It is a sign of the sectional times that every weekend’s racing now prompts something of a mini stampede to crunch the numbers where once there was merely tumbleweed. It is success, of a sort, but does make the job of coming up with something original to say on the subject that much more difficult.
Like a newspaper editor sitting nervously on a scoop, you might hope that no-one else spotted that novice winner at an obscure Irish racecourse whose sectionals make him look like Arkle, only to discover that it has already been given the full treatment on a little-listened-to podcast.
There are no big sectional nuggets from the last week, that I can see, but I had rather hoped to get a clear run at the Doncaster win of the exciting juvenile hurdler Monmiral, only to find that Sky Sports Racing’s Jamie Lynch and Alex Hammond had done a typically enlightening piece on Monday.
One of the strengths of sectionals is that overall times may not – indeed, usually do not – reflect the abilities of the protagonists. But those times viewed in conjunction with sectionals should do.
Monmiral’s Doncaster win was, to a large degree, one of those “what you see is what you get” efforts, as reflected by a useful timefigure and close-to-par sectionals. That, in itself, is useful information.
There were two other hurdle races at the distance of 2 miles 0 furlongs and 128 yards (plus another 16 yards due to rail movements), and the three races came out with remarkably similar overall times.
This is how things panned out, thanks to Total Performance Data sectionals, to be found in the Results Section on this site:
The trio were a bit behind par in the early skirmishes, were all pretty close to it mid-race, but completed the final half a mile in slightly contrasting fashion. Wild Max pushed on the most early in the straight, where Monmiral hung back by a few lengths, then Monmiral put in the strongest finish, with his 13.95s penultimate furlong especially impressive.
L’Incorrigible was closest to the 99.2% par for the final 4f, and Monmiral’s effort was a bit more impressive still judged on just the final 2f instead.
It may come as a surprise to find that Doncaster’s par finishing speed %s (speed at finish as % of average speed for race overall) are below 100, but that appears to be a consequence of there being only one hurdle in very nearly a mile prior to the third-last, and therefore a lot of running and not a lot of jumping prior to the home straight.
The upshot of all the above is that I have Monmiral rated on 143 after this effort. He may not have beaten much, but he did run pretty fast for a juvenile, and especially so towards the end.
That puts him alongside Nassalam (144) among three-year-old hurdlers now trained in Britain, but both are a long way behind the Gordon Elliott-trained Zanahiyr on 155. The last-named prompted a punditry stampede a few weeks ago and remains the sectional pin-up in this division.
British racing has been dragging itself into the 21st century of late, if not in every respect, but Hong Kong has been leading the way in many areas of the race-day experience for a long time now.
It was the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s big international day at Sha Tin on Sunday, and, despite the absence of spectators, they put on a show. If you want live on-screen leader splits and by-furlong individual horse sectionals after the event – as is now sometimes possible in Britain – well, the HKJC has been doing it as a matter of course for donkeys’ years.
When I asked one HKJC bigwig a few years ago whether they managed to move their starts so that races were run over the distance advertised even after rail movements (something beyond British racing at present), I was told “of course we do: we have 22,000 employees!”
They also have some of the best racing in the world, and possibly the best miler in the world judged on the sensational success of locally trained Golden Sixty in the Longines Hong Kong Mile on Sunday.
Golden Sixty has won all but one of his 15 starts in Hong Kong but has sometimes been advantaged by the weights. As an example, he received 17 lb from the former star miler Beauty Generation when beating that gelding by a length and three quarters in the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap as recently as September.
Sunday’s race was at level weights and included notable foreign raiders inAdmire Mars, Order of Australia and Romanised. Golden Sixty trounced them, and all the others, and thanks to the published sectionals we know just what a devastating finishing kick he put in.
Splits of 26.46s (from a standing start), 22.44s, 22.50s and an eye-watering 22.05s (over 40 mph in old money) proved far too much for his opposition. Golden Sixty’s finishing speed came in at 106.0%, where par is 102.0%, underlining that he was even better than the result.
Timeform has rated the five-year-old on 129, which is behind only Palace Pier (132) and Gamine (130) among milers globally. Given Golden Sixty’s rate of progress, he could easily be number one in 2021.
Thanks to another aspect of racing in Hong Kong, we also know Golden Sixty’s body weight on race day, and the body weights of all the horses he has run against.
He weighed in at between 1059 lb and 1072 lb throughout the 2019/2020 season but has bulked out a bit since, and tipped the scales at a remarkably steady 1100 lb, 1104 lb and 1102 lb for his last three appearances.
Horse size and ability are correlated – bigger is, generally, better – but there are plenty of exceptions, and horse weight and distance also seem to be correlated, with bigger being better at the more explosive shorter distances.
Interestingly, the average body weight in the four Group 1s at Sha Tin were as follows: 6f Sprint (1149 lb); 8f Mile (1131 lb); 10f Cup (1098 lb); and 12f Vase (1060 lb).
The BHA agreed in principle to the idea of a pilot project of weighing horses in Britain a couple of years ago but have since reneged on that.
There are greater logistical problems here than in Hong Kong, of course, where horses are trained at the track. But wouldn’t it be interesting – and very likely useful – to learn about such matters here, too?