A recent feature in Racing Post by Lee Mottershead proposed the idea of time trials in British racing, whereby a number of horses would race individually over a specified distance in quick succession, with the prize going to the one which achieved the quickest overall time. The project would need accurate on-screen timing and probably in-running betting to prosper.
I imagine I am not alone in salivating at the prospect. Indeed, anyone who has taken sectional timing and pacing at all seriously – such as through studying the Total Performance Data sectionals that are published on this site – is entitled to think they would be at a betting advantage, at least to begin with, were this idea to be implemented.
If you can estimate the speed of the surface – such as from the first few individual time trials – and know the abilities of the horses concerned, the weights they are carrying and any other extraneous factors, you not only can project an overall best time for each horse but can project the individual sectionals that should give rise to that also.
For instance, if you were aiming to run 1m 40.0s for a mile at Lingfield Park, the most efficient sectionals would be approximately: 14.7s after 1f; 26.5s after 2f; 38.5s after 3f; 51.2s at halfway; 63.6s after 5f; 75.3s after 6f; and 87.5s after 7f. More than a couple of lengths faster or slower would make the task significantly harder.
The same sorts of calculations could be done for other courses at which we know about sectionals, which is plenty of them nowadays.
Promising though the time-trialling idea may be, for novelty value if nothing else, it seems a little odd to be putting weight behind it while neglecting the benefits of on-screen sectionals and accurate benchmarks in a live race scenario. After all, sectional timing is a given in many other racing jurisdictions, major and minor.
Sectional timing in Britain has involved one step forward then one step back for decades now, though the latest step forward – those TPD sectionals – may be the most significant yet. Neither the racing authorities nor much of its media has made sufficient effort to advance this particular cause.
Let’s try to bring about widespread sectional timing and wider understanding of the subject matter first: maybe time-trialling can follow on from that.
TPD were busy providing sectionals in the immediate aftermath of the last of these Sectional Spotlights, at the end of June, including from all of the Northumberland Plate Meeting at Newcastle. The following are some of the more interesting performances in that period from a sectional point of view.
MARINE ONE (Newcastle, 30 June) looks a winner in waiting after just failing against Montanna at Newcastle on the eve of the Plate, in a fast-slow-fast race in which he was still last approaching 2f out. The son of Frankel ran a swift 23.9s for the last quarter, as the TPD sectionals show, and looks like staying beyond this 12f.
FINAL VENTURE (Newcastle, 1 July) was undone by more testing conditions (including a headwind) and an overly-aggressive ride at 6f in the Chipchase Stakes on the following day at Gosforth Park, fading into fifth behind Koropick with a pedestrian 14.0s for the final 1f. Listed races/good handicaps may also be more his level.
GENERAL MACARTHUR (Windsor, 2 July) was best of those held up in a typical Windsor mile race in which the runners steadied markedly on the bend. He was disputing last mid-race but ran the last 2f in 23.4s, faster than all bar the winner Murad Khan. Not long with trainer David Simcock, General Macarthur has a handicap in him off a mark in the low-90s.
NOBLEMAN’S NEST (Doncaster, 7 July) was denied by just a nose by fellow debutant Wasim in a two-year-old maiden, run in a surprisingly good overall time given a steady early pace, and can go one better before long. Indeed, the Simon Crisford-trained colt’s 23.3s final quarter suggests he may even prove Group class in due course.
JUNGLE ROOM (Doncaster, 7 July) caught the eye in that same Doncaster maiden, never on terms but coming home well in seventh with some tidy late sectionals. He was a fast Breezer (went from $7,000 as a yearling to 210,000 guineas just a year later!) with one of the longer strides at 23.4 feet and looks the type trainer Kevin Ryan will do well with.
Recently advised horses have had mixed fortunes, with Fethiye Boy (won at 4/1 and 11/1 after being put up in the 14 June Sectional Spotlight) and O Dee both winning twice, albeit the latter in the French Provinces.BLIND FAITH and AFRICAN have been beaten but are probably worth persevering with.
Doncaster is back in action this Thursday with a fairly low-key meeting at which JAMES GARFIELD looks difficult to beat in the two-year-old maiden (2.10). There was no fluke about his third to Sound And Silence in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot last time, with manual sectionals and overall time pointing to him being useful.
Win, lose or draw, at least we should be able to evaluate his performance with reference to TPD sectionals after the event this time.
Do-it-yourself sectionals were required at Royal Ascot and will be required again at Newmarket’s July Meeting. The former suggested that Atty Persse got a pretty good ride in winning the King George V Handicap there but that RAHEEN HOUSE got anything but that in finishing a never-nearer fourth in the more prestigious King Edward VII Stakes.
The pair meet in the Bahrain Trophy Stakes on Thursday (1.50), and clear preference is for the latter, especially as there is every prospect of an honest pace this time.