Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands reflects on the sectionals from Doncaster and Dubai together with a couple of selections for Wolverhampton on Friday.

  • Wednesday 03 April
  • Blog
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Accurate sectional analysis requires data that can be relied upon to at least a reasonable degree. There is little point in attempting to contextualise performances by such means if the numbers are wrong in the first place. The ability to smell something fishy is, sadly, a major attribute of anyone operating in this area.

I get reminded of this on a regular basis, most recently in the aftermath of the 2019 Dubai World Cup, run at Meydan on the Saturday just gone. Official sectional information did not appear initially, so I analysed the race by video and came up with figures which were significantly different to the ones eventually released on Tuesday morning.

In particular, the closing stages were several lengths slower than the official version. The following images – arrived at through synchronising clocks on videos replayed through sophisticated editing software – suggest the final 400 metres were run in 25.87s, give or take a couple of hundredths, resulting in a race finishing speed of 95.8%.

Dirt finishes tend to be attritional, and the vast majority of them at Meydan this year have come in at 98% finishing speed or less.

400m out in the Dubai World Cup; there's little to choose between Gronkowski and North America

The official version went 24.54s, or 101.0% finishing speed, including a remarkably fast final 200m of 11.84s. It also had North America, in red on the rails in the above image, 0.42s (about two and a half lengths) behind the leader Gronkowski, which was clearly wrong. 

At the line, Thunder Snow (blue) is a nose ahead of Gronkowski.

There is a big difference in the two scenarios: the video version suggests the leaders in this year’s Dubai World Cup were slowing at the end and that late closers were helped slightly; the official version, when it appeared, had a fast finish in which third-placed Gunnevera ran 23.93s for the last 400m, 11.57s for the last 200m, and could be rated the moral winner.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Trakus figures had disappeared as mysteriously as they had first appeared, suggesting that someone else had detected an aroma of pollocks, but no explanation was offered. I have to say that we – and by that I mean anyone interested in international racing – deserve better.

Nearer to home, Total Performance Data figures – sectionals and striding – are up for all but one of the races at Doncaster on Saturday and Sunday and may be found in the Results Section on this site. There is a wealth of information therein, as well as from a growing number of other tracks.

Perhaps the most interesting comparison is between the three successive races run over the Straight Mile on Saturday, the Unibet Spring Mile Handicap, Doncaster Mile and Lincoln Handicap. If you wish to delve deep into those races then a lot has been put on a plate for you.

A few figures for the winners help to give an overview, with the timefigures and sectional ratings my own.

Auxerre’s finishing speed (his speed in the last 2f compared to his average speed for the race overall) of 100.9% is close to par and means he does not get an upgrade. Impressive though he was, he raced efficiently and in a manner which is likely to have maximised his average speed and minimised his overall time.

By contrast, Petrus finished a bit slower than par and Sharja Bridge a bit faster than par: both get small but nonetheless meaningful upgrades.

Whereas Auxerre’s and Petrus’ fastest furlongs (both 11.4s) came early in their races, Sharja Bridge was faster still in the penultimate one (11.0s), underlining that late speed was at a premium in the Doncaster Mile, a test he passed with flying colours. 

In any straight scrap between the three, I would lean towards Sharja Bridge just ahead of Auxerre, but both horses put up figures that should see them competitive in lesser Group company come the time.


The possession of a turn of foot is a valuable thing, especially in any race which turns into a test of speed. There are a couple of horses on show on the all-weather at Wolverhampton on Friday who showed pace in abundance in victory last time and are fancied to go well again.

Both BADENSCOTH (6:00) and NOBLE LINEAGE (7:00) ran around 22.8s and 109% finishing speeds for their final two furlongs last time, the former at this course and distance having tumbled in the weights, the latter at almost a furlong less on this course over the Christmas period.

Badenscoth does not have a great deal to beat among his five rivals, the pick of whom may be Cosmic Landscape, and is still a few pounds lower than when second in fairly useful company at Sandown in September. Evens or bigger should be worth the risk.

Noble Lineage has to give weight to seven others, including some quite promising types, but is from a stable in form and promises to be useful at around this trip. 


Sectional Spotlight

Wolverhampton 18:00, 5 April 2019

Wolverhampton 19:00, 5 April 2019

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