Recent political developments at home and abroad have encouraged the notion that change occurs as a result of seismic shifts. That is sometimes true, but evolution, not revolution, is sometimes the way. Incremental gains, not seismic shifts, are often the most effective and enduring.
There has been an evolution going on in the world of horseracing analysis for some time now which may well look profound, and more than a little overdue, when viewed with the benefit of hindsight several years from now.
How a horse got to its finishing position, and not just what that finishing position was, has been regarded as important in the sport for a long time. But the precise measurement of such things has been held back by technology, by funding, and by regulatory indifference.
Yet, despite this, the precise measurement of the time it took for a horse to cover a subsection of a race – sectional timing – has continued to make progress.
On Derby Day this year, one of British racing’s flagship events, viewers of the great race had to indulge in a guess-up as to what exactly happened (manual sectionals show that the leaders went about 10 lengths too fast early, about 5 lengths slower than par mid-race, and that Wings of Eagles finished strongly more than that those he passed paid for doing too much too soon).
At the same time, Total Performance Data were providing sectionals at three meetings on that day – Doncaster on turf, Newcastle on all-weather and a mixed turf/all-weather meeting at Lingfield Park – as they had done a couple of days previously.
Unlike at Epsom, there should be no excuse for disagreement about the essential facts at such meetings, but there remains scope for healthy disagreement about what those essential facts indicate: that is the nature of an uncertain and multifactorial activity like horseracing.
TPD’s sectionals result from advanced GPS, and future technological improvements could bring about still greater accuracy and things like stride lengths and efficiencies. But, for now, serviceable sectionals are a boon for punters and other enthusiasts denied them elsewhere.
Those sectionals turn up some interesting details from the fortnight since the last instalment of this ATR Sectional Spotlight, including the following individual performances of note.
LA VIE EN ROSE ATR Tracker remains a filly to keep on the right side despite her defeat at Wolverhampton on 1st June. The early pace was “Even” (as spelt out in the pace-analysis summary on the Sectional Times tab of the ATR result), but the middle of the race was soft (coded in green), and the filly had to try to come from last when the pace was quickening. That she found only front-running True Romance too good for her is encouraging.
FETHIYE BOY ATR Tracker got the sectionals more or less right when making all at Windsor on 1st May but has gone too fast on softer ground since, most recently on the same course on 5th June, when late rain did him no favours. He got to 2f out quicker on the second Windsor occasion than the first, including a lung-busting second furlong of 10.5s, and is one to keep faith with when conditions are more suitable.
O DEE ATR Tracker went too fast early on in a handicap at Wolverhampton on 7th June but still managed to finish fourth and can go well in similar company before long. That was the last of three consecutive races at 6f on the card, and if you hover over O Dee’s individual sectionals on the result you will see that he got to halfway in 36.7s, which was considerably quicker than the leaders in the other two races. His sole win was at 7f, when not forced into going so quickly.
SENECA CHIEF ATR Tracker was one of a number deserving mark-ups in race 3 at Wolverhampton on 9th June, and is probably the most interesting of them. The opening furlong was “even”, but the next two relatively slow, and the runners finished in a heap, with the front-running third Mostashreqah most efficient by some way. Seneca Chief has struck a vein of form at 5f of late and is worth keeping on the right side.
Don’t necessarily take my word for it, though: why not see what your interpretation of the now-abundant facts would be?!
The period between Epsom and Royal Ascot is something of a desert for good racing, and there are again slim pickings in that regard this coming weekend.
The William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh promises to be one of the more interesting and more competitive events, and readers should be including EDWARD LEWIS in their shortlist.
The David O’Meara-trained gelding impressed visually and on sectionals when winning at Lingfield on 12th May, and he has had clear excuses (ground too soft at Thirsk, then left things too late at Epsom) since.
Followers of the action on RUK must do their best in post-race analysis without either TPD sectionals or an on-screen clock, as is provided by ATR.
The latter will help to unravel happenings after the event at Bath, where the above-mentioned SENECA CHIEF holds entries in both the last two races on what would be his turf debut. As a well-bred son of Invincible Spirit, it is at least possible that he will take to it even better than he has to all-weather already.