Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands provides analysis of the pick of the recent all-weather action and looks ahead to Lingfield on Saturday where the feature contests are the Winter Derby Trial plus the Cleves Stakes.

  • Thursday 02 February
  • Blog
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The previous Sectional Spotlight focused on a couple of forthcoming races and speculated how they might be run and how that would affect the outcome. One of them worked out pretty much as expected, and the other…..well, the other seemed to prove the saying “it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”.

The “right” one was the 32Red Handicap at Kempton on Saturday evening, in which Keystroke landed a gamble and beat his dozen rivals in some style. There are no Total Performance Data sectionals at Kempton at present, but it is not rocket science to work out some manual ones from the 3f marker to the line. Being a sectional-timing enthusiast can involve participation and not just observation!

Timeform has a time lapse of 34.35s from the leader passing the sectional and the leader (that is, the winner) crossing the line, which shows that this race was not run at a “solid gallop”, as the trade paper opined. The race finishing speed (speed in closing sectional compared to average speed for race overall) of 106.1% is quite a bit faster than par. Keystroke

Keystroke himself was about 0.55s back at the sectional, which makes his own sectional time one of 33.8s and his individual finishing speed an even swifter 107.8%. Timeform has only 10 horses out of more than 4000 running the last 3f at Kempton quicker than that in the whole of 2016.

The race tested speed, and Keystroke showed so much of it in defying a BHA mark of 95 that it can be said with confidence that he should make his mark in listed company hereafter. Further back, fourth-placed Valbchek and sixth-placed Al Khan did well given the run of the race, but Keystroke was in a class of his own.

The “wrong” one was the Sun Bets On The App Store Handicap at Lingfield Park earlier last Saturday, for which we do have TPD sectionals. Those sectionals show that, in contrast to what this column predicted, there was neither a “true pace” nor did Somethingthrilling perform well.

The ATR “heatmap” above the result has a slow early section and a fast finish. Somethingthrilling was not well positioned when the pace finally increased, but Captain Cat – who eventually finished fifth – was even worse off.

The latter ran the last 3f in 32.9s and the last 2f in 22.1s, which is going some by most standards. All in all, this was a muddling race, however, in which several of the runners might plausibly have prevailed had the dynamics been somewhat different. 

“Muddling” does not begin to describe the EBF Fillies’ Handicap at Wolverhampton on Tuesday, in which Carolinae beat Absolute Blast in a race run at a crawl until the closing stages. Timeform has Absolute Blast the first horse at the course, at any trip, to break 22.0s for the final quarter of a mile since 2014, and she did not even win the race!

Carolinae was not much slower, but Absolute Blast, who conceded her 13 lb, is the one who could make an impact at a higher level: her Timeform rating has her only just behind Fillies’ & Mares Fast-Track Qualifiers Muffri’ha and Realtra. Absolute Blast will, however, need to cut out losing several lengths leaving the stalls, as happened here.

For a sectional Horse To Follow from the past week, we go back to last Friday, to Lingfield Park and to the Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Handicap, a low-grade affair in which fourth-placed GREAT EXPECTATIONS ATR Tracker seemed to do particularly well against a pace bias.

The nine-year-old does not win very often these days but has dropped to a basement mark, and sectionals of 34.2s for the last 3f and 22.6s for the last 2f show there is plenty of fire in the belly still.

There is just one Fast Track Qualifier this coming weekend, but it’s a good one. The 10f Betway Winter Derby Trial is a listed race but has attracted Group winners and seems sure to have a major bearing on the Winter Derby itself in three weeks’ time as well as on events at Finals Day on 14 April.

A quick look through the run style of the eight declared runners suggests this could well be a falsely-run race, in which a turn of foot at the business end will be crucial. With this in mind, I searched out the fastest last 3fs on all-weather of the leading contenders from the ATR/TPD sectionals, or from Timeform’s Archive where those did not exist.

Grendisar’s 32.7s on this course on 17th December leads the way (and goes some way to countering the idea that he is not as good as he was), followed by Battalion’s 32.8s in the same race. However, Lingfield is a significantly easier course than the other all-weather tracks, so perhaps a better guide is to compare the absolute last-3f times with course-and-distance standards.

By this measure, Arab Spring comes out fractionally best with his 33.48s at Kempton last September (the fastest closing sectional at any trip at the course in 2016), which is 3.69s under standard. Grendisar is 3.68s under standard, Battalion 3.58s under, Solar Deity 2.60s under, Mythical Madness and Forceful Appeal 2.40s under and Our Channel 2.00s under (Decorated Knight is unraced on all-weather).

In other words, ARAB SPRING has the raw pace to cope with this drop in trip, even if the race turns into a sprint. He is a class act on his day and is the selection.

Earlier on the card, the listed Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Cleves Stakes is a fascinating showdown between some fast sprinters. However, none is likely to be able to outkick PRETEND, who ran a stunning 33.33s (manual) last-3f at Kempton recently, the fastest sectional at the course since 2014.

Sectional Spotlight
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