Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands examines the average closing sectionals and finishing speeds at Wolverhampton, analyses some significant performances from the past week and has a fancy in action at Lingfield on Saturday.

  • Friday 02 February
  • Blog
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In the last in a series of four, this week’s column will look at the sectionals produced by Total Performance Data at Wolverhampton, with special focus on how closing ones compare with the other all-weather tracks at which they exist – Southwell, Newcastle and Lingfield Park – which were covered in recent weeks. For the purposes of this survey well-run races only have been considered.

Like Newcastle, Wolverhampton’s surface is now Tapeta, but, unlike Newcastle, Wolverhampton is a particularly sharp track, roughly 7.9f in length. Newcastle is approximately 14.2f, Southwell 10.4f and Lingfield 9.8f.

Wolverhampton’s home straight, at 1.7f in length, is second-shortest behind Lingfield (1.6f), and considerably shorter than either Southwell (2.7f) or Newcastle (3.4f). It is also immediately preceded by a 180-degree turn, which slows horses more than Lingfield’s 90-degree (and downhill) home bend.

This all goes to make Wolverhampton a speed-favouring track, though the surface, turns and essential flatness (the home straight is fractionally higher than the back straight according to Google Earth) mean the closing sectionals are not quite as quick as at Lingfield.    

Wolverhampton finishing speed pars, 2017

Distance Last 3f Last 2f Last 1f
5.10f 35.35s (102.0%) 23.60s (101.8%) 12.00s (100.2%)
6.09f 36.31s (100.4%) 24.22s (100.4%) 12.30s (98.8%)
7.16f 36.62s (100.6%) 24.26s (101.3%) 12.29s (100.0%)
8.65f 37.65s (100.5%) 25.01s (100.9%) 12.64s (99.9%)
9.47f 37.58s (100.6%) 24.85s (101.5%) 12.47s (101.1%)
12.23f 38.31s (101.4%) 25.25s (102.6%) 12.61s (102.7%)
14.00f 38.00s (102.6%) 25.28s (102.9%) 12.68s (102.6%)

By comparing 6f races at the four courses, it may be seen that Wolverhampton’s third-last furlong (on that bend) is the slowest of the four tracks, its penultimate furlong (part of which still includes that bend) is second-slowest, but its final furlong of 12.30s is slower only than Lingfield.

Late speed and the ability to handle turns are more at a premium at Wolverhampton than perhaps anywhere else, and it is worth remembering that before striking a bet there.

The last week was a quiet one in the All-Weather Championships, with no Fast-Track Qualifiers, the winning of which guarantees a place on Finals Day at Lingfield Park on 30 March.

There were, nonetheless, a few significant performances, though not all of them at tracks covered by TPD sectionals and therefore displayed on the ATR website. In such circumstances, you still need to do your own spadework in sourcing accurate timings.

The Novice event won by WALK IN THE SUN at Kempton Park last Friday produced a notably quick overall time, both in absolute terms – there was only one 7f time at the track in the whole of 2017 that was quicker – and relative to others on the card. It was fully 3.20s quicker than the handicap which concluded the card.

I have a 96 timefigure on the winner and 103 on the penalised short-head runner-up FIRST CONTACT, and both could well go on to be Listed class, or possibly even better. They pulled eight lengths and more clear of their rivals.

Manual sectionals show that this was a well-run race, with 35.5s of the overall 83.85s coming in the last 3f, which produces a near-to-par finishing speed of 101.2% ((83.85*3*100)/(35.5*7)).

There may not be abundant scope for improvement in terms of race efficiency, but this was Walk In The Sun’s debut, and the handsome son of Street Sense realised an extraordinary $1.4m at the Breeze-Ups. He could, as they say, be anything. This was a really taking start, for sure.

The on-screen sectionals at Lingfield last Saturday tell their own story about the run of the 12f Betway Handicap won by Celestial Spheres. The last three furlongs went by in 10.92s then 10.97s and finally 11.22s, which is extremely quick given the overall time of 149.79s.

Adam Kirby rode a most enterprising race on the winner, and runner-up COSMEAPOLITAN, in particular, was caught out of his ground at a crucial stage. The Alan King-trained five-year-old has options on this surface and also if returned to hurdles.

All-weather fans are in for a rare treat at Lingfield on Saturday with what may well be the race of the season so far. It is not the Betway Winter Derby (due off at 3.05), for all that is pretty power-packed, but the Betway Cleves Stakes 65 minutes earlier, which has Listed status but which would do justice to a Group 3 or even a Group 2.

I have raved about both Caspian Prince – who missed the Newcastle 5f track record by just 0.07s at the beginning of January – and Kachy – who was just 0.44s outside the tougher Lingfield 6f course record on the 19th – recently, and the two speedballs square up against each other in this. They are also faced by fully eight others who are rated 100 or higher by the BHA.

Kachy looked back to the form of his Commonwealth Cup second at Royal Ascot that day, and would be fancied but has drawn stall 11 of 12. Even he may struggle to lead against Caspian Prince (for whom the final furlong could seem like a mile), with Ice Age, Lancelot du Lac and Gracious John all also capable of running very fast early splits.

This looks a race worth watching, but not necessarily betting in, and the same goes for the Winter Derby, in which Victory Bond is justifiably likely to go off at a short price.

A more interesting proposition could be YOU’RE COOL in the Betway Sprint Handicap at 2.35. The six-year-old usually shows bright speed himself, and has won at Kempton, Wolverhampton and Chelmsford, but has, somewhat surprisingly, never tried this fastest 5f in the all-weather firmament.

You’re Cool was beaten in a hat-trick bid at Chelmsford last time but went too fast on what was a slower-than-usual surface and led his rivals a merry dance for a long way. There is every chance he can last home in front in a small field here.  

Sectional Spotlight

Lingfield 14:35, 3 February 2018

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