Sectional Spotlight

    Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands looks back on the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest and has fancies in action at the Curragh on Thursday and at Deauville on Sunday.
  • Thursday 10 August 2017
  • Blog

These ATR Sectional Spotlights have generally covered the split times provided by Total Performance Data, and will continue to do so, but there are other ways of accessing sectionals from the channel’s coverage.

A previous blog showed how to use ATR’s on-screen clock to engineer your own figures, but even more of the spadework is done for you in many races in France, where official splits are displayed as the race unfolds. That was the case with the Prix Maurice de Gheest, which took place at Deauville last Sunday.

This was a major race on the world stage, and British-trained horses filled the first four places, though it has been subjected to remarkably little post-race scrutiny in some quarters. It was also a race in which France’s best sprinter, Signs Of Blessing, was unplaced again. But it would be a mistake to think he ran poorly, for he did not.

The ATR pictures from France showed that the leader went through the sectionals in: 18.84s (1000m to run); 39.93s (600m to run); 51.06s (400m to run); and 63.03s (200m to run). Once we know the overall time (75.61s in this instance), these convert into finishing speed %s of: 102.5%, 97.8%, 94.8% and 92.5%.

Those figures are notably slow for a track, like Deauville, which is almost flat. If you don’t believe that then a comparison with the 2013 edition, in which Moonlight Cloud set a track record which stands to this day, may help.

This year’s Maurice de Gheest was 1.28s slower than that earlier race overall but got to 600m out 0.44s ahead, to 400m out 0.82s ahead and to 200m out 0.03s ahead. The leader this year went too fast – far too fast – and that leader was the aforementioned Signs Of Blessing.

It is possible to estimate the individual sectionals for every horse in the race from ATR’s footage and to upgrade performances in line with the efficiency/inefficiency with which each horse distributed its overall energy. This is what I came up with.

Prix Maurice de Gheest, Deauville, 1300m, 06 August 2017

Pos Horse After 300m After 700m After 900m After 1100m Overall Last 400m FS% Upgrade Sect Rating
1 BRANDO 20.00s 41.05s 51.64s 63.03s 75.61s 97.1% 4 124
2 ACLAIM 19.81s 41.00s 51.83s 63.35s 75.69s 97.6% 3 121
3 TUPI 20.31s 41.26s 51.89s 63.26s 76.06s 96.8% 4 116
4 MAGICAL MEMORY 19.47s 40.76s 51.53s 63.33s 76.41s 94.5% 11 117
5 SIGNS OF BLESSING 18.84s 39.93s 51.06s 63.05s 76.43s 92.7% 18 124
6 CARAVAGGIO 19.86s 41.05s 52.16s 63.71s 76.44s 96.9% 4 109
7 THE RIGHT MAN 19.26s 40.35s 51.36s 63.33s 76.64s 93.3% 15 117
8 ZALAMEA 19.64s 41.18s 52.23s 63.95s 76.78s 96.2% 5 104
9 ROSA IMPERIAL 20.02s 41.10s 52.14s 63.61s 76.94s 95.5% 8 101
10 BOUND FOR NOWHERE 19.42s 40.48s 51.44s 63.36s 76.98s 92.7% 18 114
11 BLACK MAX 20.17s 41.36s 52.48s 64.45s 77.36s 95.7% 7 96
12 INTELLIGENCE CROSS 19.06s 40.01s 51.19s 63.36s 77.41s 90.8% 27 115
13 FAS 19.47s 40.76s 51.61s 64.08s 79.41s 87.9% 47 95
Par Times 18.98s 41.23s 52.48s 63.92s 75.61s 100.6%

As can be seen, every horse ran its last 400 metres slower than its average speed for the race overall, some of them markedly so. Even Brando, who came from out the back to win, was slowing by the end. That brutal early pace really took its toll.

Sectional upgrading confirms that Brando was best of the principals, but that it might have been close between him and Signs Of Blessing had they both raced efficiently, and that The Right Man, Bound For Nowhere and Intelligence Cross were significantly better than the result also.

Brando had been the fastest finisher and an unlucky loser in a steadily-run race for the July Cup at Newmarket the time before, and this win should not be seen as a fluke.

However, Signs Of Blessing deserves continued respect in any company at this trip or shorter, especially if his jockey understands that simply going faster than any other horse from the outset is not necessarily the best approach!


TPD sectionals had turned up Easy Code as one to be interested in at Lingfield on 22 July and the gelding obliged at Wolverhampton nine days later. If you were one of those who backed the gelding you were probably pretty impressed that he won: if you look at his sectionals on ATR you should be impressed even more!

The Wolverhampton event started at an even pace but steadied mid-race and Easy Code was far from well positioned turning in before unleashing red-hot 11.6s and 11.5s furlongs up the inner to settle the matter.

EASY CODE can be followed for a while longer: both he and another horse highlighted on sectionals here last time, Camino, have been declared for Brighton’s meeting on Friday.

The third race at Doncaster on 05 August – a 10f maiden for 3-y-os – is one to keep an eye on. It is not that the form is especially good, and the overall time certainly wasn’t, but the closing sectionals are a different matter, as can be seen from the ATR result.

The winner, Tribal Conquest, was impressive, but perhaps the horse to have most on your side with the future in mind is third-placed ODEN , who looked green but was every bit as quick until late on. The Roger Varian-trained gelding has been given a workable BHA mark of 74 on the back of this.


There is an intriguing race for the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown on Thursday evening (due off at 7.20), with Johannes Vermeer a short-priced favourite on the back of a win in the International Stakes at the Curragh.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt has solid claims on form, but both he and The Grey Gatsby (who was fourth at the Curragh) may be vulnerable at this 12f if the pace is stronger than the pedestrian one that prevailed that day.

Grandee seems likely to ensure that is so, and the chief beneficiary could be STELLAR MASS , who won this 12 months ago and ran up to his best last time. At the odds, he looks worth the risk.

To return to where we started, with a French Group 1 race, the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday promises to be a significant contest, with Al Wukair bidding to restore his reputation against the likes of Taareef, Thunder Snow and Roly Poly.

Unusually for a French Group race, this could actually be run at a good pace: all those last three have been pace-forcers in recent starts.

That may set things up for TRAIS FLUORS, who received a thoroughly unenterprising ride when runner-up to Thunder Snow in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly last time, making up ground hand over fist in a final 200m he completed in only around 10.5s.

A better pace and a better ride could well see a better result from the Andre Fabre-trained three-year-old this time.

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