Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands has reviewed Sunday’s Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and has selections online for Brighton and Newmarket on Friday.

  • Wednesday 08 August
  • Blog
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Another Glorious Goodwood meeting – or Qatar Goodwood Festival, to give it its formal name – has passed, with performances both overwhelming and underwhelming, but with no official sectional times once again.

Sectional times are important to analysis in the here and now but also of interest in an historical context.

Would you like to know just how fast Battaash ran at his fastest in last week’s King George Qatar Stakes? Or how quickly Frankel or Kingman were travelling in their respective Sussex Stakes successes in 2011 and 2014? Well, you will have to work it out for yourself, or get a friendly sectionalista to do it for you.

The answer where both Frankel and Kingman are concerned appears to be about 10.30s, or 43.7 mph, for their penultimate furlongs: it is impossible to be more accurate even with sophisticated video analysis. Frankel ran an electronically-recorded 10.42s (43.2 mph) at the same stage of his 2012 Sussex win.

It is easier to ascertain just how fast Battaash ran due to uninterrupted aerial pictures, played out after the race, and they show that the gelding managed about 9.90s (45.5 mph) for the second furlong of the King George.

That is a breath-taking sectional, even allowing for the course and the conditions. It was a Usain Bolt moment that racing should have made something of, had it only been aware of what had happened. But it didn’t because it wasn’t.

Fortunately, there are signs that things may yet change. Not only did the BHA recently respond positively to the Horseracing Bettors Forum’s suggestion that there should be more leadership on this matter, but Total Performance Data sectionals have caught on where they are available and more forward-thinking racecourses like Ascot and York have been looking into what is possible in this area.

Battaash himself will be heading to York for the Nunthorpe Stakes on 24 August, when he will attempt to make up for a rare lacklustre performance in the race 12 months ago.

The gelding bears more than a passing resemblance to the great Dayjur, whose record of 56.16s from the Nunthorpe in 1990 still stands, and not simply because he carries the same silks.

By my reckoning, Dayjur ran about 10.05s (44.8 mph) in the second furlong of his Nunthorpe win. Can Battaash duck under that? Will any of us even know if he does?!

In one respect, French racing is well ahead of British racing, and has been for a long time. That is in the provision of sectionals, live and on-screen, during the vast majority of races.

The catch is that those sectionals are for the leader only and so individual splits need to be engineered from that information and estimates of how far back each horse is at a given juncture.

This is easier in some circumstances than others. Sunday’s Prix Maurice de Gheest over 1300 metres at Deauville was more difficult than most, with 20 runners spread across the track. Nonetheless, the following is a summary of what I got.

Prix Maurice de Gheest sectional times

Those finishing speeds are for the individual horses themselves and are an expression of their speed at the finish as a percentage of their average speed for the race overall. A figure over 100% means the horse in question is finishing faster than its average speed, and one of under 100% means the opposite.

The par figure for 1300 metres at Deauville is around 101%, due to the opening section being from a standing start.

None of the principals is especially far from that benchmark, though James Garfield was slowing towards the end in relative terms, while Polydream and The Tin Man were quickening.

There are doubts about quite how the form will hold up, given that James Garfield raced wide of the main body of the field in first-time blinkers.

What can be said, however, is that it was a relatively fair race in terms of sectionals and that James Garfield was not flattered in that respect in finishing where he did.

A couple of runners on Friday look of interest from a sectionals point of view, starting with IMPART in the 5:00 at Brighton.

This one did too much too soon when fifth to Essaka at Windsor last time but was still narrowly in the lead with 1f to go (those sectionals may be found in the results section on this site).

A return to the minimum trip against rivals who in all honesty look pretty desperate on the whole should ensure Impart is difficult to beat, with Jason Watson entrusted with getting the fractions right this time.

A strong pace looks likely in the mile Fillies’ Handicap at Newmarket at 7:40, when the in-form HUNNI is likely to be more patiently-ridden than most and is fancied to come through to reward each-way support in a dead-eight race.

She found only Beshaayir too good for her at Ascot on her latest start, having shaped encouragingly at Wetherby the time before, and was a winner on Good to Soft on this course last year should the rain which threatens to ruin my long weekend away arrive early!

Sectional Spotlight
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