Sectional Spotlight

Simon Rowlands examines the stride frequency and stride length of Altior in his Tingle Creek triumph, uses TPD data to assess two John Gosden newcomers at Wolverhampton and has selections online for Chelmsford on Thursday.

  • Wednesday 12 December
  • Blog
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There was much digesting of the various components of the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown last Saturday, with one particularly tricky one being a time comparison between that race and the earlier Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.

Somewhat surprisingly, though not without precedence, the novices were significantly quicker than the championship contenders, but sectionals suggest this was in large part due to a deterioration in ground conditions, with heavy rain immediately before the Tingle Creek.

Less ambiguous, for it operates almost entirely independently of such context, is what the striding of the winner ALTIOR told us about what he may end up doing in the future.

Remember that speed is a direct product of stride frequency (known as “cadence”) and stride length. The more quickly a horse strides, the less stamina it is likely to show, for a high cadence will come at a cost in energy and cannot be sustained indefinitely.

Some maintain that Altior will be even more effective at further, which may seem an odd thing to say about one of the best two-mile chasers in history. Striding measures suggest those people may in fact be correct.

The following are the cadence figures for Altior’s two biggest recent two-mile wins – the Queen Mother Champion Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and Saturday’s Tingle Creek – followed by the average for the last four winners of Kempton’s three-mile King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, a race which the horse’s trainer suggests may be on the agenda next year.

Stride frequency was measured at four junctures in all races: early (such as after two fences had been jumped), mid (around halfway), late (around three or two out) and run-in.

Altior strides more slowly than an average King George VI Chase winner at all stages of his races, other than near the finish (where he is comparable).

It follows that the superior ability Altior is showing is as a result of stride length (and efficiency of jumping). The implication from that is that he may do even better over further. That’s quite a thought!

One of the underlying principles of sectional analysis is that the end result of a race may not accurately reflect the abilities of the protagonists. Horses have good and bad “trips”, and they may race more or less efficiently. Sectionals measure the latter and adjust overall times accordingly.

Spotting the odd golden nugget in a pan of dirt is one of the more obvious pay-offs of such analysis, and it has delivered on this repeatedly over the years. Admittedly, there have been a few examples of Fool’s Gold along the way also.

The first three races at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, all of them at 1m 142y and covered elsewhere on this site by Total Performance Data sectional and striding figures, make for some ready and meaningful comparisons. Two were won by promising John Gosden-trained two-year-olds: what do the figures say?

New King was fastest of the trio overall and Sucellus the slowest, split by the ordinary three-year-old handicapper Tagle. But the figures look quite a bit different after weight carried, weight-for-age and those closing sectionals are allowed for.

Sucellus flew home and thereby elevates a modest timefigure into a fairly useful one. New King was not so quick late on, but was still quick enough overall to remain slightly ahead in terms of sectional ratings (which result from timefigures plus sectional upgrades). There is a healthy, but not quite yawning, gap back to Tagle.

Interestingly, Sucellus demonstrated a slightly longer peak stride length (which is associated with superior ability) though neither juvenile was especially long. Maximum and minimum cadence suggests Sucellus is slightly more likely to benefit from further than New King.

Both New King and (especially) Sucellus have made promising starts, but they have a long way to go to be considered potential stars. Maybe not gold in this case, but silver will do nicely all the same.

The chance of there being anything other than a strong pace in the 7:15 at Chelmsford on Thursday evening seems pretty small. More than half the 11 runners for this 5f handicap habitually race in the front rank, and two or three of them are real trailblazers.

I am hoping this will set things up for the top-weight LA FORTUNA to come with a late run that will at least take her into a place.

The Charlie Wallis-trained mare has won four times at this course this year – twice at this distance also – and can be excused a couple of recent defeats in what was slightly better company.

Similar remarks about pace, if slightly less pronounced, apply to the 8:15 on the same card on the same card, in which Estibdaad and Outlaw Torn are the most obvious pace-forcers.

Things could tee up nicely for LUXFORD, who was a back-to-form second at Kempton recently on her first outing for Gary Moore. It should not take much for her to reward each-way support in a race as weak as this one.  

Sectional Spotlight

Chelmsford City 19:15, 13 December 2018

Chelmsford City 20:15, 13 December 2018

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