Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands expands on the process behind establishing par times, analyses last week’s Fast Track Qualifiers at Lingfield and shortlists his selections for the weekend’s action.

  • Thursday 08 February
  • Blog
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A number of correspondents have asked me to expand on the process behind establishing the par times that have been displayed on these pages in recent weeks. As a case study, I will use 6f races at Lingfield Park.

The first step is to identify those handicaps which have been won in “good” overall times, relative to the horses’ abilities. For this, I use all such races in which the winning Timeform timefigure was no more than 5 lb below the form rating of the winner in the race itself.

In 2017, this resulted in 16 qualifying races for which TPD by-furlong sectionals existed. These averaged at the following for 6f races at Lingfield Park: 14.17s, 11.63s, 11.47s, 11.12s, 11.19s and 11.80s (from opening furlong to final one), which sums to 71.38s.

In isolation, those figures are workable pars for how to run 6f efficiently at this particular course, though you should ideally establish that they also make sense in conjunction with figures for other distances at the same track.

Each course and distance is a separate entity, but they share the same closing features – such as undulations and bends – so are not completely independent.

Those par times can be converted into finishing speed %s by using the well-established equation of:
(100*d*T)/(D*t), where T is overall time, t is sectional time, D is overall distance, d is sectional distance and * indicates multiplication.

For instance, the final 1f of 11.80s in a race run in 71.38s overall gives a finishing speed of (100*1*71.38)/(6*11.80) = 100.8%.

Inefficiency is highlighted when horses differ from these FS%s, though the adjustment is exponential, so minor departures from these pars will have a negligible effect.

Another way of looking at the above is to adjust a race’s actual time on a pro-rata basis to that overall time of 71.38s and the sectionals which give rise to it.

For instance, if a 6f race at Lingfield were to be run in 69.13s, then that is 0.9685 of 71.38s. It follows that the efficient sectionals now become slightly less: 13.72s, 11.26s, 11.11s, 10.77s, 10.84s and 11.43s, summing to that overall time of 69.13s.

It just so happens (!) that 69.13s was the time recorded by KACHY in winning last Saturday’s Betway Cleves Stakes at Lingfield Park, thereby earning himself an automatic berth in the Sprint on All-Weather Finals Day at the course on 30 March.

It looked as if Kachy and (predictably enough) third-placed Caspian Prince went plenty fast enough, allowing others – notably short-head runner-up Kimberella – to close them down at the end. The TPD sectionals give more detail.

Given that overall time, Kachy was about half a length slower than par in the opening 1f, about two and a half lengths quicker than par after the second furlong, less than two lengths ahead at halfway, and lost about a length to par in each of the last two sections.

The race was somewhat uneven early, if less so late, and resulted in a 111 Timeform timefigure for Kachy compared to a phenomenal 123 here last month. Interestingly, some of those who finished close up were a similar amount behind the 24.98s par after 2f as the leaders were ahead of it.

If calling up the TPD sectionals in the results section of this site, you will now also see another feature: the “stride data” tab. From this, we can determine that Kachy won this through exhibiting a long stride – the longest average peak stride in the field – more than a high stride frequency: speed is a direct product of multiplying the two.

This may have other implications, beyond the more obvious: maybe Kachy would be less effective in circumstances (such as being covered up in the pack) in which he had to shorten his stride and increase his stride frequency; maybe horses with certain striding “fingerprints” will prove better on certain kinds of courses, on certain surfaces and at certain distances. “More on this story as we get it”, as they say!  

The other FTQ at Lingfield – the Betway Winter Derby Trial – went to UTMOST from Victory Bond, but those TPD sectionals underline just what an unsatisfactory affair it was. It is worth noting that INTERN ran the fastest last 3f (33.1s), 2f (22.2s) and 1f (11.1s) but finished only fifth.

The David Simcock-trained gelding looks up to winning at this level when the cookie crumbles more in his favour.

The Sprint and Middle-Distance FTQs have been among the most competitive in the All-Weather Championships so far, but the Fillies/Mares much less so.

Just five females have been declared for the totetrifecta-backed FTQ at Chelmsford City on Friday afternoon (due off at 3:10), and it could well turn into a messy affair.

Carolinae and SOUL SILVER look best on form, and marginal preference is for the latter, who has shown tactical versatility and went from the front when a creditable second to Pattie (8 lb worse off now) at Lingfield last time.

Kimberella makes a quick return to action in the Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton at 7:45 on Saturday, in what promises to be a red-hot contest. The old-stager should go well again, but weight differentials mean he may have his work cut out to account for ATLETICO, who ran Caspian Prince to just a head at that one’s best distance of 5f at Newcastle last time.

That race was run in a good overall time (a mere 0.07s outside the course record) and Atletico was going on strongly at the end, as shown by closing sectionals of 10.7s and 11.7s. He is better than ever and can return to winning ways here.

Sectional Spotlight

Chelmsford City 15:10, 9 February 2018

Wolverhampton 19:45, 10 February 2018

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