Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands examines stride data and hang time of Buveur D’Air and Samcro in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and compares sectional timings from all three extended two-mile hurdles at Newcastle on Saturday - he also has selections online for Chelmsford on Thursday and Sha Tin on Sunday.

  • Wednesday 05 December
  • Blog
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Trusting “the will of The People” can be a dangerous thing to do, as the naming of the polar research vessel Boaty McBoatface and other recent abominations attest.

But my Twitter followers are of a superior type, and when asked which race they would like me to analyse in this week’s ATR Sectional Spotlight came down roughly 48% in favour of last Saturday’s BetVictor Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle: an eminently sensible decision, and more than enough to clinch the deal this time.

The race featured a fascinating clash between the dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air and the “young pretender” (only one year younger) that was Samcro. There was a sense that this was also a clash of styles, with Buveur D’Air a sharp and slick hurdler up against more of a grinder in Samcro.

There are several ways in which to measure these differences, and to attempt to make sense of what went on, though they encounter some difficulty regarding the length of sectionals between hurdles, so a small amount of estimation is inevitable. It is to be hoped that official sectionals and striding details come in over jumps sooner rather than later.

The following figures result from putting the race into video-editing software and slowing the pictures.

In the fine-margin world of horseracing, those measures are indeed markedly different. We do not have detailed striding analytics over jumps yet, but those maximum and minimum cadences (the speed at which a horse turns over its stride) would be most typical of a 10f/11f performer on the flat in Buveur D’Air’s case and of a 13f-plus performer on the flat in Samcro’s.

Speed is a simple product of stride length and stride frequency, and Buveur D’Air’s slightly shorter stride is more than compensated for by a significantly higher stride frequency (in evidence at every stage of the Fighting Fifth).

In addition, Buveur D’Air appeared to be faster over his hurdles than Samcro, as those “hang times” (time spent entirely in the air) show. A long hang time may be fine if a horse is covering a lot of ground in the process, but that cannot be measured accurately at this stage.

A Fighting Fifth which played to speed more than stamina was always likely to favour Buveur D’Air over Samcro, and to an extent that is what transpired. However, I rather doubt that a rerun would produce an entirely different result in this instance.

There were three races at an extended two miles over hurdles on the card, and this is how they unfolded, with individual sectional times for the leaders followed in brackets by cumulative ones.

The overall time of the Fighting Fifth was much quicker than the other two races, especially after allowing for the fact that Buveur D’Air carried 9 lb and 7lb respectively more than the other winners. I make it a decent timefigure, not all that far behind Buveur D’Air's best.

All sectionals bar one (disregarding the run to the first flight) were faster than the juvenile hurdle, and that one – the long run past the finishing post and to the first hurdle in the back straight – is the stage of the race at which Samcro’s jockey may be accused of slacking. The Fighting Fifth was roughly 8 lengths slower than the juvenile in that section.

That was probably not the optimum way in which to ride a stout stayer against a quickener, but I, for one, do not think that it made the crucial difference.

Maybe Samcro would get closer with a stronger pace; quite possibly he would be more at home returned to around two and a half miles. But, most of all, he is not as good as Buveur D’Air at present.

Despite some remarkably high expectations for him, Samcro has actually run perfectly reasonably in his two starts this term, and he came up against one of the best recent hurdlers seemingly back to his electric best here.

There was an interesting difference of opinion between one race-reader and the massed ranks of sectionalistas regarding a contest at Wolverhampton on 21st November. The former reckoned that THE EAGLE’S NEST was “flattered by proximity to winner [Ruby Gates]” whereas the sectional evidence suggested otherwise.

In a race run at a slow early pace, they sprinted home, with Ruby Gates best positioned and The Eagle’s Nest always playing catch-up. The latter ran the last 2f fastest of all in 11.6s then 11.9s, according to TPD figures in the results section on this site, but failed by three quarters of a length to get there. Sectional upgrading has him winning.

The Eagle’s Nest goes at Chelmsford at 8:00 on Thursday and is fancied to bring home the bagels.

There is also some excellent racing at Sha Tin early on Sunday, European time. Hot King Prawn is favourite for the Sprint – a race which also includes the British raider Sir Dancealot – but the classy and ultra-consistent MR STUNNING looks to have every chance of turning the tables from Trials Day recently, when he had a penalty and got going a bit too late.    

Sectional Spotlight

Chelmsford City 20:00, 6 December 2018

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