Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands provides analysis of the recent action, including from Doncaster on Saturday, and shortlists runners that recently caught the eye on the clock.

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Most information in horseracing has a value, but that value is a function of the information’s availability and not just its inherent importance.

Everyone knew that Ryan Moore was riding Churchill in last weekend’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas; most people had figured out that that could be considered a positive; but few – including connections of his rivals it would appear – seemed to understand fully how much speed the horse had shown previously and how Moore would seek to capitalise on that by having him close to what was a tepid pace.

Sectionals implied that might be so before the event, and sectionals after the event showed how positioning indeed counted for a lot. Sectionals are increasingly referred to in horseracing analysis, but sectionals are still underused and therefore valuable.

Sectionals are at their most valuable where precise alternatives for the measurement of pace do not exist. Such as last Saturday at Doncaster, a course at which manual sectionals are difficult at the best of times and impossible when the runners race in the centre of the course, as was the case this time.

The meeting was a bit of a head-scratcher for those fixated on overall times: the opener, an ordinary handicap, nearly broke the course record but the remaining races were much slower.

Total Performance Data sectionals, as exposed on At The Races website, underline just how tactical those later races were.

That opener was run at a near-optimum pace and resulted in a race finishing speed (speed at finish as a % of average speed for race overall) of 98.2%.

The remainder had finishing speeds between 105.2% and 113.0% and early paces described as “slow” or “even to slow” (bar the long-distance handicap in which an “even” early pace dipped mid-race). Check them out for yourself on the site.

There are several horses – winners and losers – who come out well on sectionals, notably:

  • Mutanaaseq, Bengali Boys and Story Minister (the first three in the two-year-old race) who ran 21.7s, 21.7s and 21.9s respectively for the last 2f. The first two could be Listed quality, while the last-named looks up to winning a maiden before long.

  • The winner Desert Frost (22.7s) and third-placed Dirchill (23.0s) in the 6f older maiden, who both look potentially useful.

  • Fourth-placed Truth Or Dare (22.9s) in the 7f handicap, who was running at a shorter trip and for a new stable in a contest in which winner Aardwolf got the run of things up front.

  • The winner City Of Joy (22.2s) and third-placed Bless Him (22.4s) in the three-year-old mile handicap, both of whom look useful on sectionals.

Town Moor had also been the venue for an interesting meeting the week before, though this was one at which it was just about possible to take manual sectionals. Pace varied less on that occasion, but there was still a predominance of “slow” or “even to slow” early pace scenarios.

These were the main sectional eye-catchers:

  • KODITIME ATR Tracker ran a fairly useful overall time and an even more impressive closing sectional (22.6s last 2f) when winning a juvenile newcomers’ race in which the opening furlong or so was messy.

  • SAM MISSILE ATR Tracker made ground from towards the rear in the hottest part of the race when a closing second (24.1s) to Fidaawy in the 10f handicap and can attain the same level on turf as he has already managed on all-weather.

  • COMPANY ASSET ATR Tracker got too far back in a front-runner-favouring 7f fillies’ handicap and did well to finish third (22.9s).

I owe an apology to any readers who followed me in on Medahim in the Esher Cup at Sandown a couple of weeks ago. You needed quick reactions to time him burning up the surfaces at Kempton and Wolverhampton on his first two starts but a sundial might have done the job for his lamentable closing stages in this. Perhaps something will come to light.

There are a couple of reasonable “sectional” horses to look out for over the next day or two, starting with DAHIK at Chester on Thursday.

The Roger Varian-trained colt was the one to give the aforementioned Koditime the most to do in that Doncaster contest for unraced two-year-olds. He was not as promising on sectionals as that rival, but there was not a lot in it, as he ran a 22.9s last quarter.

Dahik showed more than enough in what could well turn out to have been a hot race to think that he can go one better in a maiden, and the 4.05 at Chester looks just the ticket. Dahik has a draw in stall 3 of 13 and raced handily at Doncaster, admittedly with not much pressure early on in that race.

A rather less obvious contender is ELUSIVE OLIVIA in the 7.25 at Nottingham on Friday. A lightly-raced filly, she did best of those held up when fourth at Wolverhampton recently, with her TPD sectionals heatmap all red late on.

This is her first venture on turf, but she definitely has the potential to get in the mix if making the transition.

Sectional Spotlight
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