Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands takes a close look at the times from Newmarket's Guineas weekend and has two selections for the end of the week.

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There was a telling moment during the post-race coverage of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas from Newmarket last Saturday when Richard Hills was asked what he made of the run of fourth-placed Elarqam. “I haven’t seen the sectional timing yet, which I want to see”, replied Hamdan Al Maktoum’s representative. 

There is bad news, Richard, for TurfTrax figures from the course were discontinued at the end of 2016 and have been replaced by…..precisely nothing. Still, at least British racing offers the best race-day experience in the world: we know this because the BHA has told us so.

It is possible that Hills takes his own times, like a lot of the rest of us, or gets someone in his organisation to do it for him. In truth it does not take a huge amount of effort to do so.

It was, nonetheless, more than one newspaper assessor was prepared to undertake: else, he would not have stated that this year’s race was “fast-run”.

Even a cursory look at the facts would have shown that the overall time of the 2000 Guineas was just 0.39s quicker than that recorded by fellow three-year-old Symbolization – carrying 7 lb more – in the concluding handicap, and that the leader in the Guineas got to 3f out the best part of a second slower than the leader in that other race.

Conditions may have been drying, but to nothing like the extent that can explain away the above comparison. Timeform has a higher timefigure for Symbolization (113) than for Saxon Warrior (112).

I have been accused previously of being a “sectionals snob” about such matters. Not everyone chooses to use time to analyse results, and that is their prerogative. But those who think the pace of a race is important enough to reference in print should surely base their remarks on evidence rather than idle speculation.

The 2000 was one of three races at a mile across the two days of the Guineas Meeting, one of the others, of course, being the fillies’ equivalent, the 1000. This is how the three races compare, using the leaders’ times to and from the 3f marker.


Numerous races at the course and distance over many years point to the par finishing speed figure (the speed in the closing sectional expressed as a % of the speed for the race overall) being around 99.7%. One of the weekend’s three mile races was fast-run, but it was not the one identified as such elsewhere.

The conclusions that may be drawn from the homemade sectionals for the first two classics, especially if you dig deeper into the individual performances themselves, are varied and include that Saxon Warrior has a rare turn of foot if he is going to stay 12f (and that “if” does exist) and that Happily (fastest of all in the 1000 Guineas in the final 1f) has every chance of managing that herself.

There is less ambiguity about another sectional performance at the Guineas Meeting, and this one could have even more of a bearing on events at Epsom in a few weeks’ time.

The John Gosden-trained Lah Ti Dar has won just a Maiden and a Listed Race so far, but, unless I am mistaken, she is already a Group-calibre performer who has a very good chance in The Oaks.  

Her last-3f sectional in winning Sunday’s Pretty Polly Stakes was 35.08s, or 106.3% finishing speed, which gives a sectional upgrade (derived from the difference between that finishing speed and the course-and-distance par of 98.7%) of 16 ratings points.

Timeform has an overall timefigure of 96 – which implies a sectional rating of 112 – but I make it 6 higher. Either way, it was an eye-catching sectional at the end of a steadily-run race which Lah Ti Dar still managed to complete 0.88s quicker than the handicap winner that followed despite reaching the start of the sectional almost exactly 1.0s behind.

Incidentally, my best estimates about Lah Ti Dar’s striding on this occasion are a peak cadence of 2.39 and peak stride length of 25.4 feet, both of which are up significantly on her figures at Newbury on her debut, which got a mention on here previously.

Regarding The Oaks, it also does not hurt one bit that Lah Ti Dar is beautifully bred and trained by John Gosden, of course!


The opening 5f handicap at Chester on Thursday (due off at 1:50) offers the possibility of a right old pace burn-up, with El Astronaute, Reflektor, A Momentofmadness and Doctor Sardonicus all capable of doing a good impression of stuff off a shovel.

Coming from behind in such circumstances requires a jockey to get the splits right and to avoid trouble, which may not be easy, but I think it is worth chancing something to do just that.

Tavener usually races up with the pace but would have gone very close ridden patiently at Epsom last time had the gaps come, full of running still at the line. He gets my each-way vote to make up for that here.

Time analysis is arguably at its most useful where you know little about the horses otherwise, such as with two-year-olds, and time analysis points to Glory Fighter being a winner in waiting following his debut effort at Newbury.

As it happens, the official time returned that day was wrong (it was a hand time and should have been adjusted to bring it into line with electronic ones), but it was still undeniably fast and identifies the first three as being above-average youngsters.

Glory Fighter is first up to prove the point in the 2:50 at Lingfield on Friday, and it should take a useful opponent to deny him.    

Sectional Spotlight
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