Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands has analysed the 2000 and 1000 Guineas from Newmarket at the weekend.

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We finally got to find out who “H” was on Sunday, after weeks of mystery and intrigue, and the answer was staring us in the face all along: “Hermosa”, winner of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

However, as with the hugely popular TV crime drama “Line of Duty”, to which the preceding was a rather contrived allusion – sorry – that race and the 2000 Guineas on the previous day raised as many questions as answers. Perhaps everything will be settled once and for all in the next series, at the Curragh, Epsom or Royal Ascot. Or perhaps it won’t.

The colts’ race was a particular puzzle, in which, true to the spirit of a Jed Mercurio script, a large section of the audience seemed to jump to a conclusion prematurely, and wrongly.

Surely, the fact that the three horses who raced alone on the stand rail filled first, second and sixth positions at the finish meant that “track bias” was the culprit? On reflection, it appears not and that the protestations of innocence from Newmarket’s excellent Clerk of The Course Michael Prosser were valid.

A thorough investigation shows that there was a negligible difference across the width of the course on going-stick readings, which, whether you like it or not, are scientific and admissible evidence. Also, if there were indeed a “golden highway” up the stand rail, it mysteriously existed for just this one race.

The winners of the two shorter-distance events which followed the 2000 Guineas raced furthest from that supposedly advantaged strip. Jockeys on the Sunday shunned it, and with justification, as the updated going-stick readings showed the centre of the track was the place to be.

“Golden highway”, let alone “massive draw bias”, simply would not stand up in Court. “Pace bias” is more difficult to disprove and remains a person of interest, as it were.

It is possible to establish individual horse sectionals for both the 2000 and 1000 Guineas from TV coverage. The following are my best attempts at doing that, along with finishing speed %s (speed in last 3f as a % of each horse’s average race speed) and the resulting sectional ratings.

Guineas sectionals

Those sectionals from the 2000 show that the trio on the stand side and the main body in the centre ran their races in broadly similar fashion.

The difference was that the smaller group was quicker in the middle of the race, then two of the three in that group did not stop. However, Magna Grecia and King of Change were only a length or two up on the main body at the sectional, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.  

If those in the centre of the course had “gone too slowly” you would have expected them to have made late inroads. That did not happen, other than with Skardu to a degree. In addition, there were two or three pretty ordinary horses by Group 1 standards surprisingly close up in that central group. Maybe the horses there were just not all that good.  

There is also the complicating plotline of the effect of the wind on times across the two days to consider. Wind direction was fairly consistent on Saturday, but wind strength varied and was at its peak at around the time of the colts’ Classic. The wind moved around more on Sunday but was far weaker.

Nonetheless, drying conditions are among the reasons why the aforementioned Hermosa was able to run a time only 0.05s (little more than a neck) slower than Magna Grecia had done 24 hours before, despite being apparently a fair bit inferior.

Full scrutiny of all times (and that wind) across the two days suggest that conditions were about 10 lb faster for the fillies’ race than they had been for the colts’, as reflected in those going allowances (expressed as the rating a horse would need to achieve in a truly-run race to equal my standard time carrying 10-00 or the weight-for-age equivalent).

Both races were essentially well-run, with those finishing speed %s just below the 100.4% par for course and distance. What you saw was what you got with the 1000 Guineas to a large degree, though Lady Kaya seemed to run out of gas late on and Qabala and Just Wonderful finished strongly.

I have ended up marking up the runners in the centre in the 2000 Guineas by the equivalent of a couple of lengths. But Magna Grecia looks to have been the best horse in the race in any case, on the balance of probabilities, and King of Change deserves to be regarded as a pretty good horse, too.

Whether he is a bit better, or a bit worse, than Skardu, Madhmoon and Ten Sovereigns may become more apparent in time. As the writers of Line of Duty You know very well, you should always leave the audience wanting more.

One of the most intriguing postscripts of any Guineas – however good or, as this year I suspect, ordinary by the usual high standards it is – is to figure out which of the chief protagonists are going to prove to be middle-distance types, milers or sprinters.

One forensic tool developed more recently to help in this quest is to consider stride frequency or “cadence”. The overwhelming evidence is that horses must be able to stride quickly to be sprinters and be able to switch off to be stayers. In between those extremes is less certain, but striding analysis can still help.

It is not realistically possible to do striding for all of the 2000 Guineas, but the closing-stage maximum/minimum strides per second from video analysis were as follows:
Magna Grecia (2.36/2.23); King of Change (2.43/2.27); Skardu (2.39/2.28); Madhmoon (2.30/2.23); and Ten Sovereigns (2.37/2.29).

From that, I would predict that those horses will prove to be best at: 8f/10f (Magna Grecia); 7f/8f (King of Change); 8f (Skardu); 10f (Madhmoon); and 7f (Ten Sovereigns). It will be fascinating to see how things pan out.  

Sectional Spotlight
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