Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands’s latest Sectional Spotlight covers Arc Trials Day at Chantilly which saw Bateel, Cracksman and Dschingis Secret all win their respective races. Much speculation still surrounds Cracksman’s Arc participation, Simon gives his view on the horse here.

  • Monday 11 September
  • Blog
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There are about as many ways to win a race as there are to skin the proverbial cat. Running as fast as you can from start to finish is just one of them, and one used relatively rarely in horse racing.

Races tend to be tactical, to greater or lesser degrees, and that impacts on the overall times which horses achieve. When that happens – when a horse’s overall time does not reflect its ability – you need to dig deeper.

That is one of the principles behind sectional-timing analysis, and one of the reasons why the sectional times taken by Total Performance Data, and displayed and explained on this website, have such potential.

A good horse may not run a good overall time, but it will nearly always run a good sectional, if only that can be identified correctly in the context in which you find it!

Sunday’s Arc Trials Day at Chantilly provided a stark illustration of how races at the same course and distance, on the same day and contested by horses of similar calibre, can be run in vastly different ways.

The Prix Niel won by Cracksman, the Prix Vermeille won by Bateel, and the Prix Foy won by Dschingis Secret were respectively run at a slow pace, a strong pace and a steady pace for what were fairly testing conditions. Bateel’s winning time was easily the best of the trio, but that was in at least part down to the run of the various races.

The following are the sectional times taken from ATR pictures, which carry live sectionals from France, with the individual horse sectionals estimated from margins at the various junctures.

Video analysis shows that the closing sectionals for the Niel (given as 12.81s then 11.12s for the last two 200-metre sections) were wrong, so they have been corrected.

Qatar Prix Niel, Chantilly, 2400m, 10 September 2017 (5 ran)

PosHorseto 600m6-400m4-200m200m-0mlast 600mOverall600m FS%
4ICE BREEZE122.61s11.44s12.45s12.70s36.59s159.20s108.8%

Qatar Prix Vermeille, Chantilly, 2400m, 10 September 2017 (11 ran)

PosHorseto 600m6-400m4-200m200m-0mlast 600mOverall600m FS%
3LEFT HAND114.42s12.50s13.10s13.80s39.40s153.82s97.6%
4TRAFFIC JAM114.12s12.64s13.25s13.88s39.77s153.88s96.8%
6GOD GIVEN113.62s13.05s13.46s14.06s40.57s154.20s95.0%

Qatar Prix Foy, Chantilly, 2400m, 10 September 2017 (6 ran)

PosHorseto 600m6-400m4-200m200m-0mlast 600mOverall600m FS%
1DSCHINGIS SECRET118.84s12.37s12.00s12.66s37.03s155.86s105.3%
2CLOTH OF STARS119.32s12.17s12.02s12.63s36.82s156.14s106.0%
4SATONO DIAMOND118.70s12.29s12.31s13.24s37.84s156.54s103.4%
6SATONO NOBLESSE118.57s12.39s12.50s13.35s38.24s156.81s102.5%
PAR TIMES for 153.00s115.00s12.70s12.45s12.85s38.00s153.00s100.7%

It can be seen that Bateel got to 600 metres out – the start of the home straight at Chantilly – nearly 5 seconds ahead of Dschingis Secret and nearly 8 seconds ahead of Cracksman, a massive difference equivalent to something like 30 and 50 lengths respectively. No wonder neither of the last two could make up the difference!

Indeed, the runners in the Vermeille went faster than ideal, as can be seen from finishing speed %s (speed in last 600m as a % of average race speed overall) in the far-right column that are slower than the par of 100.7%.

That will have punished Bateel’s overall time, but not by as much as going steadily or going slowly punished the times of Dschingis Secret and Cracksman. That said, sectional upgrading would have Bateel the best of the three Trial winners.

Bateel beat Journey fair and square, with the rest well held, and Journey might well have been back to the form that saw her a wide-margin winner on British Champions Day last autumn. Those sectionals suggest the margins were exaggerated, but not by much. This was no fluke.

It proved to be a red-letter day for fans of German racing with the victory of Dschingis Secret in the Foy and the opposite for followers of Japanese racing due to the disappointing effort of Satono Diamond in the same race. It seems unlikely that the Foy will have a major bearing on the Arc.

Whether or not the Niel does is in part in the hands of Cracksman’s connections, who are surprisingly negative about running a horse who has strong claims to be regarded as the best three-year-old middle-distance colt in Europe in a race made for just such horses, especially now they have cured themselves of their aversion to ground softer than good.

Truth be told, Cracksman did not do anything that might not have been expected of him in the Niel, and it could even be argued that Avilius, who had been beaten further by Eminent on his previous start, finished a bit close for comfort.

Cracksman has more pace than some credit him with, as demonstrated by those 11.44s and 12.00s sectionals in the Niel, and as had been shown previously in an Irish Derby in which he ran the last 3f in 33.81s (and should have won) according to Timeform.

But his best sectional effort was in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, where he powered clear up the long home straight. He ran a fast time that day faced with a decent gallop, and he was still running fast at the end (36.35s for the last 3f according to Timeform).

The impression is that he is quick enough to get himself out of trouble if required, but that he could really take off in a well-run Arc in which his jockey leaves nothing to chance by going for home some way out.

If Cracksman’s connections are looking in, please do the right thing and run him on October 1st, for the good of the sport as well as yourselves. And that is coming from someone who has backed his stable-companion Enable!

Sectional Spotlight
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