Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands is excited by the start of the 2017 flat turf season in his latest Sectional Spotlight piece. Simon also previews Saturday's 32Red International Trial at Lingfield Park.

  • Thursday 06 April
  • Blog
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Hurrah! For the return of the British Flat season “proper” at Doncaster last Saturday, and for the expansion of Total Performance Data’s sectional timing to include several turf courses, of which Doncaster is one.

Due to a technical problem, no data exists for the first four races on the Lincoln card, but it does for the last four that day and for all of Sunday’s races at the course. The detailed figures appear on in a manner which should be familiar by now to most readers.

The same principles apply to turf racing as to all-weather. That is: the closer a horse runs to efficiency, the faster will be its overall time; “efficiency” is best expressed as a horse’s finishing speed compared to its average race speed; and that “finishing speed %” is then compared to the “par” for the course and distance.

A fast finish – usually one in which the principals’ finishing speeds are well over 100% of their average race speeds – will test acceleration and raw pace at the business end, while a slow finish – usually under 100% – will test stamina much more. A forward or backward position in the field is likely to be more or less advantageous according to circumstance.

The ATR heatmaps, finishing speed %s, efficiency ratings and detailed TPD sectionals put all of this on a plate for the reader.

It can be seen that only three of the dozen events covered at Doncaster resulted in race finishing speeds below 100%: the truly-run contests won by Boycie (99.2%), Wentworth Falls (99.7%) and Royal Flag (99.2%).

By contrast, the races won by Dubawi Prince (109.0%) and Dream Castle (108.7%) featured notably quick finishes relative to the races’ average speeds. In addition, Dream Castle ran the last 2f in just 22.4s, easily fastest in absolute terms of the winners across the two days.

It is particularly interesting to compare the sectionals for the two divisions of the Betway Brocklesby Stakes for two-year-olds on Saturday. Neither Santry nor Requinto Dawn recorded especially fast overall times (61.09s and 61.31s respectively), with the former faster mid-race (at which stage he put in a 10.9s furlong) and the latter faster thereafter.

My interpretation is that Requinto Dawn is the better prospect, despite his slower overall time, and that he is probably the best prospect of all 22 horses across the two contests. Santry might struggle to confirm places with Last Page, who finished fastest of all in his division but was beaten by a head.

A couple of noteworthy sorts on sectionals and other factors on the Sunday were BALLYMORE CASTLE ATR Tracker in the opener and NAGGERS ATR Tracker, who came home well into fourth behind Wentworth Falls. In addition, I make the overall time recorded by BIN BATTUTA ATR Tracker particularly good, in a race which should prove solid form.

There are no TPD sectionals for Kempton Park, which staged some good racing on Saturday, and anyone compiling their own will have to do so without the aid of an on-screen clock.

None of the three main races was especially well-run, and I got the following last-3f times and finishing speeds for the winners: Absolute Blast 35.1s (107.5%); Hakam 34.1s (104.9%); and Big Country 34.25s (110.1%).

Absolute Blast duly delivered for this column in the Listed Magnolia Stakes, but things could not have gone much better for her, with jockey Luke Morris saving ground all the way round and an unexacting pace playing to the mare’s strong suit of a turn of foot. She is likely to find things a bit tougher on Finals Day.

Big Country was another to do this column a favour. He was well-positioned in the Rosebery Handicap but won with such authority that he can be regarded as comfortably best in the race in any case. He should be difficult to beat again next time.

Easily the biggest race on Saturday – if you ignore events over at Aintree! – is the 32Red International Trial at Lingfield Park, a mile Listed race for three-year-olds.

Only seven three-year-olds have been declared, but, between them, they have a pretty impressive array of credentials. Mr Scaramanga won a Group 2 last time (in Doha, admittedly), while Eqtiraan (who looks a doubtful stayer), Law And Order and Bailey’s Showgirl have been third in Group 3s, with the last-named also winning a listed contest.

It promises to be competitive, but LAW AND ORDER may have what it takes to come out in front. That Group 3 third was in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury on his final start at two, and he could well still have improvement in him returned to a longer distance.

It seems significant that trainer James Tate goes with him rather than with Volatile, who was also entered at the five-day stage, given that the latter had decent listed form at this course to his name.

Sectional Spotlight
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