Twelve months ago we were recapping the Lightning Stakes won by Redkirk Warrior and bemoaning the lack of early tempo. The form itself was just fine, Redkirk Warrior went on to win the Newmarket and Redzel went on being Redzel, but the lack of early speed made it harder for the better horses to assert their dominance and run big ratings.
The Lightning has traditionally been one of the highest rating races in Australia, and it continues to draw top quality fields, but while we are seeing plenty of high-rating horses in the Lightning we are not seeing them given a chance to run to their best. The graph below shows the finishing speeds of the 20 Lightning Stakes run this century with the red trendline showing those finishing speeds getting higher and higher.
A high finishing speed is a function of a slower than ideal early tempo. The two low points on our graph are right around what could be considered a genuine pace - it's fairly alarming that there have only been two editions of Australia's premier 1000m sprint that have been genuinely run this century. Even more so when we consider that one of those was the 2007 Lightning won by Miss Andretti when it was run at Moonee Valley. So just one well-run Lightning from 19 this century at Flemington. Why?
The Talindert won by Microphone on Saturday showed the way to run fast down the straight - his time rating from Saturday of 110 is one of the best by a juvenile this season and he did it by running fast from the outset.
Two hours later the big guns come out for the premier 1000m race in a country famously proud of it's speed horses and everyone is gun shy. Deary me...
All's well that ends well, I suppose. The two highest rated horses going into the race, In Her Time and Osborne Bulls, fought out the finish and that pair look sure to have a big say in the big sprinting features in the autumn, starting with the Newmarket.
In Her Time didn't have to run to her Galaxy-winning peak of 121 to land the Lightning, but that mark obviously looks well within range for her heading to the Newmarket, while Osborne Bulls edged forward on his peak rating of 122 by returning a rating of 123, with his eye-catching late burst suggesting he was an unlucky loser of the Lightning but a terrific chance of making amends up to 1200m in three weeks time.
Osborne Bulls ran his race more inefficiently than the rest but the tempo also worked against others, most notably the talented three-year-old Graff who is now rated 119 but, like Osborne Bulls, promises to do much better in more condusive circumstances.
Graff was very keen to get on with things early on (he too seems dismayed by the current trend of turning 1000m sprints into track work) but still finished with zest and his terrific Golden Rose placing back in the spring points to him being a sharp improver getting beyond Saturday's minimum trip.
Missrock finished well but we know her limitations and behind her the margins look flattered by that steady gallop through the middle stages.
One worth popping in the blackbook from the undercard is the ever-reliable Widgee Turf who returned from a break with a performance at least as good as anything he has produced to this point. There are few horses in the land as reliable as Widgee Turf and perhaps there is more to come from him yet with a rating of 115 first-up noteworthy. Races like the Blamey appeal off a return such as this and it could be well worth a light-weight throw at the stumps in a Doncaster later on.