Sectional Spotlight

Sectional timing expert Simon Rowlands examines the average closing sectionals and finishing speeds at Newcastle, analyses the winning performances in the latest three Fast Track Qualifiers and shortlists his selections for Lingfield and Newcastle on Friday.

  • Thursday 18 January
  • Blog
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Last week’s column shone the Sectional Spotlight on Southwell, which may, or may not, be about to lose its Fibresand surface along with it its unique status within British horseracing.

As was illustrated then, Southwell’s finishes are notoriously slow, with the large majority of well-run handicaps at the course resulting in final furlongs in excess of 13.0s. The only other all-weather course which comes even close is the one at Newcastle, opened in 2016 and at which the surface is Tapeta.

These are the average closing sectionals and finishing speeds (speed at finish as a % of average race speed) for well-run handicaps on the all-weather at Newcastle in 2017, derived from the Total Performance Data figures which appear elsewhere on this site:  

Newcastle finishing speed pars, 2017

Distance Last 3f Last 2f Last 1f
5.00f34.66s (102.7%)23.78s (99.8%)12.40s (95.7%)
6.00f36.04s (100.2%)24.71s (97.5%)12.92s (93.2%)
7.06f36.68s (100.9%)25.12s (98.3%)13.05s (94.6%)
8.02f37.12s (100.6%)25.34s (98.3%)13.14s (94.8%)
10.19f37.20s (103.6%)25.19s (102.0%)12.93s (99.4%)
12.45f38.06s (102.0%)25.80s (100.4%)13.29s (97.4%)

The main reason why some Newcastle finishes are slow is the uphill nature of the straight course, not that surface: it rises 31 feet from the mile start to the finish, according to Google Earth, with the biggest incline (21 feet in total) coming between 3f out and the line.

Those finishing speed %s – roughly 101% for the last 3f, 98% for the last 2f and 95% for the last 1f – are comparable to Southwell, but the overall times are quicker. Where 13.5s was the par for the final 1f of a mile race at Southwell, the figure is 13.1s at Newcastle (a difference of about two and a half lengths). 

Newcastle itself is alone among British racecourses in having a straight mile on a synthetic surface. It posed some tactical problems to jockeys in the early days, with pace varying wildly at times, but races now tend to unfold in more predictable ways.
Nonetheless, the test posed by track conformation and surface at Newcastle is “unique” and goes further towards showing that all-weather is nothing like the homogeneous mass that some of its critics suggest. Vive la difference! ……

There have been three recent Fast-Track Qualifiers – the winning of which gives automatic entry to Finals Day at Lingfield Park on 30 March – and that means we are more than halfway through the All-Weather Championships itself.

The long-promised official sectionals have failed to transpire at Dundalk – there has been no response from HRI to my repeated request for an update – but it is easy enough to establish that last Friday’s Sun Bets mile race at the track, won by CAPTAIN JOY, was quite efficiently run, and yet the overall time was nothing special. It seems likely that this small-field event represents suspect form.

A more dependable effort came from WATERSMEET in Monday’s Betway Live Casino Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton, where he broke the track record by 1.42s. The TPD sectionals identify quite a few variations in pace, but they were all small and/or short-lived, and the result was quite a quick finish by the principals and a 110 timefigure on my numbers for the winner.

That would have been good enough to win all the past AW Marathons on Finals Day bar the superior one last year in which Watersmeet finished second to Winning Story.

The Matchbook Betting Podcast Conditions Stakes at Kempton on Tuesday went to CORINTHIA KNIGHT – another winner for the up-and-coming trainer Archie Watson – though the form looks useful at best (I have a timefigure of 96) and some way off what will be required to win on Finals Day.

The late race sectionals (including 35.35s for the last 3f and 11.85s for the final 1f), which can be compared with the pars to be found in the free-to-download Sectional Timing: An Introduction by Timeform, show that this race was not entirely truly-run. Both Corinthia Knight and runner-up Danzan are capable of running faster than this. 

My supposed good thing of Mosseyb got well and truly buried at Newcastle last Friday – sorry about that – but his demise should not disguise the fact that the newcomer STONE OF DESTINY did something pretty remarkable in sectional terms in this 6f Novice Stakes.

Off what was admittedly a slow pace, he ran the last 2f in 11.0s then 11.2s, despite coming under little pressure, to beat Dubai Acclaim comfortably. Compare that to those pars given earlier: it is really shifting, and the son of Acclamation promises to be another useful sort from the David Simcock yard.

The relative test of stamina that Newcastle’s track represents at 5f could prove just the ticket for FIKHAAR, who goes in the Betway Handicap at 8:45 there on Friday. The Kevin Ryan-trained filly often shows plenty of pace at longer trips and had excuses when beaten on her first try at the minimum at Wolverhampton last time. 

The Betway Sprint Handicap at Lingfield earlier on Friday at 2:30 brings together some familiar faces from the all-weather. Any race involving Kachy is likely to be run at a strong pace, and there are others in this field who should keep things honest if he fails to fire or is ridden with more restraint than usual.

That should suit the reliable Kasbah, who is knocking on the door at present, but slight preference is for SHOW STEALER, a cosy winner at course and distance last time who meets the second that day, Shamsaya, on the same terms here on account of the latter having won next time.   

Show Stealer is still quite well treated on her old form, and the signs are that she is back to that level again.

Sectional Spotlight

Newcastle 20:45, 19 January 2018

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