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Timeform Sectional Debrief: Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes

26 Jun 2015

Timeform analyse the sectional times of the QIPCO British Champions Series contest from Friday's Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

There are some in British horseracing who seem by default to be opposed to anything which smacks of change, conveniently ignoring the fact that today’s normal has come about as a result of yesterday’s innovation. It is difficult to believe that there will be many bemoaning the creation of the Commonwealth Cup a few years down the line, but the opponents to change can be King Canute-like in their persistence.

The Commonwealth Cup, run at Royal Ascot on Friday as part of the QIPCO British Champion Sprint Series, changed the structure of the first half of the season for three-year-old sprinters – for better or worse, depending on your view – and provided an outstanding inaugural winner in Muhaarar.

On fast ground and with an 18-runner field, there was never likely to be any hanging around, but Muhaarar tracked the pace comfortably before unleashing a tremendous finishing burst which took him three and three quarter lengths clear of his nearest rival, Limato, at the line.

That Muhaarar was quickening, rather than that his rivals were collectively stopping, can be seen from Timeform’s manually-compiled sectionals for the race.  

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Muhaarar broke 23.0s for the last two furlongs, something few horses do at Ascot, even very good ones on firm going, and that finishing speed % (compared to his average race speed) shows that he was stronger in the second half of the race than the first.

There was no course record for Muhaarar this time (he missed it by 0.55s) but this sort of a performance had seemed to be in the offing from a horse which had smashed the seven-furlong best at Newbury in April, as analysed here.

There was no excuse in sectional terms for his rivals, though some of them undoubtedly did not perform to their best for whatever reason. Even at their best, it is very much to be doubted that they could have troubled Muhaarar in this sort of form.

Muhaarar is good enough to be a champion sprinter, though fast ground and a stiff six furlongs may be close to his ideal conditions. The Darley July Cup at Newmarket on July 11th, the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on September 5th and the QIPCO British Champion Series Sprint Stakes, back at Ascot, on October 17th all look feasible targets, though whether he would be as effective at the minimum trip for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on August 21st can be doubted.

Traditionalists will have been more comfortable with the presence on the card of the Coronation Stakes, a Victorian creation in which one of the early winners was an “unnamed filly by Slane”. Times have changed since then, and the race was upgraded to Group 1 status in the 1980s, cementing its position as the pre-eminent race for three-year-old filly milers at the height of the summer.

The 2015 running was a good one, even by the race’s now-high standards, bringing together the runners-up in the British (Lucida) and Irish (Found) 1000 Guineas and the winner of the French equivalent (Ervedya). Ervedya’s winning time was the second-fastest in the race at Ascot, behind only Ghanaati in 2009, and sectionals show that the race primarily tested speed.

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Those overall times and closing sectionals are faster than the colts recorded at course and distance in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday, and those finishing speed %s (compared to the fillies’ average race speeds) are quick, also.

It should have been a help to be near the front turning into the Ascot straight, all other things being equal, and it speaks highly of both Ervedya and Lucida that they finished as well as they did from positions towards the rear. Found was less disadvantaged, on the face of it, though it was anything but a disgrace for her to split that pair of rivals even with that in mind.

Ervedya had looked potentially special when winning at Longchamp the time before – as analysed here – and it could well be that we have a notably strong crop of three-year-old filly milers. Remember also that Legatissimo had beaten Lucida in a fast time in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

It is to be hoped that British racegoers get to see Ervedya again, possibly in the Falmouth Stakes (the next leg of the QIPCO British Champion Filles & Mares Series) at Newmarket on July 10th. A showdown with Gleneagles somewhere along the way would be something to relish, also. The evidence of the clock is that she is good enough to give him a real race, at the very least.