The second group 1 in two days is the Wanganui Distance over the extreme distance of 755m.
The race starts at the normal sprint boxes but goes around another complete lap.
Last week, we had a couple of dramatic heats with the first heat won by Dusty Gambler and Ring the Bell striking in the second in a race that changed complexion a couple of times in the last couple of hundred metres.
Does Box Speed Matter for Distance Races?
The main feature of our previews are our speed maps which generally give a pretty accurate assessment of what is likely to happen at the start. The question is whether it matters the same for longer races.
The first thing to note is that we have a lot less races to analyse over 755m. Still, there are some useful stats that can help find a winner. Nearly 50% of winners over 775m at Hatrick are in the first two at the first bend. For group races, that increases to around 66% – it’s obviously tougher to make up ground against better class of dogs.
Looking at all races 700m or longer across all courses, 80% of winners are in the first four and over 50% in the first two. If we limit it to races with stakes of at least $5,000, 64% of winners are in the first two.
But you can always find exceptions. Last year’s winner, Tranquil Blossom, was sixth out of the boxes but ended up blowing them away. The key was that even though she was in the last three at the start, she managed to weave a path through the field and was never checked or bumped.
The speed map shows that the two heat winners, Dusty Gambler and Ring The Bell are likely to be on the pace.
Nitehawk Rose is renowned in shorter races as being a backmarker so it is somewhat of a surprise to see her appear so handy in the speed map. This simply reflects the fact that most of the runners are true distance athletes who don’t possess early pace. She won the NZ Series Distance final back in April after being in the first three off the lids.
The other dog likely to appear in the early rush is Little Bit Funny. While has led in distance races, she doesn’t have a great record from the outside boxes which just one win from 15 attempts.
From the heats, there’s no surprises with the four runners mentioned above being the four runners with the best opening sectionals to make the final. For the record, Dusty Gambler was almost a length quicker than Ring the Bell but in a distance race that amounts to little. The two dogs will start from similar positions as last week too.
The bookies seem it pretty much the same way. The top two standouts are Dusty Gambler along with Ring The Bell. Except each to pay around $3 or less. These two were also the two heat winners.
Ring The Bell was almost unbeatable last season over distance races. Perhaps a little of his very best but he showed real fight last week and is working back into form with two wins in his last two starts. Can’t do better than that.
Same with Dusty who has run three times in NZ for three wins. Dusty’s win was over four lengths slower than Ring the Bell’s. He was strong in the middle section but interestingly had the closest closing sectional of all the dogs in the final. So for him to win he will need to get the lead and get a decent break with any trouble behind playing into his paws.
Nitehawk Rose is on her own at the $5.50 mark. As we noted, he won a distance series final at Hatrick early this month although the time wasn’t particularly outstanding. That said, she won’t be far away at the finish based on last week’s closing sectional.
The most interesting runner is Christiane Cyborg. She’s always looked like a distance star in the making and last week she came into the race with more promise than the Warriors season before the Storm. And like the Warriors, it all fell away! She was her normal slow away but had the standout middle section before falling into a hole in the straight. If she could find another 50 metres of stamina, she could surprise.
It’s hard to go past the two favourites based on the performances in the heats and the speed map.
Dusty Gambler is likely to lead but unless he can find some extra strength, he’s at risk of being run down in the closing stages.
The obvious risk is Ring The Bell. He may not be quite as dominant as he was last year but he’s still in winning form.
Nitehawk Rose is the only other runner with winning form over the track and distance and also looks to be well boxed.