Hugh Taylor

Hugh analyses a Lingfield maiden from January as an example of how sectional times can highlight promising performances not necessarily apparent from the formbook.

  • Saturday 21 March
  • Blog
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Form study seems fairly irrelevant right now, but in the hope that at some point that won’t be the case, I’ll be trying to provide some occasional articles for this column which hopefully racing fans and punters might find interesting to read.

One race on the all-weather this winter that I thought was worth a second glance as an example of how revealing sectional times can be was the 1m maiden at Lingfield on the 22nd January won by Prince Of Eagles, a race I have highlighted a couple of times subsequently in my At The Races column.

On the face of it this was a relatively weak race of perhaps limited interest; it was run in a very moderate time figure, a 57-rated horse finished third, and the field finished well strung out, with all bar the first four home beaten at least six lengths.


Fin Position

Lengths btn

Horse

 

1


Prince Of Eagles

 

2

1.5

Tolmount

 

3

3

Bullington Boy

 

4

4.25

Snowball Jackson

 

5

6.25

El Salvaje

 

6

7

That's A Shame

 

7

7.5

Amsby

 

8

8

Into Debt

 

9

8.75

Anyonewhohadaheart

 

10

9.75

Stopnsearch

 

11

10.25

Sharney

 

12

14.75

Swell Swilly

 

 

However, the sectional times for the race, especially the final 2f times, make interesting reading. Five horses dipped under 23 seconds for the final 2f according to the Total Performance Data information available on this website. Here’s the “result” based solely on final 2f times.

 

Fin Position

Lengths btn

Horse

Final 2f time

1


Prince Of Eagles

22.61

5

6.25

El Salvaje

22.65

7

7.5

Amsby

22.7

10

9.75

Stopnsearch

22.83

11

10.25

Sharney

22.87

2

1.5

Tolmount

23.09

9

8.75

Anyonewhohadaheart

23.11

4

4.25

Snowball Jackson

23.32

8

8

Into Debt

23.45

3

3

Bullington Boy

23.47

6

7

That's A Shame

23.54

12

14.75

Swell Swilly

24.05

 

One of those was the winner, Prince Of Eagles, who followed up on his handicap debut next time.

The other four horses in that fastest-finishing quintet, however, were all beaten a fair way, and were so far back in the straight that they were out of view of the Sky Sports Racing footage for a significant chunk of the closing stages.

Even if they had been in view, their finishing effort might not have seemed anything out of the ordinary visually. When the prominent racing horses are slowing down only steadily in the closing stages, it’s likely to reduce the visual impact of those that are finishing strongly behind.

In this instance, three of the four horses in the fastest-finishing quartet (excluding the winner) recorded their fastest sectional in the final furlong, and their finishing speeds were all above 109% - in other words, they hadn’t run their races efficiently.

There’s actually one visual factor in this race that’s worth noting as a prompt to races that might prove worth further investigation as interesting races from a sectional times point of view. Unusually for a 12-runner race at this sort of distance, none of the runners raced 3 wide for any significant portion of the race.

As a result, those at the rear of the field were six horses back (at least), so as the pace quickened coming down the hill from the 3f pole, the field was quite stretched out. As is sometimes the case in maidens, it could be argued that there were varying degrees of urgency from the riders of those horses towards the rear, but there was also an element of some of them being stuck behind slow horses, and not every horse that gets behind in a maiden is necessarily going to run much better next time.

What the sectional times tell us here is that the four fast-finishing horses who finished unplaced were potentially capable of showing much better form under different circumstances. And that proved to be the case; on their next start all four recorded Timeform performance ratings that were at least a stone higher, with Stopnsearch winning, Amsby finishing second, El Salvaje third and Sharney fourth in their respective races.

There were other variables involved, of course, with Stopnsearch, for whom handicaps were always the realistic destination, ridden much more prominently next time on his debut in that sphere, whilst Sharney stepped up in trip on her own handicap debut.

Moreover, only one of the four horses highlighted won next time, and the use of this race as an example - and of course one highlighted with the benefit of hindsight - isn’t intended to suggest that sectional times are a standalone replacement for other types of form study; that’s definitely not the case.

But it’s an example of how they can provide a very important part of the jigsaw in furthering our understanding beyond the bare results of races.

Hugh Taylor
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