Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands outlines how Cyrname’s Charlie Hall Chase was a test of speed and analyses the first Jumps fixture at Ascot covered by Total Performance Data.

  • Tuesday 03 November
  • Blog
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Before the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday, Cyrname had a few things to prove, including his ability to perform to a reasonably high level going left-handed, which no-one should be in much doubt about any longer.

There should never have been any question that the gelding was high-class on his day, either, as three spectacular wins at Ascot last year, all backed up by excellent timefigures, showed.

There was also the question to be answered about his stamina for three miles and more on ground softer than good, and it might be imagined that matter has been well and truly settled, also. To a man and a woman, those in Racing Post’s Monday Jury seemed to accept that was so.

There is one slight problem with such an assumption, and that is the idea that Saturday’s race provided much of a test of stamina, let alone the one that might have been anticipated beforehand.

The ground was not especially testing by jumps standards, but between “good to soft” and “soft” judged on a thorough analysis of times, perhaps more demanding later on the card than earlier as it cut up a bit.

Then there was the pace, which had looked like it might be strong, but which was anything but that. As Timeform’s Graeme North observed, it “ended up more like a 2m 4f affair”.

It is difficult to envisage circumstances which would have assisted a doubtful stayer at three miles much more than those that unfolded on Saturday, and that may yet prove to be pertinent where Cyrname’s challenge for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and maybe the Cheltenham Gold Cup thereafter, is concerned.

Consider the following: Cyrname recorded an overall time just 1.1s (roughly five to six lengths) faster than the one recorded earlier on by 115-rated Hear No Evil in winning an ordinary handicap carrying 1 lb more. You might expect a horse like Cyrname to be 10 seconds plus quicker on those terms.

Despite the gulf in class, Hear No Evil was either slightly ahead of or slightly behind Cyrname for the vast majority of the race, as the following splits (for the winners themselves) show.

Hear No Evil was about three lengths ahead of Cyrname entering the straight, a bit more than that at the second-last, and it was only up the run-in that Cyrname “asserted”.

Such a test of speed in the Charlie Hall Chase showed Cyrname to good effect but not necessarily his rivals. Among those rivals were 161-rated Vinndication, who stayed on well to be beaten two lengths in receipt of 2 lb, and 146-rated Aye Right, beaten just seven lengths into third while receiving 6 lb.

Cyrname looked to have plenty in hand crossing the line but almost certainly did not have to run anywhere near his own 176-rated best (figures quoted are the BHA’s, pre-race).

It is worth recalling how last year’s King George VI Chase – a well-run race on ground that was genuinely “soft” – panned out as described in an ATR Sectional Spotlight at the time.

That markedly downward graph late on for Cyrname (and for Footpad and Aso) may be what we all would like to see with the current pandemic, but it is far from healthy where a horse’s stamina is concerned.

What you might say is that it is less likely than it was that Cyrname failed for stamina at Kempton than for other, unspecified, reasons, but not that his stamina for a proper test has been proved beyond doubt. Kempton on Boxing Day could, again, prove to be a whole different kettle of fish.

Another small piece of sectional history occurred at Ascot on Saturday, when a jumps fixture at the course was covered by TPD sectionals for the first time. Those splits, plus some context, may be found in the Results Section on this site (“Sectional Times” and “Sectional Tools” tabs).

What is missing, at present, is the colour-coding which usually accompanies such results. It will require a bit more data before sectional pars can be estimated, and a lot more before they can be nailed down for sure.

Nonetheless, the sectionals do tell us something about the run of each race, and about what those pars may eventually be. Here are the last-4f finishing speeds for each race and separately for each winner.

It can be seen that the two races which produced particularly good times compared to the horses’ apparent abilities were in the 98%-100% region, and that the two races which resulted in especially poor times were furthest from that.

It is likely that Sully d’Oc AA’s and Kid Commando’s times, and perhaps also the times of some of those who finished closest to them, will be used to calculate pars when the time comes, and that will be pars for each of the splits, and not just the final-4f that tends to tell us most about the pace of the race overall.

In the meantime: the suspicion is that it was an advantage to be off the pace early in Fifty Ball’s race; that Ibleo, narrow runner-up in Amoola Gold’s race, went for home just a bit sooner than ideal; that Kid Commando’s rivals suffered by trying to mix it with a very smart gelding setting a true pace; and that Italian Spirit, second to Marble Sands in the bumper, did a bit better than the result in a race which may not prove the most reliable.

Sectional Spotlight
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