Punters, professionals and racing enthusiasts on the all-weather have never had it so good in one important respect.
Now, the only thing that meaningfully limits the depth in which they can investigate a race that has taken place, or is about to take place, is the amount of time at their disposal. The tools are there to put any race, or any individual performance, under the microscope.
A quick look at the Total Performance Data sectionals for any given race on attheraces.com site will give a snapshot of how the race unfolded.
Was the early pace fast, slow, or somewhere in between? Where was the pace hottest? Which horses came home fastest in relative terms? And you can always view the video replay as well, so that the hard numbers may be augmented by visual impressions.
An example is the one Fast Track Qualifier in the last week, the 32Red.com Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening.
The heatmap tells you that the early pace was “even”, but that it dipped mid-race before quite a quick finish. The individual horses’s energy-distribution graphs bear that out, with the blue lines dipping compared to the yellow “optimum” then going upwards again at the end.
Exactly what this means in each horse’s case, should you wish to look into things at that level, takes a bit more application. It can be seen from the “efficiency grade” (and by hovering over it to get the efficiency score) that the favourite Sutter County ran the race least efficiently, with only fifth-placed Visionary having a higher final-2f finishing speed compared to average race speed.
Sutter County was beaten just a length in third, and was fastest of all at the finish. He was at least the equal of the winner Dubai One in my book. However, he did not lose the race with a slightly tardy start, per se, but by being unable to recover his position mid-race (which takes place around a bend). Perhaps Sutter County isn’t really a 5f-round-a-bend horse, after all.
In form terms, this win by Dubai One does not measure up to the one of Kananee (also owned by Godolphin) in another FTQ at Newcastle in which Sutter County finished second, but the filly is thriving - winning three of her last five starts - and could yet prove useful.
Let’s look at some other notable races and performances in the last week. One contest which could go under the radar is the opener at Lingfield on Monday: an otherwise unexceptional two-year-old maiden which managed to be run in a surprisingly quick time and which makes for an interesting comparison with the useful older-horse handicap at the same distance later on.
If you hover over the individual sectional times of those identified as “Front” in the two races you will see cumulative sectional times and find that the “ordinary” juveniles were quicker than the useful older horses by a few lengths all the way until 1f out. It was only thereafter that the latter edged ahead.
The front-running third-placed debutant NASSEM who holds a Derby entry for John Gosden, is the one above all others to take from the race, but the two who beat him, PLEAD and THE BLUES MASTER, are likely to look well-treated in ordinary handicaps.
Gosden introduced another promising juvenile at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, when BOIS DE BOULOGNE was beaten just half a length by Hochfeld, a colt having his third start.
Bois de Boulogne does not deserve a major upgrade, but that is because the race was run in quite an efficient manner and its overall time was more than respectable. Nonetheless, it can be seen that he ran each of his last two furlongs in 12.0s or less, prompting a red “fast” colour-coding and a “flaming” icon on the sectional tools tab.
He should be suited by 10f/12f in due course, but he is capable of winning at around this trip of an extended mile also.
The next FTQ is not until 21st December at Newcastle for the Betway Marathon series. Before then, though, there is some perfectly acceptable fare on offer on Saturday at Wolverhampton and Newcastle.
The former stages the £25,000 Betway Handicap over 9.5f (7.15), a notable feature of which is that there is no confirmed front-runner in the declared field of 13. For me, the two against the field in this are two similar types who finished second and fourth at a slightly shorter trip here last month.
Both MYTHICAL MADNESS and FAITHFUL CREEK were having their first runs for shrewd trainers that day and finished quite well in a race in which a mid-race dip in the pace caught a few out. They are marginally preferred to Third Time Lucky, who again does not get the best of the draw.
That 26th November Wolverhampton race is well worth checking out on the video and on the sectionals, for the gelding who split the aforementioned pair that day, UNFORGIVING MINUTE, looks to have a good chance in the £20,000 pinnacleracing.co.uk Handicap at Newcastle (3.45) earlier on Saturday.
Unforgiving Minute went for home turning in but was treading water in the final 1f and will not be inconvenienced by the return to 7f, at which trip he gained his only win this year. Steel Train - who caught the eye last time - could be the one to give him most to do.