Britain’s All-Weather Championships have been a notable success since they were instituted in 2014, and this year’s Championships - which run from Thursday 27th October 2016 to Finals Day on Good Friday 14th April 2017 - promise to be better than ever.
Many familiar features are with us again. The AWCs take in over 150 fixtures at Britain’s six all-weather tracks, with Fast-Track Qualifiers – which give the winners an automatic berth on that Good Friday Finals Day – distributed among that sextet of courses, as well as at Dundalk in Ireland and Cagnes in France.
It is a winning formula, but the AWCs are not resting on their laurels. This year, Arena Racing Company (ARC) have teamed up with Total Performance Data to provide horse-by-horse and furlong-by-furlong sectional data from ARC’s four tracks, at Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton.
Even more excitingly, these sectional times will be presented and interpreted on the ATR website, courtesy of industry-leading analytical tools and groundbreaking colour-coding.
This weekly blog will aim to explain sectionals by reference to, and illustration from, this vast body of data, while picking out some of the notable performances that have taken place and identifying some that may be about to happen.
There has been just one FTQ so far: the 8f Fleur De Lys Stakes at Lingfield on 27th October, which is part of the Fillies & Mares’ series, the result of which can be found here.
By clicking on the 'sectional times' tab at the head of the result, the reader can immediately see how the race panned out and begin to get an impression as to which horses may, or may not, have been advantaged.
There are a number of clear indicators that this particular race tested speed over stamina, notably that the pace “heatmap” goes from yellow and green in the early stages, to the left, to red (indicating a fast pace compared to the benchmarks for the course and distance) late on, to the right.
The race finishing speed – the speed of the closing stages compared to the average speed of the race overall – comes out at 105.8%, where a figure of 100 or just over would be par, and the early pace is described as “even to slow”.
These sectional pars, and the colour-coding which accompanies them, vary slightly according to specific course and distance. They have been arrived at after exhaustive analysis of many years of available data.
The winner, MUFFRI'HA was in front from an early stage, and her rivals would have had to quicken past one who had set soft fractions and was quickening herself (see those consecutive 11.0s furlong sectionals) to get to the front. Muffri’Ha won by a comfortable margin, but it can be seen that six of her nine rivals bettered her 11.8s for the final furlong.
Some of the same information can be found on the “sectional tools” tab, in addition to energy-distribution charts, colour-coded speeds in the early, middle and late part of the race, an efficiency grade (with an efficiency score if you hover over it) which shows that none of the horses in this race ran especially efficiently, and the individual horse finishing speed %s.
If you were in any doubt about it, those sectionals tell a tale of a race which started fairly slowly and which ended fairly quickly, and in which Muffri’Ha, smart filly though she undoubtedly is, was tactically advantaged by racing up front. Where else can you get even a fraction of that sort of insight?!
On the same card, third-placed finishers Carigrad and Oh This Is Us (a winner already since) did notably well against similar pace biases in the 2.10 and 3.45 respectively, with the latter the only one in his race to get a “flame” icon next to his finishing speed %.
An example of a race run the other way round – fast early, slow late – came in the opener at Newcastle the very next day, when the early pace was red hot and no horse had a finishing speed higher than 97.7%. Sixth-placed Nonchalant, who set those early fractions, looks the most interesting runner from it.
The evidence is that riding the new track at Newcastle efficiently is proving a challenge, and that plenty are paying for going fast early. Another who fits that bill, and who looks worth keeping an eye on, is Planetaria, who finished second at the course on November 4th despite a finishing speed of just 92.4%.
Whether you are looking for a quick check as to whether your fancy did well, or not so well, on sectionals in recent races, or you want to trawl through the entire sectional data to find good bets from scratch, there is no excuse now: all the information you might need is there!
The former looks like being a strongly-run race - as can be seen from many of the contenders’ prominent racing style previously - and the more patiently-ridden OUTBACK TRAVELLER (a winner on this course earlier in his career) makes a fair bit of appeal.
The latter sees the return to action after an eight-month layoff of Easter Classic winner and standing dish at this course Grendisar. The strapping ex-South African YORKER has been running well of late and appears best placed to profit if Grendisar is ring-rusty.