The 2021 Orr Stakes was won by a grand horse in Streets Of Avalon. Perhaps not the type to make headlines but the sort of horse that week-in-week-out punters grow attached to. Ten times Streets Of Avalon has popped something into the pockets of punters and six of those wins have been at stakes level. Quite remarkably two of them now at Group One level.
I say remarkably because Streets Of Avalon has a Timeform rating of 117. Good? Certainly. Two-time Group One-winning sprinter in the country that loves to stick it's chest out as the home of the world's best sprinters? Well...
The Orr Stakes is rarely, if ever, a target race. It is a lead-up to the Young Stakes and the Futurity Stakes. The Young itself is a lead-up to the Australian Cup and with the addition of the All Star Mile the Futurity has been transformed into a lead-up as well. So the Orr is a lead-up to a couple of lead-ups and one of the more undeserving Group Ones on the calendar.
It's amusing to note that among other major racing centres, England, Ireland, France and Japan there is just one (the Foret at Longchamp) open Group One over 1400m. There are four of them just at Caulfield...
Of course, connections of Streets Of Avalon couldn't care less and it's largely irrelevant for punters as well. But it is relevant for racing in a sporting sense. A defined pattern that creates meaningful clashes between the best athletes is what sport is all about. Fans see straight through gimmicks, meaningless titles and cheap talk. First and foremost, punters want to back a winner, but good sport is a further utility for fans and racing simply must provide it.
Streets Of Avalon was one of three that went into the 2021 Orr Stakes with a current Timeform rating of 117 along with Imaging and Humidor. Despite it's status, the race had just one horse rated higher than that trio, the 123-rated Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet who found himself in a very tricky spot having shown nothing like the pace required to be a force over 1400m.
Sir Dragonet's shtick has been sustaining when others relent. He lacks the pace for 1400m, which is fine (unless he gets pitched into a 1400m race of course) but interestingly he seemed to empty at the end of both the Leger and the Melbourne Cup. He's a Goldilocks horse. Not too long, not too short, not too slow, he needs that tempo juussst right.
There are no issues finding 2000-2400m races in the next few months. The Australian Cup, Ranvet, Tancred and QEII all there in his Goldilocks zone. But tempo could be a problem with so many of those races descending into slow/fast speed battles in recent times. The trick for Sir Dragonet could be to force his own pace. Alas, we seem to have an aversion to that in Austraila - despite on-pacers winning well above their share we are forever hearing about how ideal it would be to take a sit.
Armed to the teeth with speed maps and conventional wisdoms many of our jocks are lacking dare. But if there is one man out there with a little bit of old school flair it's G Boss. Cut the ribbons Bossy!
Earlier on the card the Blue Diamond picture continued to take shape with the running of the Blue Diamond Preludes.
The same can't be said for the fillies. Arcaded belted them, her winning margin of 2.5 lengths bettered only three times this century by Earthquake, Samaready and Pyschologist.
That trio ran to 116+, 115+ and 115+ and the first two followed up by winning the Diamond itself two weeks later. Arcaded ran to just 103 and is a general 12/1 shot at the time of writing. Based on that rating she should probably be a roll or two bigger.
The key reason for that low rating, the lowest in the race this century despite one of the widest winning margins, is the fact that Arcaded was the best part of six lengths slower than the colts. She held her own over the last 400m but the speed figure was notably poor.
Over the 20 preceeding years the average difference between the colts and the fillies has been negligible and the same could be said of the average difference in last 600m times.
This year, the time differential between the colts and the fillies was the biggest this century and the last 600m doesn't read a great deal better. If we look at the other big time differentials in that period we see them starting to correct themselves over the last 600m. In other words the differences were, at least in part, a product of pace. But it's hard to mount a case for that this year. It simply looks a case of a very plain race behind a winner that might typically be expected to finish third or fourth.
Interestingly, the two biggest time differentials prior to 2021 saw the slower heat come out and turn the tables on Diamond Day, but we did see genuine corrections in the late splits in both of those. Perhaps the more like-for-like comparison is from 2012 when Samaready was faster than General Rippa overall and faster again home in the Prelude. She beat him by 13 lengths in the Diamond.
That said, if you like Arcaded, and you get it right, the clock geeks will ensure you get handsomely rewarded for it.