in the finish, it should not be seen as a formality that he will thrive at the St Leger distance of nearly 3f longer. A race or two in between could yet see him taking a different route, in any case.
Mutashaded deserves a bit of extra credit, also, though he was in front of Hillstar turning in before rallying late on. It was only his third race, as well.
Pace played a major part in the outcome of the Coronation Stakes at a mile later on the card. Sectionals suggest strongly that Sky Lantern was the best filly by some way (she won by four lengths, so that is not exactly an Earth-shattering conclusion) but she got a notably well-judged waiting ride from Richard Hughes in a race in which the leaders went a bit too quickly.
Lovely Pass led Roz, with Rehn's Nest and Big Break close up, turning in, at which point Sky Lantern was last-but-one and around eight lengths adrift, but the picture changed rapidly entering the final furlong as Sky Lantern swept past.
Only the first two posted finishing speeds that were quicker than their average race speeds (as indicated by the %s in the table), and any filly from second through to seventh has credible claims to be considered the "moral" runner-up. With the future in mind, it is Big Break who gets added to the "to follow" list, having disputed the lead with 2f to go.
Other races on the round course have Forgotten Voice running about 36.05s for the last 3f of the 10f Wolferton Handicap (104.9% finishing speed) and Leading Light running about 39.25s for the last 3f of the 16f Queen's Vase (98.1% finishing speed).
The latter deserves quite a bit of extra credit in digging so deep to prevail (par is about 100.8% finishing speed) in a race in which the next five home were respectively thirteenth, tenth, seventh, fourteenth and twelfth at the sectional. Leading Light himself was third at that point but less than a length down.